"Nothing is so firmly believed," Montaigne's axiom has it, "as what we know least."
This is his epitaph (or eulogy?) for the kind of a priori reasoning our species indulges in frequently and never more surely than in the church. The church way of reasoning is naturally specious, for so much of church leadership depends on being thought well, even if all the evidence is to the contrary.
Think with me: the church has a certain quotidian cycle, as some mechanical processes must be repeated endlessly, regardless of the day, until some crisis eventuates. At the moment of crisis (often bordering on catastrophe) the church demonstrates its emotional infrastructure. The emotional infrastructure of the church is often built up in irrationality.
Simply put, a lot of church leadership is made up of the mentally ill. This is in the pulpit and in the pew. We tactfully use the word "dysfunctional" but we actually intend the word "crazy." We could add to "crazy" the qualifiers "angry" and "mean."
Consider the factors deranging the church today. We are in an unnoticed double paradigm shift. The last time this happened, the Protestant Reformation was bringing the church from corporate to individual autonomy and the Renaissance was bringing the world view from the classical to the modern. This double paradigm shift in church and culture took about a century and a half to assimilate.
Oh, and during that 150 years, a lot of people got burned at the stake. Literally.
Today, the church is moving from a consumer to a missionary model (I use the word missionary because I hate the cottage industry built around the non-word missional) and the cultural model is changing from modern to post-modern. It may not take 150 years to assimilate this double paradigm shift but, little matter to you, for it will take the rest of your life.
Oh, and you might be burned at the stake during this shift in church/culture life. Or, if not burned at the stake, at least cast into outer darkness, there to live out your years alone.
So, these factors derange the church and the church is shows itself deranged, without the compos mens or the mens gravitas to compose itself again. The crazy people run the church and the (nominally) sane people leave to find spiritual fulfillment elsewhere.
Examples? Ok, here is the pastor who simply cannot tell the truth. He has an ulterior motive for everything, increasingly has problems keeping track of his stories but he keeps getting places to go. This is insanity. Another congregation will shortly decide he is "God's man."
Or,over there is the old fellow who sat in a sanctuary more than fifty years ago, felt it do something to him, and now must protect that sanctuary against any change, even though it falls down around him.
The place is simply not functional in any kind of post-modern sense but his answer is this, "You talk about ten years from now. I won't be here ten years from now and I don't care what happens then, as long as this place is kept the same now as when I saw it fifty years ago."
This is insanity, the church as bully, where all things are made personal and so trivial.The greater insanity is this: people sadly hear and meekly obey.
Lunatics run the asylum.
We could go on; secret meetings, conspiracies of this or that group against this or that group, lies, wars and rumors of wars, offers of friendship intended to establish lines of support that can then be withdrawn at crucial moments and no one credible who dares to talk about this in public.
In church conflicts, the normal people get exhausted while the crazy haters are energized. The normal folks, who just want to come to church and leave as better people, seek their spiritual succor elsewhere. The church as bully predetermines its own fate. No Savior-Pastor will change their journey.
The church, simply put, is a place where the strong are not good and the good are not strong. This is the church as bully.
What can we do? Well, I have a few suggestions.
We can identify mental illness and isolate it from leadership.
We can resist evil rather than roll our eyes and take it as "the price of doing business here."
We can deal in stringent church discipline with those who demonstrate consistently that they just cannot get along.
We can hold our leadership to certain high standards.
We can work hard to make sure only the converted, the truly repentant, redeemed, restored persons get their names on the church roll. Then, we can work to disciple and mentor those whose names are on that church roll effectively.
We can throw up our hands and walk away from the asylum.
Let's do a lot before we get to that last one.