Humans seem fairly predictable in how they react to certain less than desirable or even heart-wrenching situations. Rather than an attempt to seek or maintain a balance we often go to the exact opposite side of the spectrum, a reaction that has been termed ‘The Pendulum Effect”. According to dictionary.com the definition to this is “the theory holding that trends in culture, politics, etc., tend to swing back and forth between opposite extremes.” In the Christian world, we’re seeing a lot of this type of reaction playing out.
There have been recent movements that have encouraged people to share stories about how they have experienced some really rough and downright harmful situations. These stories have revealed the many flaws found in various denominations, churches, and church leadership or individuals. However, in most cases it seems as if these stories are being viewed or conveyed as a monolithic epidemic. For example about a decade ago my wife endured what she believed was legalistic reactions from her elders for the way she dressed as a young lady attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Her situation wasn’t unique as there were many instances of their rigid legalism at this particular church. Though she recognizes that not ALL OPC churches treat their members this way, she still slightly cringes at the thought of us leaving the PCA for the OPC.
So often it seems that the majority of those who’ve been through bad experiences want nothing more to do with anything relating to it. It’s human nature, and we certainly can understand the reaction to certain types of situations. As illogical as my wife’s mild fear of the OPC is, which she clearly recognizes as such, I can empathize with her and keep her away from it. The problem becomes when people don’t recognize that it’s illogical to blame every OPC, or PCA, or ‘Evangelical’ church for the terrible sins of one, or even some. And instead of a reaction in proper biblical addressing of sin, repentance, forgiveness, healing, etc. it seems that it has turned into a mass exodus from orthodoxy to systems of liberalism or even atheism.
Clearly there are churches who are failing at their basic responsibilities, as well as church leaders who are in sin. There are many examples of preaching, systems, and methods, that are in ways unbiblical or even unethical, employed by the church that fail her people. There are church leaders who abuse their position, and hurt individuals. And rather than the individual comparing the word of God to the actions or methods of the church, they seek comfort and restitution elsewhere. Do you want to know why the preaching of the Andy Stanleys and the books of the Rachel Held Evanses are being gobbled up by countless people? There is no one size fits all answer here, but it seems that these types are certainly taking advantage of the #exevangelical and the #churchtoo experience.
The current swing of the pendulum has brought along with it, many other growing problems within the church. It has become commonplace for individuals to elevate personal or shared experience, along with influence by worldly philosophies and culture, as the lens in which they view the world above the use of Scripture. This is not something new at all, but just a variation of the post enlightenment era in our modern day. There are shared similarities such as the deconstructionist attitude toward traditional orthodoxy, but in our day there are unique categories regarding mankind’s progression and growth towards an ‘ultimate good’. This has been the underpinning behind the major social justice initiatives for racial minorities, gender minorities, sexual minorities, etc.
The pendulum may keep swinging in its current direction for awhile, but eventually it’ll come back the other way. This endless cycle, which we clearly see in history, seems to be a part of the human experience. Sin runs rampart in the world and in the church. Each generation or so has had its unique spin and issues to deal with, and I do not feel that the cycle will end until Christ comes again. For now the best we can do is mitigate the affect the pendulum’s effect it has on Orthodox Christianity and in doing so be able to address our interaction with sin through a Biblical understanding.