When talking about faith, I sometimes hear from colleagues that they do not believe in God because of the mistakes of the church like the crusades, the more recent cases of child abuses or other events like the findings around treatments of indigenous fellows in Canada a few decades back.
I fully agree that all those events and cases are horrible. Every support and effort needs to be taken to create transparency, seek justice and support the victims. Still, nothing on this planet will ever repair the emotional pain caused. It is truly shocking and mind blowing to me how seemingly “agents” of God can do such horrible things.
God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (…) For God does not show favoritism.Roman 2:6-11
What comforts me is that God promises to treat all humans equally. No matter if someone is a bishop, pope or an uneducated poor old lady. What counts before God is what you have done. An uneducated poor old lady can thus be higher before God than a pope. Jesus shows this to us through his life. In his time also scholars in the temple thought that because they know the word of God so well, they are worth more and can do whatever they want. Those that should have recognized him first, had the hardest time and even demanded his killing. They were blindfolded by their arrogance. It seems to me that some of those that do these horrible things in the church are in a similar position.
Jesus gave priority to the poor and humble while being on earth. His greatest disciples, like Peter, were ordinary fishing men. Jesus was revealed first to simple shepherds. Jesus clearly signaled that power or “titles” including priest or nun, do not count before him. What counts is what you do – your deeds and your heart. If that is not just – you will receive appropriate treatment by him on judgement day.
One might ask – “Why does God let this happen? Is he too weak to stop it?” God gives every human on earth free choice. If he would not, they would be like puppets. This freedom also means that he takes the risk of bad things happening, including in his church. Thus, in my view it is important to differentiate the human institution of church and their representatives (let’s call them messengers) and the eternal message from God. The messengers – thus we humans make mistakes. We misinterpret the message from God, we sometimes choose to sin and arrogance and pride blinds some of us. Like everywhere, also in the church there are great people and people with a lot of potential. Further, all members of the church are human and thus sinners and do make mistakes. The message of God and God himself however is eternal and perfect.
If you are asking yourself if one should financially or physically support a faulty human institution like the church on earth? That is a fair question and many choose to not support them any longer. I personally think that a religious organization should seek to ideally be self-sustaining. However, I still financially support the church. Despite all the mistakes, the church does also do a lot of good which we do not hear much about in the news. There are also many great spirits and minds part of the church which are equally rarely pointed out. The church spreads the word of God, support the poor and those that seek for spiritual and mental guidance. I think that is worth funding to also thank the lord that I have a good income. I also love the church buildings and I think they should be preserved.
What this all tells me is that what we should strive for, is to do good deeds. We should seek to have a good and humble heart and follow the commandments. Next to creating transparency and supporting victims of mistakes by the church, we should further seek to look for the good people in the church – and there are plenty – as well as look for and support the things that are done well.