Jesus Set Us Free

THE FEATURE ARTICLES IN the July 1994 issue on "Why I Stay in the Church," by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Richard Rohr, while providing many insights, were not real helpful. The articles do not give clarity to the issue of Christians’ commitment to "the church."

One problem is the need to define "church." Does "staying in the church" mean keeping the Christian faith, remaining in the one universal church, or continuing in long-standing institutional churches? Rohr seems to mix these differing notions of "church" together. Rohr’s general justification of "the church" seems to take church injustices lightly and fails to offer guidance for Christians to evaluate their commitments to a particular church.

Another problem is not taking church sin seriously enough. Ruether, in particular, does offer some broad and powerful criticisms of churches. Yet Ruether ends up offering an apologia for staying in established churches. Possibilities for new and more liberating Christian communities and organizational models arising are discounted. The perspective that we’re stuck with the churches that we have seems unduly stifling of God’s Spirit and quite pessimistic. Christians need to take much more seriously Christian idolatry, complicity in institutional evil, and captivity to patriarchal, white, middle-class church models.

The gospel of Jesus is much more liberating than many Christians imagine. In these times Christians need to be deeply challenged to re-examine all commitments—including commitments to religious institutions—and to prioritize a commitment to follow and obey Jesus.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1994
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