“In case you’re wondering why Gungor is going back to Christianity . . .” the text began, followed by two screenshots: one showed Michael and Lisa Gungor together on their Spotify band page, with 187,836 monthly listeners circled; following this was another screen shot of Michael’s solo page, “Weiwu” . . . 770 monthly listeners.
I admit, my first reaction was a purely cynical laugh about needing “likes,” follwed by a tinge of disappointment—even if I found Michael’s oracular tweets annoying, I still hoped he wouldn’t go back.
Soon, though, my heart softened toward this artist to whom I owe so much. After all, Gungor’s music, along with a few others’, quite literally harmonized with several years of mine and several friends’ faith journeys.1
Over the next weeks, I overheard more discussion of The Liturgists’ most recent contributor shake-up, which accompanied a move by the lone remaining founder, Michael Gungor, toward directly attempting to “reform” Christianity. Curious what he actually meant, I did something I had not in a few years: I actually downloaded and listened to their recent podcasts.
The first two episodes of Season 7, “Is Christianity Worth Saving?” and “Reformation,” set out what Michael and his new cast of rotating co-hosts are intending to do and, more importantly, why. Shortly after announcing this new project, the following two images appeared on their Facebook page:
On the one hand, I totally get it. Those seem like admirable goals. I pursued them myself for many years.
On the other, I think it’s completely wrongheaded and destined to end in nothing, disaster, or a coffee shop.2
Beginning with this post, I would like to propose a different project: one that I am hoping will start a broader conversation, particularly among the generations currently inheriting cultural leadership. I also hope to develop this into a larger work; one that, like my first book, will bring in stories historical and personal, and will offer data-based diagnoses on the actual state and future of Christianity in America.
So what is this project? Well, it’s actually quite simple:
Let the church die.
You read that right. I am not advocating that we reform, restore, or emerge. I’m not suggesting we add in candles and LGBTQIA pastors, and I’m for damn sure not suggesting we improve our music or coffee.
No, I’m suggesting that, for the love of God, we take leave of god’s institution.3
I’m suggesting that the church is utterly, irreparably, fucked; that we have so thoroughly and consistently betrayed the simplicity of Christ’s call—and have done so from the moment he shuffled off this mortal coil—that the only path for the church to be what it ought is to follow its Founder’s example and, well, die. What comes next is up to the Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time.
So, to close this opening post, I want to share the general direction of this series, and then follow The Liturgists’ example, sharing “what I’m doing” and, perhaps more importantly, “what I’m not doing.”
Initially, I intend to converse with the Liturgists’ points directly, for two reasons: first, I have great respect for their past work and its largely positive impact on the deconstructing community. Second, I was, until relatively recently, firmly in the camp of reformation.
But I have simply seen and experienced too much. My experiences of constant rejection and misunderstanding have deeply influenced my views.
Yet it’s not only that. I’m not here just to air my grievances or bitch about my pain. I don’t believe the church needs to die just because it hurt me or my family—anger is the wrong term to apply when you warn people not to touch a hot stove that just burned you.
So am I, to some degree, hurt and angry? Sure, I hate what was done to loved ones, to myself—hate what is still being done, and will be done by those whose communities claim Jesus’ name.
But I don’t need a blog for that. I have a therapist (as well as a listening, caring partner and friends). I have been and am continuing to process my own trauma.
No, while my words are backed by personal experience, my reasons are ultimately much more grounded in history and data—I have learned; I have listened, and have come to conclusions that I previously would’ve been loath to consider when my job depended on the institution, or when all my friends and family still deeply desired to be part of it.
But, there’s a long way to go in these thoughts (hence this series). I know the why and, to some degree, the what, but there’s a long road to the what next. As Ezra Klein says, “I have more confidence in my diagnosis than my prescription,” and so I am not in any way presenting myself as some sort of revolutionary that will change the face of Western religion; merely trying to participate in my generation’s version of a long-held debate.4
So, without further ado, here are my own rebranding images. Feel free to start your own blogs talking about why I’m wrong.
1. The result of this journey was my first book, Tracking Desire: A Memoir(ish) Walk Through Faith, Failure, and Finding God Under My Feet.↩
2. But they also sell booze because they’re edgy.↩