I am a pastor of a church on the Westside of Indianapolis. We are not a big church (130 worship weekly). I am passionate about my job and my church, and I truly believe I have the best occupation in the world. However, after watching/reading the news this past week I have been left with a feeling that all pastors and churches are a bunch of bigoted whack-jobs.
Just within the last month we see news stories of Priests suing the President over birth control, and pastors advocating extreme and violent methods against homosexuals. Every time I see Priests/pastors in the news I hold my breath and prepare myself for the worst. The headlines for spiritual leaders have gotten so bad that sometimes I wonder why I even do what I do.
Somewhere in the middle of being flooded with ethically suspect clergy, I realized that media is extremely biased. Now I am not saying they are biased against all forms of religion, or even a specific religion (they may or may not be). But media is biased toward the audacious, the corrupted, scoundrel, catastrophe, and the tragically ironic. Media shows the worst of the worst. Media is not about reporting facts or truth in of themselves, but they seek to report rating boosting headlines. It is about the money from commercials they receive from gathering an audience.
Now I am very well aware that there are many self proclaimed religious leaders who callously take advantage of the susceptible and weak. I know great crimes have been committed by those who are held to the highest standard. However, the reporting on churches and leaders has been so outrageously slant, that it makes me wonder if it is the Priests/pastors that are corrupted or the reporters.
The priests who molest people should be held responsible. The pastors who steal, cheat and lie for gain should be called out, and spiritual guides who make provocative violence endorsing speeches should be removed, but we should also call to remove those who misinterpret the truth through slanting stories against certain peoples.
Of every corrupted pastor who commits some crime I know hundreds who give up so much to help so many. Of every church that sweeps things under the rug, I know hundreds that expose the truth and offer comfort. I know hundreds of churches that give food to hundreds of people in their communities on a regular basis without using government funds that come from taxes (of which we are one). I know hundreds of churches that provide clothes to those who need them for free (which we are also one). I know many churches that donate money, gifts, and time to hospitals for the sick (which we are also one). Yet the members of our church who make this possible are not in the news, only those who are doing something morally disgusting are.
There are hundreds of churches I know that help addicts recover without the use of public funds. I know churches that provide homes for the homeless, schooling and training for the unemployed, assistance to struggling families, and counseling to hurt relationships. When someone passes away a church is always there to comfort the family (we even provide meals to families). When someone is in the hospital the church is always there. When there are hungry, homeless, naked people, the church is there.
I am not saying we are perfect, and I am not saying we should ignore the ugly sides that rear their heads, I am only advocating for honest reporting; I want some truth in the news.
A local church daycare got in trouble for a boy who accidently drowned. The news began reporting that Churches do not follow regulations or guidelines that other daycares must. This is the dishonesty that saddens me. We run a Preschool ministry, and our teachers are highly trained, highly qualified people who follow all the procedures and requirements every day. One of our children stopped breathing due to a severe seizure episode, and our teachers saved the child's life. No where was that in the news. Our preschool prepares the children more (according to teachers, staff, and administration at our local elementary school) than any other that feeds into the school. We offer the 2nd lowest cost in the area with the best care and education, and we are strictly non-profit. Any family that is struggling receives discounts so that no child is without a place in our building. Our church and many other churches are helping hurt communities.
I do not expect accolades, nor do the saints in the church that work hard every day. We simply want people to know, that many of us, most of us, are not about hate; we are not about judgment, but we are about the love, reconciliation, and acceptance of God.
Let us stop pretending that all Christians are terrible people. Let us do the unpopular thing and show what real churches, real pastors, and real lay people are doing everyday in small local churches.