My reflections on Tim Keller's death last month have changed how I was going to write about this subject, which has been on my list for quite a while. I'd wanted to be more respectful and sophisticated than simply hurling insults at the church, which is actually the Bride of Christ in the Bible (which makes the saying "I love Jesus but I hate the church" akin to saying, "I'm okay with you, man, but I hate your wife." No good husband would abide that sort of language). Which meant I couldn't just parody all the accusations, however accurate they might be, that the culture throws at the church every time news breaks of another fallen pastor or Christian leader leading a double life. None of these things are good--but they're easy targets. Low-hanging fruit. They ruin people's faith, they make Jesus look like a liar and they tarnish the message of love and grace and joy that God has brought through Jesus (yes, I know how tired and trite all those words sound anymore).
Most people know about the abuse scandals, the abuse of power, the myriad failures of prominent Christians and the church throughout history. The Left isn't even wrong in its critique of the Church--that it just seems like a bunch of hypocritical show and performance, and that the church is bigoted and backwards, insensitively imposing a set of seemingly random rules that are impossible to follow and apparently nonsensical even if one could. And The Left isn't wrong to point out that saying, "Well, people are imperfect. People aren't God," etc. That's not helpful at all, speaking as someone who was deeply hurt by the church in a way the church never made right and that God's people still make excuses for/refuse to say directly was wrong.
But actually, the problem with the Church isn't that her standards are too high. It's that they're too low. One of my hypotheses about why my generation is leaving the church in droves and why Gen Z is largely not darkening a church doorway at all is because, more and more, whatever they can get in the church--affirmation of identity, stroking of feelings and ego in the name of love, celebration (of compulsory) of "who God made them to be" (which apparently is anything they declare and which could change radically from one day to the next)--they can easily get in the culture/world outside the church. Moral relativism is, of course, unbiblical, and it's actually much more loving to speak the truth than to pat people on the back as they walk off cliffs, which is what the culture wants to tell the Church love is. But it doesn't help the church at all to play halvies with the culture or to "update" the Bible to today's culture in order to stay "relevant." Trying to remake the church in the image of today's (or any) culture won't get The Left what it wants, because the real problem with the church is that she is failing to be what it was called to be, which I'll talk about next time.