Here's the thing though, this way of operating has become so indoctrinated into the system, so artfully woven in and out of the dogma, governing structures and informal peer-approval networks that from within the system it is nearly impossible for most people to see it has hypocritical. It is the air we breathe, the support system which gives us meaning, the stuff of church life. It's how you fit in.
We've been trained to follow faithfully and not so much thoughtfully, which is probably why some ministers seem to think "faith is so fragile." Then, when some of us do see the error of our ways and try to do the difficult work of turning the ship around, we find that the forms of government and the unofficial power brokers are designed and operate in ways that bend but do not break. Even people who are sympathetic to the cause find themselves ultimately bound and constrained from affecting change because of the system within which they exist. The Church system produces the results it currently produces because it is perfectly designed to produce them and will continue to do so until radical change is instituted.
I'm going back, even though I honestly don't want to, because my time away has given me a little perspective on the disease behind the problem and I can promise you it will not change because of outside voices. The change must come from within, and I, for one, still believe the Church is redeemable. I just hope it's not too late.
When you get to the end of his essay, you come up with the same sort of realization so many of us have had. What we know as "church" is about the furthest thing from "The Church" that you can find and yet so many of us, even knowing that, keep on going back somehow expecting that the weight of thousands of years of error are suddenly going to be overcome. In spite of his recognition that there is so much that is so far from what church is all about in organized religion, Mr. Sandlin is "going back" thinking that he can change things but even he ackowledges that it might be too late. Guess what.
It is too late and it has been for over a thousand years.
The best chance for change came about with the Reformation and it died just as quickly when the magisterial Reformers chose the path of retaining the Roman forms and practices and quashing the dissenters among the Anabaptists. I don't believe we can "fix" the church from inside the institutional system because that system isn't really broken. In fact it is working exactly as intended, providing a religious experience with no real cost, a way for people to check the religion box for the week, a system to employ clergy and distance the laity which makes everyone happy. As I have learned too often and to my chagrin, the system doesn't want anyone to ask questions or change anything and those who benefit in various ways from that system will fight tooth and nail to keep it running. Perhaps they no longer put dissenters to death but they certainly do their best to make life miserable for those who refuse to walk the line: "How can you say you love Jesus but hate His bride!", "You are just rebellious and individualistic and don't want to submit to authority!", "You are always welcome to attend but you will be treated as a second class citizen unless you become a 'member'", "You are forsaking the assembling of the saints!". I hear this stuff all the time and it always strikes me as an attempt to shout down those who ask the wrong sorts of questions.