Love makes a difference – not buildings
Wherever you travel in The Bahamas there is a church building. We are saturated with churches in our country. Shouldn’t that be a sign of a healthy nation? Yes, but obviously we are not a healthy nation. We have many churches, but as I drive around the island I notice that most of them are almost empty each weekend. The leaders seem not to be able to attract members or keep them because of the lack of love. Sadly, the church seems not to be able to impact family life and relationships. We have a proliferation of churches in our country but a serious lack of love and spirituality.
Sometimes I wonder why there are so many churches. As I travel across New Providence each day, I would notice a new church being built. On some streets there is a cluster of churches of various denominations within just a few hundred feet from each other. They can even hear each other singing. But something is still missing in our society. I thought that having so many churches would mean people are getting help and loving relationships are being fostered. But I am discovering that this is not the case. Far too many churches are a haven for internal disputes, a nesting place for sexual unfaithfulness and a fertile ground for corruption and nepotism.
A decade ago, I noted it appeared to me that far too many people were using church as a “fix-me-upper” and not for long lasting, in-depth transformation and inspiration. And that this fed into many pastors’ egos and the need for power and control. I also noted that too many people went to church each week for an emotional high. In other words, they were so needy or wounded that they were vulnerable to any false doctrine – especially when it sounded good or made them feel good. In the long run they found themselves trapped in a web of spiritual abuse that left them confused, troubled and often disillusioned.
The truth is we need less churches and more loving. We have thousands of religious people in our country who use church-going like a bad habit they cannot overcome. On the other hand, these same people are not really spiritual. Religion does not automatically make one spiritual. To be religious one just needs to mentally adhere to a set of beliefs or practices. Religion is outward performance. To be spiritual is much deeper. It is an internal value system. Spirituality extends beyond an expression of religion or practice of religion. This is where the confusion begins. Church attendance is being used as a disguise for spirituality. Hence, since we say we are a “Christian nation” most people think of that as being spiritual people. Again, this is proven to be far from the truth.
Churches have now become a center for marital affairs, sexual exploitation, political fights and the creation of dysfunctional families. Several months ago, I assisted a mother and her children to find a church where they would be welcomed and feel comfortable worshipping. She had difficulty finding a church where she could find peace because at each church she attended there was a barrage of condemnation and criticism from the pulpit that made her uncomfortable. She told me that she felt no love and compassion. All she heard was judgement and condemnation that ripped her heart apart. The good news is that she did find a loving, non-condemning church where she is accepted and welcomed.
Sometimes I wonder if people think of churches like many of us think of gambling centers – as a cash cow – thus, many pastors learn the skill of charming and mesmerizing their listeners to also hypnotically worship and serve them, sucking the members dry of the much-needed resources for their families. In addition, too many pastors are standing before hundreds each week massaging their own egos and need for attention. It is a powerful feeling having hundreds of people look up to you. It is my opinion that all of this, combined with rigid traditional beliefs, is making many churches toxic communities where individuals’ rigid traditional family values are being reinforced and not challenged. The result is an increase of domestic violence, child abuse and intimate partner abuse, and a depletion of love.
I would like to see churches as centers for loving and unconditional acceptance instead of centers for wealth development, political grooming and archives for hate and resentment. Far too many churches are propagating teachings that foster abuse of all kinds. This must stop. It seems as though the way preachers are sharing the gospel is making more judgers than lovers of their parishioners. Instead of building another church let’s just add genuine love to all churches that are in our country. Love will make a difference, not church buildings.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or telephone 327-1980.