Native-American blogger Kaitlin Curtice wrote a troubling post for the ostensibly Christian organization Sojourners. In her recent piece entitled “Evangelicals and the Illusion of Control,” she grieved for the evangelical Church’s hypocrisy and seemed to long after a vision of the perfect church. Below are some excerpts from what Curtice wrote:
For years, the American evangelical church and many of its denominations have used the Bible as a way to control, oppress, and abuse others — from cultural genocide to the abstinence/purity movement…I grew up going to True Love Waits rallies, grouping together with other girls who wore their purity rings and talked about virtue and abstinence…What was never explained to us, however, was that these rules of purity would bleed into our adult dating lives and our marriages, causing shame and a distortion of what should be healthy sexual relationships.
Contra Curtice, virtuous abstinence is not Biblical oppression or Biblical abuse. It is Biblical holiness. The Bible is incredibly discriminatory in defining “a healthy sexual relationship.” It’s marriage. Anything outside of marriage is sin. This is undeniably clear in Scripture:
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3)
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
But Curtice didn’t stop there. She continued:
Too many church leaders use the Bible to instill fear and shame into the lives of its congregants… It wasn’t until college that I first understood the world is not full of people waiting for direction, but people who are simply trying to be human to one another…I had friends who were atheists, friends who dated openly and went to college parties, and I was terrified for their souls — until I began understanding that the terror embedded in me came not from the Bible, but the men leading my churches who were interpreting the Bible to preach a message of control.
Curtice’s appeal to “simply trying to be human to one another” is ironically mistaken. It’s because of our fallen human nature that we kill, steal, rape and lie. This nature needs to be redeemed. As Paul the Apostle writes:
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:20-23)
Furthermore, based on Scripture, I’m terrified for the souls of friends who are atheist and/or are living in sexual sin (or any other sinful lifestyle):
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
But these were not the only problematic portions of Curtice’s blog post. She also wrote:
Instead of blaming people for leaving the church or stepping outside the boxes that have been created as a way to fear God, the church should humbly listen to the people in its communities by asking what God looks, sounds, and feels like in 2017.
Does the God of 2017 look different than the God of 1776? This seems to allude to a process theology that views divinity through the lens of humanity. God looks like God. God sounds like God. God feels like God.
The inherent danger of Curtice’s premise is for her to equate the mission of the Church to the perfection of Christ. The Church is made up sinning saints. The Church has engaged in some horrific, inexcusable sin that she has been and will continue to be judged for. But as compared to what? Government? Society? Culture? Other religions?
There never has been nor will there ever be a perfect Church. That’s why the Church’s head is Jesus Christ. The Church carries holy beauty in the midst of human brokenness. She is continuously undergoing both individual and collective sanctification and will definitely continue to err as time passes. But she is the bride of Christ. Instead of rooting our criticisms in unattainable purity or visions of a perfect Church, let’s look to the Cross:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)