Is Not Possible
There are several words associated with religion, some of which are complimentary and others not. A few can be taken both positively and negatively.
A good example is the word school. The church is a place of learning so we call it a Sunday School. That can be good or bad.
Some kids hate it but once they reach adult age the attitude changes. Instead of hating school, they wish they had taken more advantage of the opportunity when they had it. It’s a bad thing at one point and a good thing at another.
In other words, they learned to love what they used to hate.
But there are other words that aren’t so easy to workaround. They are used as insults when referring to the church and believers take it personally. One such word is Crutch.
Religion Is A Crutch
We’ve all heard it said.
Religion is nothing but a crutch for people who can’t handle life!
And religious folks respond defensively.
But really, does anyone live entirely crutch-free? Life can at times be difficult and we all rely on a crutch or two when it is. Religion or church is only one such crutch.
That, of course, means we shouldn’t be so defensive, but I would also say that using a crutch as an analogy for weakness is not very smart. There are many fearless and strong crutch dependent people who wouldn’t appreciate being slurred in this way.
They may have challenges but using a crutch is a sign of honesty about their situation, not a sign of weakness.
The truth is, crutches enable us to overcome disadvantage and that is a good thing. In fact, people who refuse crutches when they need them are obstinate, arrogant or both, and there are many different kinds of crutches.
Isn’t medication a crutch when you become ill?
How many people would have died from bacterial infection if it weren’t for antibiotics? Aren’t cholesterol and hypertension meds crutches?
The people who say religion is a crutch imply that they are above it. They don’t need crutches. Smacks of pride?
The strange thing is they never say anything about the people who need three or four drinks at night to go to sleep. Is that a crutch? If so, is it wrong? I don’t know, ask your liver.
But make no mistake. The church is a crutch and it is a good one. We should never be defensive about this.
Hypocrites On Crutches
Another accusation leveled against religion is hypocrisy. “The church is full of hypocrites!” so the accusation goes, but this isn’t any more logical than the last complaint.
First of all a definition of hypocrisy:
Hypocrisy occurs when a person intentionally misrepresents their true self. That is, someone knowingly lies about their intentions or activities. Preaching moral issues loudly while intentionally breaking the rules is hypocrisy.
But that definition can’t apply to a church or an entire religion. Individual leaders, yes. Individual Christians, yes. The entire body of religion, no. Even to suggest most Christians are hypocrites presupposes a level of knowledge the average person just doesn’t have.
Are there hypocrites in the church? Absolutely! It’s a problem that not even Jesus could avoid. The real questions are:
- Do churches approve of hypocrisy? Absolutely not!
- Is church the only place where hypocrites are found? If that were true accusers should be happy that all hypocrites are isolated to one location.
- Do churches teach against hypocrisy? Yes, ad nauseam!
I would agree that there are many people in church who try to do better and fail but that isn’t exactly hypocrisy. It’s a very regular occurrence everywhere.
Students try to pass and fail. Athletes try to win and fail. Businesses start up and fail.
Trying and failing is not hypocrisy. It isn’t even a sin. It is the natural mechanism through which people learn and grow.
If anything, the church encourages people to try, knowing they might fail, but ready to encourage if they do.
Religion doesn’t endorse bad behavior or encourage people to misrepresent their true identity. The church forgives our sins, it doesn’t allow them.
It isn’t uncommon for people who go to church to occasionally be found guilty of all kinds of things. Even some horrible things. Every Christian has a past.
When these people are found out, onlookers are incensed! And they should be.
That doesn’t mean that churches or crutches are wrong. The fact that these things happen doesn’t make the church hypocritical.
Churches do provoke some of the bad feedback, though. They take an it-could-never-happen-to-us/me attitude while pointing out the sins of outsiders. They also try to sweep dirt under the rug when it happens.
I admit that churches occasionally do too much. Instead of enabling people, they take over. That may be stupid but never hypocritical.
But, hypocrisy isn’t peculiar to the church. Taking cholesterol meds without modifying lifestyle is the same thing.
And that brings us to the next important observation.
Crutches Are NOT Temporary
People who are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol will never change that predisposition. It’s never going away. They’re smart to continue taking meds. They can help the situation through diet and exercise but the meds will remain constant.
Attempting to live without the meds would be an insidious form of suicide but meds will be a fixture.
The same is true with churches. They provide fellowship, identity, accountability, encouragement, and more. These are crutches. Is there anyone who doesn’t need that?
The good thing about church is the more embedded you become, the more likely you are to be a crutch for someone else too.