I was asked on another blog:
In your experience, in the Evangelical community, how has Protestantism dealt with it’s past? From my understanding, Catholicism and Protestanism hasn’t had a clean slate either. While historically, facts are given, how does that affect membership, say of someone who questions whether an organization with such problems be from God, and how does Protestantism reconcile those instances in history?
No doubt there have been many historical scars in the past of mainstream Christianity. Be it the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials and numerous tele-evangelist scandals there is a lot of ugliness in our past. My own church, which is only 10 years old, is not without its blemishes. Our founding pastor admitted to having an affair with a married woman and was released from ministry about 5 years ago.
So, why are Protestants resilient in their faith despite all of these nasty things? I think there are a number of reasons. The first is that we place our faith in Jesus not our organizations. We attend our churches just as a way of worshiping Jesus. If we discovered that our church or denomination was corrupt, we would go on worshiping Jesus, we would just do it somewhere else. We view the church as a means to Jesus, but not Jesus’ means to us. We grant our churches with some authority, but believe in a more personal and individual authority that comes directly from Christ.
We expect to occasionally encounter sinful men in our churches. It really doesn’t affect me personally if Martin Luther hated Jews. My life and my faith have been profoundly impacted by his (and others) actions, but they are not centered around him. My life is centered around Jesus. So where I find Luther preaching truth about Jesus, I embrace him. Where I find him teaching falsehood, I reject him.
Another reason is that we don’t grow up believing a whitewashed version of events. We don’t control the information. When we learn about the Crusades, we learn both the good and the bad about them at the same time. All of the facts are there and we don’t (and can’t) pretend to believe in a “faith promoting” version. So we never have to wrestle with the difference between what we’ve been taught and what the facts actually are.
When contemporary scandals happen, we air them out. We expose them to light and go out of our way to make sure people know what happened and how. When a pastor has a moral failing it for sure can be devastating to a congregation. But the disappointment they feel is directed at their pastor, not at God. Evangelicals are guilty of putting people on pedestals, but when they fall off we recognize that it wasn’t God who put them up there.
I think this is a chief cultural difference between Evangelicals and LDS. We are not under the notion that God is directing the everyday operation of our churches. We for sure want to be following God’s will and seek after it, but we also know that there are many decisions that are made in our churches which are just people using their best judgment. LDS to some extent MUST believe that their leaders are specifically appointed by Jesus. In varying degrees LDS hold that every direction and appointment is coming via the direct authority of God. So when men fail (as they always will) the disappointment follows the chain back up to God.