There are many kinds of bitterness a person can feel. In a sense each specific disappointment precipitates its own unique bitterness.

Here I want to reflect on the bitterness felt by those who have deliberately chosen the church over other religious (and non-religious) options and then suffered at its hands. Such people have given themselves wholeheartedly to their new (or, sometimes, renewed) faith, sometimes becoming church leaders. To have given oneself only then to suffer in the beloved community is a grave wound to the soul. Disappointment, disbelief, anger, resentment, alienation, sadness remain in the heart, a broken heart.

Estrangement from the church is sometimes the fruit of this experience.

A common response to this situation is to say that the church is “only human,” and that it is a mistake to view the church as different from any other organization. I think saying this throws overboard a lot of Christology, ecclesiology, and soteriology I’m not (yet) willing to abandon.

Putting the matter in terms of heartbreak and estrangement immediately evokes marital and relationship metaphors. Should we then consider the language of divorce? Separation? Are there better, more useful metaphors?

I hesitate to use the metaphor of divorce or separation. Why? More in the next post.