Church as Sanctuary for the Insecure

I wonder when church becomes a sanctuary for the self righteousness of the insecure?
For some reason I have been reflecting on particular people I have encountered in church leadership positions ever since I was in junior high.  I just finished a Jack London short story called “The House of Pride.”  Maybe that’s what triggered it.  Anyway, among them were always a few for whom life in the congregation was an arena in which to display their superior religiosity, which often came in the form of greater faith than anyone else, more pious devotion to tradition and ritual than anyone else, more moral righteousness than anyone else, and,most of all, more assumption of the right to influence decisions than anyone else.  
It took time, but it finally dawned on me that they also were often more insecure than anyone else.  It’s hard to say exactly what that means, but, just from remembered observation, it seemed that they were uncomfortable in their own skins, uncertain of their place in secular society, and envious of those who appeared to be humbly self confident in a wider variety of situations and conditions.  Church was a place where they could achieve the illusion of superiority, and exert a greater degree of control over others.  I’ve often wondered what that might have to say about their family lives as well.
It reminds me of why I’m not very fond of the theology of an old hymn that reads in part, “Rock of ages, cleft for me.  Let me hide myself in thee.”  I do not believe that Christ, and by extension the church, is a place in which to hide, there to feel secure in one’s insecurity, rubbing it with religious salve that can make it very hard for others to find their own place of blessing.
Church is sanctuary, but it is sanctuary for the purpose of offering rest, restoration, healing and nourishment to be sent back out to do the work we have been given to do.  It is not supposed to be an emotional hidey-hole or a platform for the emotional abuse of others.
Healthy congregations require effective pastoral leadership that is aware of the presence of such persons, makes room for them as beloved of Christ, but does not give them room to act out to the detriment of others.

7 thoughts on “Church as Sanctuary for the Insecure”

  1. Good thoughts, CP. I think some of the individuals you speak of utilize the church as less than a true sanctuary and more of their own personal fortress.

  2. it occurs to me, I have never been in a \”healthy\” congregation. I hear always about how we are wounded all, and I wonder, is there ever a time we desire to heal? I doubt the desire of our creator was a life for of ever keeping the wounds open and wounding others so they have empathy for us and our wounds.

  3. Bruno,There are healthy congregations and I hope you experience one one of these days. Among other markers, they can be filled with wounded persons, but the wounded do not wallow in it. They are, as Nouwen put it, wounded healers who take responsibility for themselves and, at the same time, are both willing and able to give and receive help. There are others, but they are unable to gain the foothold necessary to infect the congregation with their own pathologies.CP

  4. When Augustus Toplady wrote the lyrics to that hymn, \”Rock of Ages\”, he had been inspired by a real incident: he was caught in a violent thunderstorm, from which hid, literally, in a cleft of a large rock. The image caught the attention of the then resurgent evangelical \”Awakening\”, who found reassurance for their beliefs against the then countervailing winds of the rationalist \”Enlightenment\”, which was spreading doubt about all supernatralist belief in the late 18th century. Dr B

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