Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shame and Church Hypocrisy

Last week Dale Richardson of Ladson, South Carolina was arrested for allegedly kidnapping four women and raping three of them. (From http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44219189/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/preacher-accused-raping-women-behind-church/) While some people are confused because they have always seen him as a good person and never saw this coming, he is being held in prison with no bail because he is believed to be a “danger to society.” What is most interesting (and disheartening) about this story, and the reason it is attracting much interest is that Dale Richardson is a pastor of a Baptist church.

Few will argue against the fact that kidnapping and raping is wrong. In no way do I condone the alleged crimes that Richardson is charged with, nor do I diminish his own responsibility in the wrongdoing. My curiosity though begs the question, “What might have led this person to commit this crime?” In the first book we are reading for class, Hurt People Hurt People, by Sandra D. Wilson, the title says it all, and I have to wonder – “Where did this man go wrong?” How has he been hurt and what wound is he carrying that has contributed to his poor and evil choices?

I propose that in part it has to do with shame. Wilson says, “Shame is the soul-deep belief that something is horribly wrong with me that is not wrong with anyone else in the entire world.” She goes on to say, “shame is rooted in the lie that human beings can and should be perfect.” Do we not at least subconsciously expect our leaders to be perfect? What happens to a leader who has his own unseen hurts, who struggles with childish coping mechanisms but cannot admit to anyone that he struggles for fear of being “found out?” He hides in his shame to cover the sin that he secretly battles within.

I believe that we as a church do a terrible disservice to each other as we walk around pretending to have it all together. The pastor who is expected to be perfect is too ashamed (or prideful) to confess to another his struggle with lust, driven to carefully construct a false life of perfection and wholeness when reality would show utter brokenness. This perceived perfection in turn shames the parishioner into posing too because he or she knows that they too have missed the mark but shouldn’t have. And a downward spiral of shameful hiding and disconnected pride ensues, robbing each of real community, humility, and healing. Honesty, forgiveness, and healing are replaced with shame, lying hypocrisy, and an ever-entangling sin leading to tragic examples like the news story above.

Certainly, the blame falls on this pastor who committed the crime. I propose though that instead of only pointing fingers we take time to consider the type of tightly knit “community” that could allow a major internal struggle such as this to go unnoticed. Are we allowing the fear of shame frighten us to put on our hypocritical pious masks or are we boldly confessing our struggles to each other, striving to be a broken but authentic, healing community?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Empty Churches, Empty Lives

In a study recently released by the Barna Group, church attendance among adults has declined by 9 percent, dropping from 49 to 40 percent. This drop includes an 11 percent decrease in attendance among women, and lower attendance numbers for both working class White Americans and among Hispanics. This decline supports the growing idea that the church is becoming less and less relevant in our society and shows that the majority of people are relying on their own merit and power to make it through their lives. The percentage of unchurched individuals rose from just 24 percent in the last poll to 37 percent in the most recently released data. That is an increase of over 50 percent. Furthermore, only 40 percent of Americans are reading their bibles on a weekly basis. The inspired Word of God given to us for our benefit, for support and growth, the best selling book in the world (of all time) is not being read. The functions of the church have also dropped as only 15 percent of adults attend Sunday School on any given Sunday (ebbed 8 percent), and volunteerism dropped to 19 percent over the past two decades.

While we have not covered much ground in the books yet, I can still see a direct relation between these statistics and Jay Adam's book How to Help People Change. The premise of Jay Adams book is that true change can only occur after there is inner change, or life change. The individual can change everything about his life and this will only lead to a temporary solution for his problems. His issue will resurface, change shape, or intensify if God is not part of his life. This requires that the individual seek to build his relationship with the One True God by seeking out ways to know Him more. This includes going to church, reading His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and discussing Him in small groups. This cannot happen if we are not in church! This will not happen if our nation's people cease to seek His face. Jay Adams states that the Bible is enough, but less and less people believe this. Scripture is crucial in leading the individual to true, heart-felt conviction. This conviction draws them toward God and away from sin. The statistics show that there is less and less conviction and less and less belief in the inerrancy of scripture! Not only are people unashamed of their God-separated lives, but they don't believe in the scripture that can bring them back to conviction! Jay Adams entire approach is based on people attending church. Adams says that without God change is not permanent and therefore our society has become a self-help driven cycle of issues that will reoccur until we fix our eyes upon the Cross.

This article and blog post has shown me the need for true fellowship in the church. It has also shown me that it is more important than ever to share the gospel with those around me. In my opinion, the reason that church attendance is melting like a popsicle on a hot day is a misappropriation of the role of the church. It has become a place where strangers gather on Sunday to sing meaningless songs and listen to some guy talk about an "outdated" book and how we can improve our lives. The early church was a body of believers who gathered together to fellowship, break bread together, pray, learn, support one another, and worship the God who died for their sins. We believe these days that everything is about us; the Bible, church, this Christian faith. The truth is, none of it is about us. The Bible is about Jesus and His love and glory. Not about the glory of you or I, but the glory of our God on High. This world is obviously showing signs of the decline of Jesus' work in our lives and there is no way for us to permanently repair it without faith in His sovereignty and His promise that He will bring about good works in our lives. You and I must go forth and bring the Word to the nations, to those around us, to our families, to our friends, and to ourselves. It is absolutely essential that we are seeking to grow with Christ if we plan to help others overcome their problems. We can't help people change if we are not changed. We cannot help people change if they are not changed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Father flees forclosed home leaving 11 year son behind

Steven Alexander Cross, father of Sebastian Cross 11 years old, fled their foreclosed home in the middle if the night. The father left a note on his sleeping sons bed before fleeing, that told his son that he loved him and to take his PlayStation to the neighbors house and they would take care of him from now on. Steven Cross today is charged with a misdemeanor of child neglect, and the son is in custody of Dakota County Child Protection.


In reading this article its difficult not to apply this situation to the book "Hurt people, hurt people" by Sandra D. Wilson. In the first chapter of this book you read that its nearly impossible for a person hurting not to hurt those closest to them even if it is unintentional. This father must have felt a failure as a provider and father figure to his son, leaving him with what he thought a clear path to providing his son with a better future and to hide his shame from his son. Now his son is in State custody with no word from his father, who has still not been found. This is without a doubt a case of a hurting person hurting a person.

I'm sadden by reading this article that this man thought the best thing for his son was to abandon him. Instead of working with his son to maintain a family bond, he shattered it with running away from a tough situation, leaving a boy without a father, without security, and extreme upheaval. When we are in the most emotional pain of a situation we can damage those around us to the point of irreversibility. That is my personal reason to being on a track to becoming a professional that can help those hurting, to hurt those around them less, or not at all.