7 Heartbreaking Ironies of the American Church
By Shane Pruitt
In 1995, Alanis Morissette released her song “Ironic”, and it was a huge hit in the United States! The song was nominated for two Grammys, and its video was nominated for six MTV video music awards. Ironically, the song grabbed the attention of many English majors, because the song was more about unfortunate circumstances than irony.
Irony is when a particular result is the exact opposite of what would be naturally expected, so it causes bewilderment to the onlookers. For example: a fire station catching on fire or a person getting on Facebook to rant about how much Facebook is a waste of time.
Of course, the church is not immune to its own ironies—things which should appear one way but simply are not. And, when talking about the church, I’m referring to a people—not a building or institution—the Bride of Christ. Jesus takes this seriously just like any husband would when someone is talking about his own bride.
The church is beat up enough by constant attacks that come from outsiders and insiders alike. Therefore, I desire to approach these ironies with care and caution, seeking reflection, repentance and change. After all, our great Lord, King and Groom deserves our best because He gave us, and continues to give us, His best.
Without further ado, here is a list of some of some heartbreaking ironies of the church and church culture:
- We complain that prayer is not allowed in public schools or is marginalized in public forums; meanwhile, we don’t even take the time to pray with our family at home.
- We love to have the phrase “In God We Trust” on our printed money, but we don’t actually trust God with our money. Ever notice how small that $100 bill looks at the mall but how massive that same $100 bill looks when the offering plate comes by at church?
- We allow, and perhaps encourage, our teenagers to overcommit themselves, so that they have little to no time for church, and then we’re somehow shocked when they abandon church altogether after high school. Is being that committed to the flute more important than the commitment to a faith family?
- We find it easy to boast that we’re not involved in “big sins,” but our gossiping, complaining, overeating, anger issues, self-promotion and hoarding of possessions are all perfectly permissible.
- We’re passionate about screaming on the rooftops, “Homosexuality is a sin before a holy God!” Which, it definitely is! However, we hide and refer to porn addiction as a “struggle” or having sex with our boyfriend or girlfriend as just a “temptation.”
- There is often a long line of protesters outside the abortion clinic demonstrating against the injustice of abortion, but a short line of willing volunteers outside of the adoption agency. What if we were more actively involved in serving, ministering, and discipling young women that would keep their child if they didn’t feel trapped?
- We pre-judge people from different parts of the world based on their appearance, while forgetting that Jesus himself and all of our early church heroes would have likely been “randomly selected” for further inspection at an airport. All of our Bible heroes were from the Middle East and Africa.
Again, the point of this is not to throw stones at our Christian sub-culture, because we all live in glass houses as far as that’s concerned. The point of this is simply to provoke some consideration and perhaps a different way of thinking about these issues. For example, what if “In God We Trust” being printed on our money no longer simply represented us clinging to a past version of our history as a country but represented an unwavering trust in God with everything we have, including our money? What a difference that would make in our daily lives!
But ultimately, our hope should be that as we address the “planks in our own eye” that we would then be able to change the culture around us, not simply by our voices or our protests but because our lives line up with what we preach and proclaim.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16