Dear Ezra and Lian,
(This letter is far too long and far too depressing for you to read at 11 years of age. I will wait until you are 15 or 16 to read this. But read it you must.)
When I first met Fela, I was so naive. On the first of my 7 trips to Mizoram, I was staying at the State Guest House at the beginning. I ended up spending most of my evenings with Fela. He was teaching me about the hidden Mizoram. I would hike and travel around Mizoram during the day. I loved these Mizos. I met happy, friendly, self-sacrificing people. I thought the countryside was beautiful. I stared at the clouds as they rolled through the mountains. What a wonderful place!
One evening, within a week or two of arriving in Mizoram, I was eating supper in the State Guest House. In the dining room, there was just me and 3 other people at another table. After a little while, these people invited me to their table. They were very nice people. They were a Christian pastor and his wife meeting with a judge. Apparently, the pastor was quite well-known in Mizoram. We had a friendly chat. I said, “Mangtha” as I went off to my room for the night.
The next day, I met Fela. I told him who I had met. He gave me a devlish smirk and took a drag from his cigarette. After he blew out the smoke, he dryly said, “That man is the most corrupt judge in Mizoram.” I responded in disbelief. “What!?! No way! Why would the pastor meet this man?” Fela told me the hard truth, “He’s not thought of very highly here. He takes donations for children and has used them to build a mansion for himself. He’s quite the hypocrite.” Over the years, I did my own research on this pastor. Fela was too kind. This Christian leader was a fraud.
Fela told me, “There’s a lot of hypocrisy among Christians here. They aren’t always what they seem to be.” I spent many evenings arguing with Fela about that. I thought he was way too cynical. Being the son of the former Chief Secretary, Mr. (Pu) Lalkhama, had let Fela see a lot of things I couldn’t even imagine. He told me about politicians using the endorsements from the Church to get elected. Being a church elder was almost mandatory to getting a party nomination for the state legislature. Then these men (always men) would live in very unchristian ways once elected.
For me, Mizoram was the most Christian place on Earth. (I mean that in the best possible way.) I was immensely impressed. The community-mindedness, the care for the poor, and the great singing. The churches were full of worshipers and the streets were empty of beggars. There was a genuine heart to worship God in meaningful ways. I was met with a great hospitality. I wanted to spend the rest of my life there.
Over time, though, I would come to meet the fake Christian leaders that Fela talked about. They were very prominent men in what I like to call The Perfect Church. The Perfect Church has a great reputation, but it is spiritually dead.
Case Study #1 A powerful man comes to find out that his 13 year old daughter has been sexually abused for the last 7 years. Dozens of men have used her. They are the servants and even the brother of this man. What does he do? Absolutely nothing. He doesn’t even get counseling for his daughter to deal with the trauma. Even though he had the power to bring charges against all these men, none ever face justice. He protects the reputation of himself, his family, his society and The Perfect Church. He does exactly what is expected of him. He must keep this secret.
What does this accomplish? It protects the child molesters and pedophiles who preyed on his own daughter. It allows them to abuse other young girls. It prevents the man from ever publicly confessing his failure to protect his daughter while he was too busy with work. The influence of The Perfect Church means this man never repents. His daughter suffers to this day with this decision and this trauma.
Case Study #2 A powerful man impregnates his maid. She gives birth to a child. The man never publicly claims the child as his own. He goes to extreme lengths to make sure the media never find out about this. The child grows up fatherless and lacking support. This man does this so that his career is not ruined. He preserves his reputation. He never repents. The Perfect Church tells me to keep this secret. They say, “This is between the man and God alone.”
What does this accomplish? Once again another man learns how to sexually use those beneath him. When he is done, he tosses them aside. Meanwhile, he leads an organization to protect women from men like himself. Poor women learn that The Perfect Church protects powerful men and shames weak women. All this is done to maintain an illusion of holiness, where none exists. It actually interferes in the work of the Holy Spirit to produce genuine repentance.
Case Study #3 A big new school is built. One of its chief missions is to give students lessons in Christian morals, while providing the highest quality education in the state. An auditor at the school is accidentally told that the school is built on stolen property. Then the auditor soon finds out that the school was built with stolen money. The powerful school owner threatens the auditor with a lawsuit. The Perfect Church tells the auditor to be quiet and leave the state, so he goes.
What does this accomplish? It allows the school owner to sell the property and buildings to a government agency and pocket the money for himself. The poor farmers who are the rightful owners never see the money that they are entitled to. The powerful man keeps his reputation and is never confronted with stealing from the poor. This man never gets pushed towards repentance.
Case Study #4 A Christian man of power comes to find out that his overseas businesses and bank accounts have been discovered. This is where he has stashed millions of dollars that he earned illegally. The powerful man orders this other man put to death. Family and employees arrange for the man to meet an untimely end. The Perfect Church continues to offer support to the powerful man, even though it’s obvious he is crooked. The Perfect Church stands ready to defend this man’s reputation, regardless of the accusation. They interfere in any investigation or serious inquiry. Paramount is the reputation of The Perfect Church and the society it represents.
What does this accomplish? One can literally get away with murder. This man never faces real scrutiny. The Perfect Church becomes an accessory to the crime. They perpetuate a climate of secrecy and silence. The Perfect Church attracts criminals, charlatans and molesters. Corruption and abuse flourish because it can never be named, let alone prosecuted. Even murder is hidden away.
In The Perfect Church no one ever sins. No one ever commits a crime. There are no broken people. The Perfect Church only needs a strange Jesus. He’s a wimpy, little man who carries lambs, with a halo around his head. He pleases the powerful and comforts the comfortable. He is powerless. He does not rescue anyone. He cannot save. He cannot heal. Whereas, the real Jesus of the Bible makes a scourge and drives the money-changers from the Temple. The powerful fear Him because He is Truth. The weak adore him because He is Love. He is Healer, Comforter and Saviour.
The Perfect Church shelters child abusers. It never turns over information to civil authorities so that justice can be meted out. This church never strips away a membership. It never renders Biblical discipline. It projects a false front that says, “All is well.” It doesn’t need a Saviour. It has nothing to do with the real Jesus.
The Perfect Church has many defenders to guard its reputation. They rush in to stamp out any information that tarnishes it. This Counterfeit Faith propagates a false gospel. Ultimately, it is built on a house of cards. The truth will come out. When it does, the pews will empty. No amount of effort can stop it. Just like after the child abuse and tele-evangelist scandals of decades past have permanently affected the church in North America. A “church” has no moral stature that keeps child abusers out of jail. It is actually viewed as evil because it facilitates the abuse of children and the protection of their abusers. No organization can be taken seriously that leaves in leadership those who break the foundational rules of the organization. If The Perfect Church is a shield for criminals, then one day it will be ripped apart as justice falls down.
Children, we will never stay in a church that promotes fakery. A church that chooses elders who are criminals, we will leave. Far more likely is a church that promotes perfection over honesty. If in your teen years, our church pressures you to show how good you are, instead of how much you need God, we are out of there in a flash. I don’t want a couple good little rule-keepers. I want kids who are desperate for God in their lives. I hope our church is full of repentant sinners, of whom I am the greatest of sinners. If we find ourselves surrounded by paper saints, we are leaving. The church we need is the one that drives us to our knees. It should force us to look at ourselves in the mirror. It will continually reveal us for who we really are. It must point us towards who Jesus really is.
No church is perfect. There are only churches that keep sins secret and churches that deal with sin. Keeping crimes secret is easy, but contrary to the Word of God. The work of the Holy Spirit is to reconcile humanity to God. Jesus came to save His people from their sins. The Perfect Church is the enemy of Christ and His mission on Earth.