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when loving the bride hurts like a bitch

I’m a Christian who would both affirm the historic orthodoxies of the faith and simultaneously identify as Roman Catholic, evangelical, emerging, learning, searching, seeking, and always thinking.

But I often despise what Christianity has become.  I believe that the behavior of the Church is often an absolute travesty.

I know that many of you will agree with me, and many will not.

But if the above statement sounds either at odds with the truth or otherwise grossly exaggerated, I urge you to have a conversation with someone who has been deeply wounded by the Church.

Please take the time to learn about the slaves who for 2,000 years were told that my religion relegated them to ownership by other human beings.  Hear from indigenous people across the globe who have been oppressed, and even experienced genocide in the name of Christ.  Listen to or read stories of LGBT teens who have taken their lives because of malevolent Christians or of the thousands of children sexually abused by a spiritual leader.

Ask me about my own story.

I always try to point such hurting individuals to the life of our dear Jesus rather than our own moral failures.

I try to remind them that from each era of oppression fostered in the name of Christianity came a redemption movement, a Spirit-guided journey of believers that rejected the exploits of colonialism, liberated a generation of women, and saw the transatlantic slave trade wiped completely off the map.

This is the same Church who is now once again beginning to feel the winds of the Spirit blow her in a different direction, leading her into new truths in her timeless fight for the afflicted and the cast-down.


I try to paint them this image, the picture of how the scriptures speak of the Holy Church, rather than how she acts today.

Because I swear to God, I can almost see her sometimes.

I tell you the truth: I can almost see the Church sometimes, how she’s really supposed to be.  How she will be someday.

It makes me cry damn near every time.

Because she’s standing there at that altar waiting for her Bride and she’s wearing a sparkling white dress and she’s open and unblemished and silent and true.

And you can tell that, brilliant as she is, she’s more used to work clothes, to gardening tools, than to the ornate gown and the bouquet.  Her eyes betray her passion, her fire – you can feel her Spirit burning bright from across the room.

Oh, and the whole place is packed.

She’s dug down into the dirt of human suffering and pulled up millions of folks with her and they all stand in the pews of this beautiful old church, respectful and stinking and coughing and beaming up to high heaven.

the bride of christ

When the Groom steps forward and the two share a kiss, all of heaven and earth rejoice.  A cheer goes up in the crowd and it lasts for forty years.  Hats are flung into the air, mothers cry and kiss their babies, the earth itself groans, panicking, in inexorable joy.

Then there’s the reception.

You’ve gotta try this wine.

the end.

Or as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”

It’s incredible.

But tears run down down my face once I realize that it was all just a sweet daydream.

I open my eyes and expect to see such great things, such beautiful things, but they are simply not the case.

I open my eyes and see not the Bride of Christ standing radiant in the glory of the Father, but instead a mockery of the entire ceremony, a sad imitation of the real thing.

I see a harem of women, whores, huddled together in front of the altar.

Every girl, though beautiful, is dressed in a narrow, pinching gown.  Each is bickering, shouting about doctrines and dogmas and shoving and some of them are starting to claw at each other.

The Groom stands silently to the side, tears running also down His face as the women scream at each other and hurl insults across the room.  One pulls a knife, another bride stands tweeting to the side of the stage.  The Bible is held and worshipped by a group of women wearing head coverings, most of whom have opted to remain completely silent.

Others are standing around in a circle, passing around a stone, quietly cutting their arms.  One is wearing a shirt that says God Hates Fags.


When I hear people speaking critically of Christianity, I tend to get upset.  Somebody’s upsetting my established religious order?  (Somebody…somebody gonna get crucified).

But maybe we deserve to get criticized every once in a while.  Maybe we’re making a mockery of the whole damn system, maybe we’re actually turning people away from YHVH by our disgusting behavior.

I guess I have to remember that the critics aren’t talking about the wedding I dream about sometimes.  They’re talking about the harem of prostitutes they see before us today.

They’re talking about this Church, not that Church.

Their vitriol becomes understandable.  Think about it!  They can’t even conceive her true face.

And when we, like our critics, focus on this current state of the body of believers and never talk about that beautiful prophetic creature the Church is to become, we suffer.

That’s when loving the bride hurts like a bitch.

But the disaster of a wedding I have envisioned above can only turn into the beautiful ceremony it was intended to be if individuals like ourselves choose today to love and work to heal the Church through service, diligence, and constructive criticism.

the body of Christ

We are all one body.

There’s a wonderful quote (perhaps falsely) attributed to St. Augustine that essentially says “the church is a whore – and she is my mother.”

How convicting.  We are a beautiful mess of brokenness, ordered to strive more and more each day to join God in His great mission to remake this earth.

So let’s give this church the help she needs to become that church.

For I am reminded that no matter how neglectful, abusive, addicted, hurtful, and broken my mother might be, she actually loves her children.

We would not be here without her and we should not, in the end, ever truly abandon her.

Part 2 soon.


8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jonathan #

    I actually stopped attending church regularly because of stuff like this. I am still a Christian, and I always will be, but the church communities I was involved with just left a bad taste in my mouth, one that I desperately want to get over. There’s just a lot of issues there, running the gauntlet from church politics and infighting to seeing pervasive apathy in worship and a disconnect with new and young believers. I know these problems aren’t new and are being addressed, but I honestly found it hindering my faith more than sustaining it, and I pray that that will change.

    February 11, 2013
    • I can relate to you deeply, brother. I pray that you would be able to find peace in your journey and someday find a faith community that fills you with the love and peace of our heavenly father. I know that seems like it would take a miracle at times to see that happen, but it’s so possible. Keep searching for it. May worshipping God then really be for us all on earth as it is in heaven!

      February 11, 2013
  2. Thanks for the post Ryan. I had so many issues about the church and it’s past that I would often say, “me and God do fine, but I can’t stand his kids.” It was as though my entire focus on the body of Christ’s current status and worldliness, that I could not see Him. There is an old hymn that says, “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” When I turned my eyes on Him, my view of my bros and sis in Christ was their brokenness, and need of healing. Paul said in Eph.5 to walk in love, Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one, united in Him. Organizations and many false prophets are a thorn, and secular education attempts to keep us focused on the body’s brutal past, when we see Jesus, He reveals our purpose, and we are removed from the problem into solution. To the man walking in the spirit, in love, in unity, hypocrisy flees, we only see the hurt that needs healing, the hole that needs filling, be blessed.

    February 12, 2013
    • Thank you for the comment, Keith. It’s always nice to see other writers stopping by the blog. I am encouraged by your words here and can definitely relate to your experience with the church. It’s interesting: if before you loved God but couldn’t stand his kids, how would you describe the state of things in your heart and with the Church now?

      February 12, 2013
      • That is a great question! I had to think. My heart is fixed, Christ is all, and I strive to conform to his image. I am well aware of the brokenness in the body, and the fact many church leaders are in folly, the people place everything ahead of God. For me, it is serving whenever, where God wants me to serve, and pray for the entire family. Trusting Him, serving others, and keeping my side of the street clean, honors Him. There is never a moment of service I do not benefit from when it is done in Jesus name. How about you?

        February 13, 2013
      • what a great explanation. I would have to agree, and I definitely have to think on this more. The church hurts so many people, but it’s not “the bride” that’s a problem: I am the problem. I must keep my side of the street clean and do my best to honor Him in my thoughts and actions while calling out evil and loving, clinging to the good. For there is never a moment of service we do not benefit from when it is done in Jesus’ name. Amen, brother!

        February 14, 2013
  3. Annonymous #

    Ryan, it seems you may be confusing things people do as sinners, acting out of biggotry, fear, power-lust, etc. as things they do on behalf of the Church…when in fact, they do these things out of their own sin and for their own selfish reasons. While we are representatives of the Church by calling ourselves Christians, we do not act on behalf of Christ when we sin. Remember that we are sheep and goats…when we act out of love toward our brothers and sisters we did this for Christ (Matthew 25.40). Conversely, when we act out of hatred, fear, and sin we separate ourselves from Christ and his bride Church (Matthew 25.45). As you said, we are one Body…which includes the millions of devout Christians who do not do the things you describe. Rather than despairing in sin, find the joy and hope of Christ and those majority who follow Him. I think your life, and your relationship to the Church could be brightened by this shift in perspective. It is important, of course, to pray for those who perpetrate the hateful acts you describe. It is important, of course, to speak out for justice, truth, love, and acceptance. But it is important to do so not hating the Church yourself. Rather, work with your brothers and sisters in faith. By doing so, you are working with Christ. And as we all know, all things are possible through Him.

    February 13, 2013
    • Anonymous,

      I suppose the bigotry and intolerance of many members of the church is something I am still sifting through the implications of. I think part of my frustration comes from the idea that we, followers of the One who was perfect, should be so much better than this.

      I do not wish to focus on one aspect of the body at the expense of the other. Yes, there are “millions of devout Christians,” as there are millions of terribly misguided men abusing Christ’s name. Such a man was I for much of my life. Both are true. I do not necessarily intend to elevate the one at the expense of the other, and will address this in part 2 of the series, but rather to present an honest picture of many Christians today.

      But yes, I think I do tend to call out the log in our own eyes rather than focus on our merit. Like our God, I have such high hopes for the church, I have to insist that we are better than this.

      In Luke 18:8, our Lord asks “when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” It’s a good question. I hope and pray that our answer would be a resounding YES!

      Bless you brother, thank you for stopping by. I’d love to continue this conversation @

      February 14, 2013

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