As I've talked about before, I grew up in "the church;" specifically, I grew up Southern Baptist. Beyond that, I've worked in "the church," across several different denominations. The difference between me and most people who grow up in "the church" is that, from a young age, I began exploring Christianity on my own. What I mean by that is that I did not rely on Sunday School or the pastor or the youth pastor or whomever to teach me what's what about what's in the Bible and anything and everything related to that. I studied on my own.
My tendency to do my own studying (I was the only one in my youth group when I was a teenager who had read the Bible (even worse, when I got to college, I knew ministerial students who had never read the Bible (that, actually, was more than 90% of them))) led to many disagreements between me and authority figures at my church when I was a teenager. They would say something like... Let's use a great Southern Baptist example! "The Bible says it's a sin to dance." And I would reply, "No, it doesn't." Then, there would be some complicated rationalization about how all these other things the Bible said arrived at the conclusion that "dancing is a sin." It's very clear that God thought it was excellent when David, so overcome by joy and praise for God, danced naked through the streets. I'm sorry, but it's hard to get past that.
The thing is, whenever I would get into one of these disagreements with an authority figure in my church (and remember, I was only 16-17 years old), they would always have to concede to me that I was right. Because I was. They had just accepted things because of the tradition that the church had that the Bible said these things (like "God helps those who help themselves," and "Cleanliness is next to Godliness"). The only one of these I didn't get a full turnaround from the other person had to do with the rapture and when that will happen (in relation to the other events of Revelation, not what year it will happen). He couldn't bring himself to tell me I was right, so he came back with, "I'm not saying you're right, but I will say that I was wrong."
Now, you might be thinking right about now, "Why does any of this matter? I don't care about the rapture or what Baptists think about dancing," and I get that. Totally. I don't care about what the Baptists think about dancing, either, even if I can't do it (and you can ask my wife, even after lessons and more lessons, I just can't dance). However, some of these things "the church" teaches are damaging to people, including what it teaches, mostly, about the rapture. I don't mean damaging in a little way, either. I mean damaging in a big way in that it becomes damaging to society in general.
Now, I am not setting out to be offensive, but I am sure that some, if not all, of what I say will be found to be offensive by at least some of the people who visit my blog. I'd like to care more about that, but I kind of don't. If I did, I wouldn't do this series to begin with. People in "the church" tend to believe too much and trust too much what pastors say just because it is a pastor who is saying it, pastors who have never read the Bible all the way through or ever bother to learn the historical context of what they were reading. I have had people tell me, "You don't need no schooling to be a preacher, all you need to do is have a Bible." And that attitude explains the abject ignorance of at least 80% of "the church." [Yes, I pulled that figure out of my butt, but I expect it's more like 95%, so I was being extremely generous. Remember, I spent decades around people in "the church" and found very few of them to be any kind of enlightened. About anything.]
Anyway... back at the beginning of the year, I promised to be more offensive, and this is just another of the ways I intend to do it. I don't have an issue with tackling difficult topics.
All of that being said, I am a Christian, but I am only a Christian in that I believe in the Kerygma (as I talked about here). I am certainly not the current iteration of cultural "Christian" who is so far removed from anything that Christ taught that if Jesus walked into their church, they would turn Him out. Or barely tolerate his presence in hopes that He would leave on His own. I'll put it like this: I find "the church" to be offensive. I find a significant number of right-wing nutjobs supporting their actions by waving the Bible around (like Kim Davis) to be offensive. I find the people who hold rallies for those people and wave the Bible around as an excuse (I'm looking at you Mike Huckabee) to be offensive. Well, it's time for you to own up to what's not actually in the Bible and to start treating people the way Jesus said to: with love.