it’s a letter to the church that my distant mentor and friend Randy Elrod wrote. Randy and the community he fosters has had an amazing impact on my life.
i really felt it’s also what i wanted to say to many of the churches i’ve been a part of in my life. KNOW THIS. i love the church. i love the church i’m currently at, but that has not always been the case.
“Clearly the person who accepts the church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the church teaches” – St. Thomas Aquinas
You have not loved me well. In fact, throughout our time together, I’ve felt used and abused. You use my talents to get people in the seats, but then you twist and “spin” the art I create for propaganda. You abuse by using me without any conscience whatever – for you tell me, “the end justifies the means.”
You have built a great wall between the sacred and the secular. Delineating worlds that were never meant to be separated. You have created a gray vacuum, a netherworld in between, and so I am homeless. I feel hopelessly rejected by both the church and the world. In fact, my entire life has been misjudged by parents, friends, teachers – and now you. Of all the places I thought I would surely find grace and acceptance, it was with you. But, you have not loved me well.
You value cloning, not originality. You value imitation, not creativity. You value programs, not people. You value the destination, not the journey. You value the story, not the telling.
Do you think I’m stupid? I’ll admit to being quirky, absent-minded, undisciplined, moody, depressed, to name only a few. But I’m not stupid. When I question, with an artists mind, the literal truth of the Bible, and you tell me I am not allowed to do so. Suddenly, I feel as if I’m in some sort of evangelical cult. So, if we are supposed to believe the Bible literally, then why aren’t we baptizing for the dead? Maybe that’s why the artist Madeline L’Engle said, “I believe the Bible is true, but I don’t believe it’s literal.” This coming from a Christian artist who was condemned by the fundamentalist church in the 60’s for writing science fiction.
And why do I meet so many disillusioned artists who have left you? They haven’t left their “first love”, they have just quietly left an illegitimate lover who uses and abuses them. The ominous number of artists without a church home is an ever-growing indictment against the church. As Cyril of Jerusalem was once said to have exclaimed, “The church is a whore, but she’s still my Mother”.
Thankfully, I’m finally beginning to understand that when I try to group the church and God together as one and the same – I get in trouble. God is perfect and the church is not. The church is composed of imperfect people. They are two totally different things. Apples and oranges.
And maybe I’m an idealist – I am an artist, you see. For over forty years, I have been continually disappointed by the church. But she’s still my mother. She has taught me scripture, bible stories, and songs. She has formed in me a foundation and belief system for truth. And despite the control she continually tries to exert over me, ironically, it is the very truth she has taught that has set me free. And for that, I’m thankful.