A call for openness in religious community

Dear Editor,
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman, senior pastor for Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church, presented compelling thoughts in his “Seek new beginning With God’s help,” (Spiritual Matters, Jan. 16).
I, too, often wonder why so many people have abandoned church attendance. Even the busiest and most successful people can find ways to fit more into their lives, and many of us otherwise could use a restart or new beginning in some or many aspects of our lives.
Reverend Heierman cites an early book which offered several reasons people do not attend church—disdain for being judged and lectured, hypocrisy, and a feeling that God is irrelevant to their lives. The book’s authors offered “radical hospitality, fearless conversations, genuine humility, and divine anticipation” as responses.
I respect and admire Reverend Heierman’s outreach to the community and his interest in better utilizing his church’s resources to serve. I know from some direct experience that among his congregation are some very generous, talented and admirable people.
I also believe God is relevant to my life, and the lives of all others. Yet my own falling away from my own church persists, and keeps me from pursuing involvement in other congregations.
It is not fear of being judged or lectured which deters me; anyone who has trained or worked in any business or trade knows that lecture and judgment, while sometimes unpleasant, are just two of many tools and experiences which can guide, inspire and facilitate learning, accountability and success.
I sense hypocrisy is the greatest obstacle to church involvement. While we all purport to loath hypocrisy, the reality is our own self contradictions and facades permeate all our lives to various degrees. I feel it is hypocrisy which poses the greatest obstacle to church involvement.
For me, knowing the hard-earned monies and time my own parents contributed to our church, only to later learn that considerable sums had been secretly diverted by distant church leaders to facilitate and conceal widespread sexual abuse of children, has affected my perspective.
I saw my church accumulate great wealth, much of it used to build elaborately decorated church buildings and to support very comfortable lifestyles for some clergy. Much of the asset accumulation was possible because churches are not taxed like other enterprises, and certainly not like middle class families which are a membership source. There is little public fiscal transparency for the churches that benefit from their public tax freedom.
Even now, some clergy preach God wants them to live in mega mansions, dress in designer clothing, travel in style and buy the newest luxury jets for their “mission.” Sure, some funds may go to charity, but the material excesses stand out, particularly to people like me apparently just looking for reasons to withdraw.
Perhaps the greatest source of contemporary cynicism toward organized religion and churches is the recent embracement and promotion by some self-proclaimed “religious evangelicals” of the demeaning social policies, and sexist, racist, elitist, secret and dishonest conduct of a “president” like Donald Trump.
Exactly what religious principles (Christian, Jewish, Islamic or other) are being modeled? Why have otherwise decent political leaders abandoned their consciences and backbones to enable a government increasingly devoid of respect, fairness, truth and decency? It appears that only money is valued and worshipped—but only for wealthy elites, and not for a nation of middle class people whose children are being saddled and suppressed by record high national deficits and debt that will persist for many decades.
Reverend Heierman seeks ideas for use of his facilities for public good. One way to engage the public is to sponsor a series of public debates and lectures by diverse academic, law enforcement, legal, sports, business, religious and political leaders, presenting and discussing varied economic, social, political and other issues.
Target youth, but welcome everyone. Arrange for school credit for participation/attendance, and challenge for specific task and program development results.
We can no longer afford political leadership who are afraid of town meetings and “communicate” only through slick, evasive talking points and press releases.
Jesus, as well as other important religious figures, walked, talked, and listened among the people.
He addressed difficult questions with straight and truthful answers. Let’s have this openness in our community. It is divinely anticipated.
Mike Fetzer
Independence Township