Let me begin with a confession. I don't know why God let's evil things happen in our world. I wish He would put an end to them too. I hate war, genocide, racism, sexism, homophobia, and all those things that separate us from our fellow human beings. It makes me just as angry as it does you to see children starving, women and children abused, and people unable to meet their basic needs to live.
I am sorry that people have used the Christian faith as a reason to abuse, kill, and supress other people. It angers me that people could so misunderstand Jesus' message of forgiveness and love that they could turn His words into reasons for hate and violence. I believe it is wrong to use power gained through the church to hurt anyone.
I also know there are some ministers and churches that have done some really stupid and hurtful things. I know there are Christians who think the highest form of faith is unquestioning subjection to a set of principles. It really is the Christian faith's version of "Don't ask, don't tell." Unfortunately many have entered the Christian faith and checked their brains at the door.
Churches and pastors have done some hurtful things to people. They have pressured people to do and think things they were not ready to do or think. They have hurt people with their rules. They have forced people to feel like they are less than normal or an outsider.
I do want you to know some things, though. I think many of the problems you see in the church simply indicates that not everyone who claims to be Christian or part of the Church really is part of it. We have fakers and poser and sinners that pretend to be part of the true faith all the time. Instead of looking at the bad examples please look at the good ones. I know they are sometimes hard to find.
You see Jesus said some pretty great things, and called those who follow Him to a pretty demanding lifestyle. He called us to love our neighbors (even the ones who hurt and abuse us), to forgive, to be generous, to serve the poor and hunger, to defend the weak and innocent. There are shining examples of this in action in the Church, but there are also glaring deficiencies.
Some have cheapened what it means to follow Jesus by cutting corners or doing things their own way. Instead of genuinely trying to hear the voice of God they bow to their own whims or what seems easy. They have focused on the wrong things or decided to argue for something that really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things.
I think if you give Jesus' message a fair listen and look at the better examples of His followers, you might be impressed. Though you must understand, those who strive to be the best Jesus-follower-they-can-be still recognize they don't have it all figured out. God takes His followers on a path that leads to being like Jesus, but none are there yet.
That points to another failure. We are NOT perfect, and we should never act like it. We have all sinned. If we forget that point God reminds us; some just choose to ignore the obvious.
In regards to Church, I know it is imperfect. They focus on things they shouldn't and function in ways that seem antithetical to the Gospel they preach. The Good News doesn't always sound like good news from the lips of some church attenders. But the Church does have a purpose: friendships, discussion, and mobilization. Worship, which in some places is rather boring, is not about feeling good or happy, but in giving praise to God.
No tangible evidence or philosophical argument is sufficient to prove that God exists. What I do have is a continued experience with God. My belief is more than my parents beliefs strapped to my back. I left the church, and felt as though God pursued me.
It may sound elitist to say that Jesus is the only way, but we all know there is a difference between being eltitist and truth. I am not trying to force you to think something you don't want to think, and I certainly am trying to pressure you into a commitment. That is not the way Jesus works. He simply invites us to follow, and then asks us to make a decision based upon what we see in Him. Pressured and rushed commitments do not make for good followers. (Again, I know there are churches and pastors who have taught and acted otherwise. I am sorry.)
I do find it interesting that so many are disatisfied with the various streams of the Christian faith because they are so different from each other and espouse different theological emphasis, and yet want to pick and choose the elements of their faith buffet style. But then again all I have to fall back on as the essential belief of the Christian faith are the historical creeds of the Church.
I also can't explain how it works that God loves us unconditionally and yet holds us accountable for our actions. I guess I have to think of my relationship with my daughter. I never stop loving her, but there are some important lessons she must learn in order to be a healthy member of society. If I don't hold her responsible for her actions then it becomes everyone else's fault (and eventually their problem) that she is the way she is. The Church does have the tendency to live by rules rather than love, but there still must be some standards, right?
I can't respond to every question or apologize for every wrong in a way that is adequate. In fact, writing in this format is not the best way to discuss the Christian faith. But if you are searching, keep looking until you find truth. Keep searching until you find a God worthy of your devotion and worship. Don't stop short with lesser gods or a religion that says, "Everything is okay. What ever you believe to be true is for you." I have found that that search leads to Jesus Christ. But for you, that must be your decision.