Good Friday, Easter Sunday and What It Means to Me

This post is off-topic. I make no bones about it. It is not about social media, web technologies, startups, product reviews or anything else I normally talk about. It’s about my faith. I will not be offended if you choose not to read, I only ask that you respect my beliefs and the beliefs of anyone who chooses to comment here. I will be aggressive in comment moderation because there is nothing more divisive in this world than religion. Politics is right up there, but faith is something far more personal, and therefore, far more villified.

Today is Good Friday. As someone who has grown up in the Christian tradition, I struggle with it. I’ve often said that my faith in God has not changed, so much as my faith in the Christian tradition – that is, what we call “church”.

As a pastor’s kid, I grew up going to church, and knowing the Bible. I still do. Very well. The very core of my existence is based on how I was raised, and I thank my very godly and loving parents for raising me the way they did. I have no regrets, nor do I feel like I’ve walked away from God in anyway.

I have, however, walked away from Church. This will be the first Easter Sunday that I am not in church. Do I feel wistful? Maybe a little. But then I think about the hypocrisy of so many in the church. The desire to put on an image in front of those who might think less of them. To somehow please God through their behavior, as if God wasn’t aware of their behavior through the week.

I don’t care about their behavior. We are all sinners. We do things. It’s humanity. It’s the curse. We lie, cheat and steal without batting an eye. We say things in one sentence and do something else, because situational ethics allows us to rationalize our behaviors. It’s part of the curse of being human, and I don’t fault anyone for anything they do.

The essence of the Gospel, as conveyed by Christ, is that not one of us is perfect and that if God can forgive us, then perhaps we should love each other enough to forgive as well. That is the long and short of Christianity, right there. Sure, we can get all theological and discuss the merits of Calvinism or Arminianism. We can debate the process of sanctification. But it doesn’t really matter, at the end of the day. These are conversations that don’t happen in daily life, just as much as we don’t have conversations about the resistance factor of capacitors on an electronic circuit board in everyday life.

Late last year, my dad who is still very much a “church” guy, yet clearly understands that I am not, sent me a podcast to listen to. He genuinely wanted to know my thoughts on it, and I promised I would formulate my thoughts and let him know when I did. I never did. In a way, I’m making up for that right now.

In this podcast [here], the speaker, a well known evangelical, explained to a group of Bible School students the concepts behind Chaos Theory. It was quite bizarre to listen to, actually. I’m not used to such nerdy speak in these types of venues. He explained that Chaos Theory supposes that in all the supposed chaos in the world, there is actually an order to things. That if you examine concepts such as the Butterfly Effect, patterns emerge from the perception of chaos. (Incidentally, the theory is somewhat counter-intuitive since the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that everything left to itself progresses continuously toward disorder).

The concept is that the Kingdom of God exists continually, even when the systems put in place by humanity dissolve in an unordered way. That the Church of today is in chaos, yet the purpose of God transcends the chaos. This article certainly isn’t to cast judgment on anyone, yet this chaos in the church can clearly be seen in high profile secret conduct of evangelical leaders, the unequivocal bigotry (whether intentional or unintentional) of the religious system that deals with the society, both political and cultural, in existence today.

This is not the way it was supposed to be and it is the reason why I am not in church.

So on this Good Friday, the day we remember the death of Christ, and Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate his resurrection, I put this plea to the church of today: Please stop vilifying those who don’t fit your agenda. Stop demanding government involvement in the role that Christ himself gave to you: be salt and light, and change the world. Understand that people are people. It’s the curse of humanity. Stop pretending to be holy when you can’t cast the first stone. Don’t hide behind your theology and presumptions that have been passed down. Your basis is your faith, not your intellect. Take that faith and find your God.

Happy Easter!

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

19 thoughts on “Good Friday, Easter Sunday and What It Means to Me

  1. Hi Aaron, been rasied Catholic here, and I still maintain a great number of customs, still allude to its rich intellectual background over the years, etc. I have left the Church mainly because I personally believe that I can not live up to its own standards. This is what jumped at me the most from what you wrote: “To somehow please God through their behavior, as if God wasn’t aware of their behavior through the week.”

    Growing up, I have learned that good deeds are the result of a state of grace. Deeds do not bring us into the state of grace. So many people of all denominations of all religions have it mixed up, and make bad decisions as a result.

  2. Aaron, beautifully written.
    I’ve long felt that while I consider myself to be spiritual, I am by no means “religious” about anything. I can’t commit to drinking less coffee or getting on the treadmill every day for crying out loud.

    I haven’t gone to church for anything other than a wedding or a funeral in well over a decade.

    That does not diminish the value of my faith.

    However I’ve been labeled as a “non-believer” because I don’t do certain things, or I DO other things, or I don’t use the word “God” or “Jesus” three times in a sentence… every sentence.

    The way I see it: God doesn’t want us to act out of guilt, and I don’t NEED to go to a man-made building and have some single human being tell me what to say/pray/think and when. I have my own conversations, ways of gratitude and prayer… I sure don’t need anyone else to get the job done, either.

    Anyway, I think it’s fantastic that you broke the mold today and published this. Kudos, and HAPPY EASTER!

  3. Nicely written, Aaron, and well thought out. I agree with your generalized assessment of the church today–we as broken, sinful people have totally screwed it up.

    I think it’s important that we acknowledge the mess we’ve made. However, rather than walking away from the church because of its faults, what if each of us made up our minds to be a part of correcting those faults?

    Jesus created the church to be a place where people could meet together, build relationship, and encourage each other on this journey of being more like Jesus. It is to be a place of support, compassion, sharing, and influence–not necessarily political influence, but leaving a mark of love on the community and world.

    I sincerely believe that we’ve missed the boat in the way we do “church.” Tradition for the sake of tradition, entertaining programs, and a handsome smiling preacher are ridiculous in themselves. Offensive political agendas and cult-like cliques have turned off more than a few seekers from finding the truth they are looking for in a church building.

    Yet there’s something to be said for meeting together and learning about truth, walking side by side with other broken people trying to live out Jesus’ teachings. We each were created for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to rub off on each other.

    Don’t isolate yourself because of offense. Instead, let’s change things for the better.

  4. Well done Aaron! You separate religion from faith. That difference is missed in church today. You echo many of my thought over the last 10 years. I will be interested to listen to the podcast.

  5. Good post. Ultimately, I understand what you are talking about when it comes to church goers. You seem like you would probably like a smaller church gathering than a large church setting, I like that more personally.

    That’s the tough part about the fact that everyone is a sinner, there is no perfect gathering place for to praise a perfect god, if you know what I mean. Some churches I feel really comfortable in and others I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole because of the negative vibes or whatever it may be.

    I have been slacking on church lately too, and it makes me feel bad…

  6. When I said smaller church gathering I was referring to home groups. They seem way more fulfilling, beneficial and more personal – and if you find the right group it can be a good experience…

  7. Interesting article Aaron.
    As one who was not raised in Church, or in a Christian home, one who had no concept of Christ’s suffering and resurrection as a child, I will take great joy in being in Church on Sunday morning.
    I wonder sometimes at the difference in attitude toward organized religion between those who were “raised in the faith” and those who converted as an adult. I for one can understand your frustration at the “hypocrisy” within the Church. However, it is that very “hypocrisy” itself that makes Church life so necessary. I go to be reminded that my salvation is in no way dependent on me, but is entirely dependent upon Christ my savior.
    In the end, the Biblical command to not forsake the fellowship of believers (i.e. go to Church) has nothing to do with our relationships with each other in that fellowship, but everything to do with God calling out a people unto Himself to bring Glory unto Himself.
    Happy Easter

    1. A special thanks to Aaron and everyone who has commented. God works in mysterious and amazing ways. I have similar up-bringing and am pretty much in the same place as Aaron, I haven’t found a church home that I’m happy with, so I haven’t been attending. This article and comments have so timely reminded me of God’s grace and that I need to keep my faith in God, not man.
      Aaron, we have have accepted God’s grace and I believe that we can’t escape it at this point. Yes, we are human and will sin. That’s why this is not our battle. Though, we decided to participate when we accepted Jesus in our lives. God is going to use us whether we’re on the front line or simply writing an entry that we think is primarily to express our thoughts. Your entry and following comments basically brought me to tears, literally breaking down crying and eventually praying like I haven’t in a while. I was simply looking for WP templates this morning and came across Technosailor as an example of the Thesis Theme. By the way, thank you again for going off track and sharing this personal entry. I pray that your faith has been reassured as mine via the wonderful people that commented.
      Sure, there are Generals that have gone astray. Though, God is the Commander-in-chief. Aaron, I hope that when I return to a physical church, I’ll worship and serve with some marines such as you that are willing to succeed on the front line.
      Some people, including Christians, will make gross mistakes! Though, God will not fail us! I’m confident that men and women such as you will do the right thing most of the time.

  8. I can’t address your individual case, Aaron. I don’t know the details, and it would be arrogant of me to try and ‘fix’ anything.

    I know my own experience though, and the times I’ve felt disillusioned with ‘church’.

    I also know of many who have left doctrinally sound Protestant churches because they’ve become fed up with the hypocrisy they see.

    Personally, seeing hypocrisy isn’t what annoys me. The fact is, every individual born is a hypocrite. Christian and non-Christian. How can we expect anything else?

    What frustrates me though, is lack of humility. I can handle hypocrisy (people saying one thing and doing another) if it’s coupled with humility (personal acknowledgement that I am the chief of sinners).

    That said, leaving the visible church, even with its hypocrisy and pride, is usually the wrong decision. Lions always isolate their prey, and our adversary will do everything in his power to isolate you, forcing you to forsake the assembling of yourselves together.

    As always though, in every critical decision we have to make, it ought never to be done without serious prayer. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, and cannot be trusted.

    Don’t follow your heart, follow the Word.

  9. Love this post.

    It’s now Easter Sunday and I’m sitting here feeling guilty I’m not at Mass with my kids. I struggle with it, but ultimately have to be true to what I believe is right and what I believe is best for my children.

    So we’re going to eat jelly beans and chocolate bunnies like the heathens we are. Noms.

  10. I appreciated your sincerity and your revelation about your faith and church attendance. I was not expecting to read something of this nature when I went to your blog to read about the Twitter mess this weekend but am so glad I came across it. Thanks for your honesty.

  11. The more research I do on other religions, the more I realize that all are striving for this same type of faith. And the failing of humans become more and more clear to me.

    It truly makes me sad, but I haven’t quite lost hope. I think as we (I) mature and grow, we’ll keep tweaking our faith-type of activities and gatherings.

    I can recommend a few resources that I’ve enjoyed: Fairfax Community Church, local small Bible studies (via Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which is usually a college campus-based organization), and The History of God by Karen Armstrong.

    I think I speak for some other readers/commenters when I say we’d like to hear what you’ve moved to in lieu of a traditional church organization. :)

  12. Hi Aaron,

    Nice post, it’s good to see thoughtful writing on Christianity that seeks to engage a broad audience from a position of honesty and humility. As someone who grew up in a conservative Christian tradition (Southern Baptist) I can empathize with a lot of what you have to say. Although my protestant tradition emphasizes the primacy of the relationship between the individual and God, we are social beings and I think much of our relationship with God gets lived out in our interactions with other people. There is a tremendous diversity of churches out there and I hope that when the time is right you find one you can maintain fellowship with. What do you think of the “emerging church” movement and folks like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, etc.? Happy Easter!

  13. I appreciate the problems with the church. I haven’t been in sometime because I find it difficult to find one that places the word of the Bible above their own traditions and opinions. However, I continue to search, if only for the fact that the Bible tell us that it is inherently important. Ephesians tells us that Jesus is the head, and the church is the body, and that the two are inseparable.

    I guess that my problem comes to down to wondering whether it is worse to be a member of a church that I feel promotes ideas that are incongruent with the word of the Bible, or to not be a member at all.

  14. Aaron,
    This was a beautiful, thoughtful post. I’m a Catholic and our teen told me last year that she was tired of the whole “church” thing. After freaking out in typical mother fashion and waiting a few weeks, she told me the real reason she was upset with the Church (and other churches).
    My daughter told me it didn’t make sense for a loving and all knowing God to damn people who didn’t know of or believe in the Christian religion. We’re talking, we’re working it out. But it goes again to show the failings of humans, the sins of men (and women) are the reasons people don’t go to church—-just like your post.

  15. First time poster to this blog.

    First let me say that I’m Roman Catholic and love my faith with all my heart. I’ve not missed Mass in years, nor have my children or wife (unless we’ve been ill). And I don’t attend because I “have to” or I will go to hell… I attend because it feeds me and keeps me centered on what truly matters – getting myself and family to heaven.

    And while I definitely agree there is much wrong with the members and leaders of many churches (especially the Roman Catholic church) it doesn’t mean we should abandon them.

    After all, the disciples didn’t abandon the faith Christ handed them when the the biggest betrayal of all time occurred 2000+ years ago with a simple kiss.

    I don’t know Mr. Brazell or the readers of this blog but I’ll sure be praying for anyone battling a crisis of faith.

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