Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Spirituality and Imperfection

Recently, I've come to a powerful realization. One of the keys to spirituality is admitting and embracing our imperfection.
My feature film "Aimee Semple McPherson," explores the pain behind the glamour of 1920's female healing evangelist Sister Aimee. At a rough-cut "work-in-progress" screening at the Beverly Cinema, a Christian woman in attendance who is a gifted artist told me, "You film airs out the closets of evangelical Christianity. The institutional church does not like to embrace brokenness, because they sell the message that when a person accepts Christ, they are free from the struggle."
Although the positive reaction to my film outweighs the negative by a large margin, a couple people are upset that I explore how a great woman of God like Aimee McPherson was still human.
Why does religion cling to the notion that we must be perfect and religious leaders must be perfect? I was once on a religious pedestal as a church leader and it was a hard fall down. I learned first-hand how unhealthy and toxic religious abuse and addiction can be. I am now in recovery, and my life has turned around by God's grace and through the support of family and friends.
Experiencing church in circles rather than rows, such as a house church, small group, or recovery meetings keeps things centered on spiritual principles, rather than personalities. I believe the "one-anothers" in the Bible ("confess your sin one to another, pray one for another, bear one another's burdens," etc.) are tools to emotional health.
Recently the tabloid news media exposed yet another TV preacher in sexual sin. Of course, the ministry blames the victim. What would happen, if just for once, on Christian television, all the spiritual superstars preaching God's magic wand that can stop all problems would get gut-level honest and talk about why they got divorced, had the sexual addiction, could not manage money and debt, or the ego-trip of power? What if religious institutions told the world the truth, that the journey is about progress, not perfection? The only Perfect One was crucified.
Another actress friend of mine works at a famous Hollywood church in the throes of scandal over alleged embezzlement by the senior minister. Battles over property, power, and prestige supplant the simple mission to carry the message of God's love and grace forward.
I've lived long enough to see one by one, the religious heroes or mentors of my youth, have feet of clay, and in many cases, deep areas of dysfunction. And I've watched the vehement reactions and protests religious people mount against any honest attempt of art to ask why?
The truth is, accepting the Lord and turning our will and our lives over to Him, does not end the spiritual journey, it only starts it. I have to pray "Not my will, but thine be done," every day, to keep my ego and self-will in check.
God is not another drug to keep us from facing life, and He is not a means to manipulating others. He is the Highest Power, the only Infinite Source who really knows what's going on and why. He is the only one qualified to judge, and yet His mercies and compassion are everlasting and new every morning. Open your heart to an understanding friend about your struggles and spiritual quest. Encourage each other by sharing your strength, experience, and hope.
And I leave you with a prayer. May His peace be with you and His face shine upon you. May the wind be at your back and the sun shine fresh upon your face. May He free you from the tyranny of perfectionism and allow you to rest in His bosom. In His precious Name, Amen.


Blogger sherrykrueger said...

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July 3, 2005 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger sherrykrueger said...

The only person that I can think of who may be a possible exception to what you have stated is Billy Graham. He has somehow remained respected and creditable throughout six decades unlike most evangelists. He has shown that it is possible, with God's strength and grace, and he remains amazingly humble about his life and ministry. I have heard him being honest about his human weaknesses and imperfection while being praised during interviews. I read a quote once which reminds me of him, "It takes gifts and talent to reach high places, but it takes character and integrity to stay there.

July 3, 2005 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Richard Rossi said...

Yes, Billy Graham is probably the greatest evangelist in our time. Billy has not had certain things in his life come to light as they have with others, so many have assumed he has lived a near perfect life. The truth is, he is a man of character, but his character defects have been more skillfully managed and hidden from a PR and damage control point of view. He has escaped the light of media scrutiny, with the exception of some embarassing incidents with Harry Truman. He has learned from early youthful missteps and vulnerability, to always have his hotel rooms checked to make sure no women are in the room. Pundits speculate as to who will replace Graham. Some suggest Greg Laurie, his son Franklin, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes. I think this is bullshit. Greg Laurie is well-known in Calvary Chapel and his Harvest Crusades are notable. But he's no Billy Graham. Rick Warren has been a leading author and megachurch leader, but no way. Franklin is compassionately ministering to the poor, and a great guy, but it's like Hank Williams Jr. trying to be what his dad was. The bar the old man set is too high. T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen are rising and powerful evagelical stars who speak where people live. But frankly, I think instead of looking for the next personality, (when none of the above have the combination of simplicity, anointing, balance, broad appeal, looks, savvy, and single-minded gospel focus Graham had), we should look to principes, not personalities. Evangelism is always strongest when it's decentralized into the networks and neighborhoods of real people, rather than centralized in a crusade that has only a 1% reetention rate of decisions who actually go on to become disciples. If we can all be Grahams with the people we live with, work with, and share our faith with friends, relatives, and those suffering near us, we may be less likely to seek the next American Moses to do the job for us.

September 2, 2005 at 11:47 AM  

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