I Love the Church, I Hate the Church: Paradox or Contradiction? By Robert R. LaRochelle (Wipf and Stock Publishers, www.wipfandstock.com)
Is it possible to, at one and the same time, both love the church and hate it as well?
I am an ordained clergyperson in the United Church of Christ. Having been raised a Roman Catholic, I served as an ordained Permanent Deacon, a clergy position within Catholicism beginning in 1989. In 1998, I made the decision to leave Catholicism and embarked on a career serving as a pastor in the Connecticut Conference, UCC. In addition, I served several churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) under the Formula of Agreement between and among several denominations. One could say that the institutional church has been an integral part of my life.
However, over the course of my lifetime, I have become deeply aware that I most definitely have what I would call “a love-hate relationship” with the institutional church. This awareness has led me to write a book that details the specifics of this relational dynamic. It is my hope that this book will be of interest both to those deeply involved in their church communities and to those who are inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus, yet for whom the institutional church is something they find quite problematic and an impediment to conveying the message of Jesus.
This book provides some anecdotal information about my life experience within institutional Christianity. This provides the backdrop and the context for expressing my concerns about the ways in which “organized religion” has often gotten in the way of conveying the heart, soul, and depth of Jesus’ message and its implications for how we live our lives.
The introduction to the book describes it best:
“As you may have noticed, the title of the book acknowledges that this love/hate relationship of the author to the institutional church might very well be either a paradox and contradiction or both. This is an important distinction. While the title may be perceived as contradictory and that is understandable, the word paradox provides a fuller clarification of what I am trying to say through these words. In essence, what I am attempting to express is that there is an awful lot within institutional religion that I truly despise and hate, while at the very same time, there is so, so much that I love deeply and dearly. Those looking for a book which will tear down the faith known as Christianity will not find it here! As you read this book, I ask that you reflect carefully upon this crucial distinction. I have not written this book to tear down organized religion. Conversely, I have written it with a desire to be straightforward, honest, and, where need be, critical with the core inspiration for those critiques being a deeply seated love of that institution I criticize! While the emotions involved in both loving and hating may seem to many to be contradictory, I see them as paradoxical instead; i.e., an apparent contradiction that really is not!”
Here are some areas of deep concern to me which I address in the book:
…That, over the course of history, churches have developed dogmas and doctrines that they claim as absolute, which proceed to pose obstacles to understanding and putting into practice the core message of Jesus.
…That, sadly, there remains an attitude of exclusion in many Christian churches that runs counter to the inclusiveness of Jesus.
…That, all too often, the institutional church takes on the structures and values of the culture within which it exists.
…That some of the various rules and traditions that are part of a church’s life can present themselves as obstacles to a sense of inclusion within the church’s life.
In addition, in this book I also get very specific about both the nature of the obstacles institutional Christianity puts up and some suggestions for church congregations about potential changes they might consider. I seek to combine my personal experience acquired through an active life in institutional Christianity with suggestions and opinions designed to get people talking within their congregations, as well as with those who are quite legitimately disgusted with institutional religion.
My hope is that this book will both provide a practical way for the reader to reflect on both the bad and the good within institutional Christianity. In doing so, I hope as well that it will lead to productive conversations both on the interpersonal level and among those who are connected to a community of church (or are considering doing so) and want to engage in serious exploration of both institutional Christianity’s flaws, as well as its considerable potential.
I am encouraging local church communities to consider having discussions about the contents of this book and exploring the book’s implications for the ways in which they seek to move their church communities forward. For churches that may be interested, I am also available to provide presentations about this book and to lead discussions as well. I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle is an ordained UCC clergyperson who has served churches in Union and Manchester, Connecticut, as well as ELCA churches in Windsor, Wethersfield, and Plainville, Connecticut. He also worked as a teacher and counselor in Catholic and public schools for 43 years. Prior to his ordination in the UCC in 2002, he was an ordained Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon for several years. He has written eight books including Part Time Pastor, Full Time Church (Pilgrim Press) and has given presentations and offered workshops on his books throughout the country. While he retired recently, he remains available to provide supply preaching in churches, as well as presentations on this book, as well as his others.