I would like to draw your attention to a letter written to the editor and published in Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser:

“Unfortunately, Tory Shepherd’s comment (“Straying from the flock”, The Advertiser, 23/6/09) will fall on deaf ears. Gullibility and irrationalism are institutionalised throughout the private school system and Australian society generally.

The Australian Government spends millions every year to ensure thousands of students are indoctrinated in Iron Age religious belief systems.

In religious homes, children are taught to defer to the approved authority, rather than think for themselves.

This indoctrination is reinforced in government-sponsored faith schools and churches.

At least for some generations to come, priests, pastors, gurus and clerics will continue to tap into the conditioned minds of unquestioning devotees, controlling, exploiting and directing them as they please.

Look at the deference and dollars wasted on the Pope’s visit to Australia.

As long as they pay homage to men as to gods, Australians generally will remain an ignorant and superstitious people.”

SHANE OSBORNE, Adelaide.

I know Shane Osborne – we get on at the same bus stop on the way to work in the mornings. He is an intelligent man and has many years’ experience in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

I posted this because I think we need to pay attention to criticism that is made of the church. I don’t mean to say that all criticism of the church is valid, but I would certainly say that some (if not many of it) is. The church is perfect in only one way – the head, Jesus Christ. Every other part of the body is made up of you and me. We are infinitely capable of doing amazing, loving things; but we are also fallible and can be bitterly selfish and judgmental.

First of all, I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is any of the things described in Shane’s letter. And to expand on this, I don’t believe that a church centred around Jesus Christ should be like this and draw this kind of critique.

In Shane’s experience the church is “controlling”, “directing”, “indoctrinating” and “irrational”. He is not a passing critic – he has been involved in church and has had these experiences. Right or wrong is no question here, perception is reality and if the church has made someone feel like this, then there’s a lot of answering to be done. Jesus Christ never made anyone feel like this – He was a model of love, non-judgment and complete acceptance. Jesus loves. Full stop. No conditions.

I don’t want to spend this time going into all the valid and invalid points made by Shane and the short-comings of many institutional churches (of which I feel there are many). What I would like people to do is to step back and think about how they and their churches have shown the love of Jesus Christ. The fact is that many churches have alienated people, judged them and pushed them away. This shouldn’t happen. Jesus loved all without condition and if you don’t do the same then you should remove the “Christ” from “Christian” when people ask what religion you follow.

I’ll finish up by saying that many of the prophets from God were routinely ignored, abused and finally martyred for their convictions. I’m not sure that Shane Osborne is a prophet of the Lord, but I feel that we would ignore him at our peril.