I am Jim Bachmann, the founder and director of the Christian Ethics Foundation.
As a Christian, I was deeply saddened by the kind of control and manipulation placed on some Church members, using methods of guilt and shame. After attending many different denominations, I discovered the strengths and weakness of well meaning churches that sometimes end up plaguing believers. These methods of control are presented as “discipleship”, but church leaders themselves are unable to practice what they preach. Parishioners end up chasing their tales rather than getting down to the real purpose of loving God and others through offering kindness, forgiveness and hope to the world around us.
Encountering a major trial, in my early 40’s, ripped my conservative Christian world into chaos. I confessed my gay “sin” to some of my friends. I quickly began to see how I was shunned by long term friends within my conservative religious circles. It was the same mean spirited way I treated people before disclosing my conflicted discovery. My chickens had come home to roost. I could feel the tension, always being reminded that I was no longer a person until I “repented”. I was no longer a part of their club. Was I going through the pain I had caused others to go through? I was angry and wounded. I was confused. I was still part of God’s club so why was this happening? God was still there, holding my hand and comforting me, assuring me to trust him. It was a battle, but God had plans for me and slowly I learned to trust. I discovered that I had put my faith on hold to hide behind religious dogma and legalism. I knew this to be common among many conservative Christians. God showed me that just because we can’t see each others secrets, or just because we think or act differently, God never stops loving us. God’s grace becomes apparent. Being different is not a sin, it’s just different. As Christians, we need to stop hurting family and community. We need to know what we believe.
Many of us have been given messages telling us our faith is faulty. When we ask questions of religious leaders, to understand our experience or understand scripture, we are told we are trouble makers or worse. We are sometimes led by leaders that want to control us with fear and shame. They live this way themselves, thinking it is right to “fall in line”, constantly examine attitudes and behaviors. But there are consequences to suppressing or avoiding our hidden fear. We start living secret lives. Pastors and church members are caught cheating on their spouses, molesting children, stealing money from the coffers, brain washing us and in severe cases maybe even asking us to drink the Kool-Aid, (suicide). There are many various ways to control and manipulate even good heart-ed and well meaning people who will do anything to serve God, and there are those who will use it to their own advantage. We see it in the media all the time. You can’t pretend to be perfect and not have it to come back and bit you.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of good Pastors and Priests, and great congregations out there that are loving and gracious and kind, extending forgiveness and hope. They are willing to be open and transparent in order to encourage others to love one another as Christ loves us. This is real Christianity. We are all in this together. We are all human beings, with strengths and weakness. We are all God’s children, working toward a more loving and joyful spiritual community. We need to learn and trust in discerning just who Jesus is.
After years of study, I decided that any doctrine that caused self hatred or alienation was not the reaction of sin, but rather a misunderstanding or a distorted manipulation of the scriptures.
Thus, the Christian Ethics Foundation was formed.