I recently heard a man talking about how he couldn't believe anything coming out of the pulpit of a church because the "church" has been wrong so many times throughout history. My initial reaction was to challenge his statement, but I was checked on that because the church has, in fact, come down on the wrong side of many issues. Let's take a stroll through our recent and not-so recent history.
Most recently, the church was wrong when it taught, and actively worked, against inter-racial marriage. As recent as the 1960's & 1970's, it was taught from the majority of pulpits in this country, and the world, that marriage between blacks and whites was against Biblical teaching. Note they didn't teach, at that time, that marriage between whites/blacks and Hispanics or Asians or Middle-Easterners was wrong, though at different points in history all of those marriages were also condemned using Biblical principles. In 1966 there were 17 states with laws that prevented whites from marrying someone of another race, though the strictest enforcement was white-black marriages. In fact, it was only by a Supreme Court ruling that the last Anti-Miscegenation law was removed from the books, in the state of Virginia. Many preachers taught from the Word of God that marriage between whites and blacks were forbidden; even today, there are some who refuse to perform such unions, though they seem to have no problem presiding over the marriages of whites and Hispanics or whites and Asians.
Where did this teaching come from? In the Old Testament, God forbade the Israelites from marrying other races, but He was speaking more in terms of their religious beliefs and customs, not the color of their skin when He gave this command. Why? Because He knew if the descendants of Abraham married those who were living in the land of Canaan, they would wind up falling into idolatry and worshiping false gods because of the beliefs and customs of the natives of that land.
Another example of where the "church" got it wrong was The Crusades. I know, I know: the Crusades happened centuries ago, but the problem is we are still following the same philosophies and ideas which led to them in the first place. The Crusades were carried out by Christians who were determined to convert Muslims; if the Muslims wouldn't convert, they were slaughtered. Sound familiar? It's the exact behaviors and mantra that we, today, ascribe to Muslims and we wonder where they got the idea!
The church leaders of the day used Scripture to not only justify, but to motivate and spur believers to pursue non-Christians and murder them if they refused to convert. And it wasn't just during the Crusades and against Muslims. The Inca, Aztecs and many other South American nations were completely annihilated because of their refusal to convert to Christianity. That was also coupled with the church's desire to amass all the gold they believed to be held by those nations. The Inquisitions were also examples of misusing Scripture to justify the rampant slaughter of people who did not believe the way the 'church' thought they should.
For centuries slavery was justified by quoting scripture. The churches of the Southern United States resisted abolition using the Bible to support their view that it was not only acceptable, but expected, for man to "own" human beings as property. How anyone can preach the freedom Christ gives while supporting the notion of owning another human being and still be able to sleep at night is completely beyond my ability to comprehend.
During the U.S. Civil Rights movement in the 1960's, many churches used the Bible to persuade their congregants that "separate but equal" was acceptable and sanctioned by God. Today, we find that position to not only be untenable, but also ludicrous and deceived. We, rightfully, declare that those who used scripture to support, defend and justify all of these issues were deceived, misinformed, uneducated or just plain violating the Word of God. Each and every time the Bible is misused in this way, the world is filled with tears and the streets often run red.
I have a simple solution for determining if the teaching of a preacher, church, denomination is authentically based on scripture and the Will of God: does it promote love, inclusion in God's kingdom, offer peace, rest, comfort, increase, fellowship? If it promotes anything that is contrary to those things, it's not Biblical. If it incites exclusion, pain, loss, it's not Biblical, it's not of God and it's definitely not God's will.
We need to bring love back to the church.