While I was editing my blog a few weeks ago I asked some of my friends for feedback. I had a very interesting reply from Millard J Melnyk. He wrote:
Hey Peter, I’ve spent some time on your blog on several different occasions. I’m probably not the best one to ask. You have some great things to say. Your views and approach remind me of Ken Dahl. If you don’t know him, he’s another writer concerned with many of the same questions about Christianity/church that you’re interested in. He’s on Facebook.
The reason I say I’m not the best one to ask is because I have no interest in salvaging anything from the Christian religion. Much of what you and Ken write assumes that there is something worth redeeming, and your questions take the form of separating belief, tradition, and institutional babies from bathwater. I’ve been deeply interested in the same questions for decades, both as an avid Christian and as an avid critic of Christianity. I’ve realized that it’s all quite simple.
Remove the authoritarianism from the church and there is no longer a “church” that we’d recognize as such. What’s left are the true “babies” — the people and their hearts and aspirations for love towards each other in a loving world. Authority in its most familiar forms is inimical to that, particularly in the church.
I am firmly convinced that the church is in fact, literally, the anti-Christ. I don’t say that as a slur or crass derogation or for shock effect. It’s a long and deeply deliberated assessment after literally decades of involvement, reflection, and discussion.
The spirit of the church is antipathetic to the spirit of Christ, and the spirit of the teachings of the church are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ. The church bastardized Jesus’ thoughts, creating an authoritarian bureaucracy unrivaled in the world for the sole purpose of promoting anti-Christ, this-worldly imperialism while stifling, subduing, and exterminating pro-Christ, life generative, dignity-promoting people and programs wherever they arose. The gruesome history of the church wasn’t the result of some bad eggs, but was the natural expression of its core, the heart of its bloodthirsty agenda. The Christian church is no less psychopathic an entity than the worst of profiteering corporations. In fact, the corporations learned what they know from the example of the church.
So, in short, I’m operating on some very different assumptions than you are, especially in terms of the depth, extent, and gravity of the problem. Most things that Christians characterize as “challenging” and “provocative” and even “radical” I find to be relatively tame half-measures taken by people who still want to redeem the abusive people and institutions that were so long their mainstays. It’s very much like domestic violence victims do as long as they still feel dependent on their abusers, even sometimes long afterwards, too.
I’m not saying that the new thinking doesn’t have value. On the contrary, I applaud it. Judging from the interest that Ken Dahl gets it’s clear that there’s a lot of value in his work, as there is in the work of others in recent movements to revamp or reinvent the church. There’s always value wherever people who want good things are, no matter the program. The problem is that they all want to preserve church, and church as we know it is fundamentally incompatible with Jesus’ teachings and with living a spirit-led life. Institutionalization is EXACTLY about capturing, imprisoning, and holding spirit hostage in hopes to call it to perform at will. Not gonna happen.
Don’t know if that helps or not, but it’s what I have to offer you. Please feel free to question, object, discuss, etc., anything you like with me. I’m always available. I have no doubt we want the same things. I’ve just come to the conclusion that some very basic brainwashing needs to be corrected before any real solutions have a hope, and it’s brainwashing deeper and more basic than anything specific to Christianity. The authoritarianism — the reliance on and belief in the merit of authority as a will imposed on ours — just has to go.
More recently Millard saw my lengthy ‘A Study of Religion’ and asked me about the highlights of my study. I’ve posted my response here.