Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin. What can I say? Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk). On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me
When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold. Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith? Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.) Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide. Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?
I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.) Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes. What has made our churches into fake factories?
One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.” Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us. Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt. What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way. We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.
There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard. So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick. If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right? If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right? No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right? Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works? What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?” Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd? They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.
Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them. However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general. I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing. We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people. We are going to keep producing fakes.
A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes. Why? Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death. We don’t have that here in the West. If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness? In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation. What do you guys think? I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now. I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday. It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true. It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one. What’s happened to us?
My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different. We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that. We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it. And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does. What are your thoughts? I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church. Have you been “the ember fading?” Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt? How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?