Greetings! This was an essay submitted to Still Point Magazine at Gordon College as proof of participation in their annual essay competition. It is a publication display for members of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum honors program at Gordon College, of which I have participated in the 13th cohort. The prompt is based off of the Symposium Day theme, which relates to divisions amidst the church in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
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Christianity has become less and less about one’s relationship with God, and increasingly more about politics, popularity, and pleasing others. For this reason, I assert that the Church has never been more divided; but this does not mean that there is nothing that unites us. With it being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, many Christians wish to discuss divisions amidst the Church. These divisions are certainly less relevant, but this is a pseudo conversation, and a distracting one at that. Change is generally positive, but when it comes to the Christian faith, I am personally convicted that it is convolution and not evolution. Christianity is simply a societal label for what should be an individual loving comradeship and covenant with God, but it is also an ardent profession of death in life. However, Christianity has conformed into something much different: an artificial and convincing mindset. A self-deceiving mindset that one is superior, different, and protected from sin—and that is a boisterous claim. Following Christ should be a life-altering decision, but many see it as a method of repentance and forget rather than a merciful sacrifice on the cross. Missing an exit is unfortunate, but you cannot simply perform a U-Turn and act as if you never missed the exit in the first place, because imperfection is ascribed to humanity’s pane.
And you may be wondering, what does this have to do with Martin Luther, the ninety-five theses, or the schism? Probably much more than one might expect. The Church, as many know, had many flaws that had to be addressed in Martin Luther’s era, and I certainly do not negate this. The Church leaders, at that time, participated in many fallacious activities that I do not consider God-Honoring. That had gone on for too long, and I remember reading recounts of it in places such as Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. There was surely a distinct level of hypocrisy, power abuse, and disconnect. What many people fail to understand, though, is that this has not gone away: it has only been hidden. Sure, there is “less” controversy amidst Christian leadership, and the Church as an institution has been balanced, but this hypocrisy has not gone away, it has simply taken a different form.
The more you think about it, the more you realize how hypocritical Christians have become. We disparage society for the sins they commit, all while participating in swarthy events behind closed doors. We, as Christians, have come to adapt a policy of amnesty and ignorance in the face of sin and temptation, which is not at all what Jesus commanded us to do. There are Christians who allow themselves to become inebriated on Saturday nights while remaining stoically Godly on Sunday mornings, and we are the first to criticize others for the same crimes we are too mollified to confess to. This is not Christianity; nor is this justice: it is instead embarrassing. In a culture that dissipated the nuclear family and decency, Christians should be counter-cultural figures, but instead, we have become integrated with what is mainstream, and that spells anything but success.
Once again, you may be wondering how I am relating this to the schism of the Church, and I ask you this: How many times have you criticized a leader for something you have done? If you are at all like me, the answer is probably: too many. This is the issue. We can project that the Church has made great strides, completed more food drives, and grown in numbers unseen before, but if the body is hypocritical, this is all in vain. Remember this: hypocrisy is always noticed when exposed through political means, but what about the hypocrisy within our own homes? Before we judge the actions of individuals like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I contend that we must first scorn our own. The Church is not as divided, nor as conformed as anyone believes. In fact, we are more united than ever, but not in the way we might hope. Yes, Martin Luther’s aspiration was achieved, but no, hypocrisy has not been reversed—it has only been hidden. It is now more obscure and obsolete, but the worst type of sin is the type we are unwilling to admit, and I severely hope that we, as Christians, realize this sooner than later.