On social media I seem to get an increasing number of links to blog posts, X-Twitter posts, articles and memes that rant and rage about the failures of Christians and the failure of the church. It could be hatchet jobs on famous Christians showing how they were secret Nazis, anti-Semites, white supremacists, homo or trans phobes, secret homosexuals, masturbators, misogynists, cat haters, alcoholics, teetotalers, people who once cut down a tree or hated their mother or loved their mother too much, frigid, sex obsessed, emotionally frozen and sexual abusers…

You get the idea. Christians–and especially white Christian men–are blamed for being, well, human.

Now I get it. There are a large number of people who have been wounded by their experience of the church. They’ve been ostracized by narrow minded, hypocritical Christians. They’ve been scandalized by the ignorance, incompetence, hypocrisy and stupidity of clergy. They’ve been angry at what seems deliberate obscurantism, legalism and judgmental attitudes. They’ve been angry at the corruption, sexual abuse, cover up and injustice shown by church leaders. They’ve been hurt by the greedy, fraudulent, scamming preachers. They’ve been disappointed by the hardness of heart, lack of compassion for the poor and the self serving church people and leaders.

So they not only leave the church, they go on a long, weary tirade and campaign against the church and Christians in general. I get that too. If one is wounded deeply, then it hurts and when one hurts, one howls in pain. I get all that.

What I don’t get is how immature and blinkered this is. Are grown up people really so lacking in both self awareness and realism about human nature and the way of the world? I can remember at the age of twelve I overheard my fundamentalist pastor engaged in a rip roaring, screaming match with the music director. “This church isn’t big enough for the two of us!” etc. etc.

I was shocked, but I soon got over it. Then as I was a teenager I heard the rumors about some of our church leaders who got caught with their pants down. Here a pastor who was having an affair,  there a youth director who’d fallen in love with one of the girls in the youth group. Here an evangelist who was found in a hotel room with a call girl. There another pastor who’d been in an affair for over ten years with a woman he was counseling.

It didn’t make me stomp off in a self righteous huff. I figured our religion was all about sin and repentance and God was in charge. I’d read the Old Testament. It was one long soap opera of God’s people falling into sin and rebellion of the worst kind, but bouncing back. Besides, I had my own struggles with temptation, sin and repentance–why should the other Christians be any better than me? Plus, my faith wasn’t in the church leaders it was in God and Jesus.

So why don’t all the folks grumbling and groaning about disappointing Christians grow up and get over it? I think part of the problem is wrong expectations. A friend of mine was a conservative Catholic who, disenchanted with “the Novus Ordo Sect” marched off to the FSSP where he enjoyed the Latin Mass, conservative priests and a congenial conservative fellowship. Then he discovered some spots and wrinkles among the FSSP clergy so he decamped to the Levebfrists. Eventually he gave up on them in disgust saying, “They’re just a bunch of liars and homos like the rest of them!”

I replied, “Well, I could have told you that.” This is not to slam either the FSSP folks or traditionalists or the SSPX–just to acknowledge that we are all sinners and that to expect otherwise is to be immature and unrealistic.

One is called to persevere in the faith, and for many the biggest test of perseverance is not persevering in the face of external persecution, but persevering in the face of the internal human frailty and failures of the Church. This is not to condone or excuse the human failures of Christians, but to be realistic about humanity, realistic about the Church and realistic about ourselves.

How best to deal with the disappointment, disgust and dismay one so often feels about the Church and Christianity? First to have the right priority. Your focus is on Jesus not other Christians. Second, get real–a paradigm shift is an act of the will. Decide to be realistic in your expectations. Hope for the best, expect the worst. Third, don’t get too focussed on your church leaders. Let them do their job. You do yours. Support them if you can, avoid them if you can’t. Fourth: focus on the ordinary people in the pew. They’re more likely to be the saints you are looking for. Fifth: live local, love local. What’s the old saying, “Nothing is real if it is not local.” Getting involved with the struggles, the triumphs and tragedies of your local Christian community and local extended community is where it gets real. If you meet a Christian failure at that level you are far more likely to be sympathetic and if your sleeves are already rolled up in action you’re likely to be able to do something about it and more likely to forgive and help that person. Sixth –look in the mirror. Very often we blame others most vehemently when their failure is something we are also struggling with. PS: it’s called “projection” Seventh – don’t forget a sense of humor. Humor is linked with humility and believe me, one day we will see the foolishness, failures and frailties from the divine perspective and understand that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

The sin and darkness will turn out to be the necessary shadows–the chiaroscuro of a beautiful painting.