Alas! All judgment, especially my own, of all people and all things, is impeccably flawed. Even my best efforts, for the best reasons, fall short of anything I had hoped for in life.
Yes, God works on us through other people and through situations around us. How can He not? He is ‘all there is’ out there, meeting us in every moment, so how can the people and things that fill time not be His actions upon us, either willed or permitted? A thousand objections rise up to stone this idea, and me along with it. I don't care. It's still true, though we hate to believe it. That means God can do or permit some goddarn awful things, and get away with it.
No matter how much it hurts, no matter how long it takes, no matter how little we understand it, no matter whether we like it or hate it, no matter whether we see good or evil come out of it, the fact is certain: We are being operated on, and either the Physican is a good God, and we're just impudent, complaining ignoramuses, or He is a mad scientist, wanting only to do experiments on us to see what will happen.
I choose the former explanation. Why? Because the latter is just too horrific, and though I am as blind as anyone, through my darkest despair, I still feel a friendly hand reaching for me in that darkness, and it is calming and reassuring, not terrorizing.
Churches, well, what can I say? They're just people just like me. Like you, I don't let them pull the wool over my eyes, if I happen to notice. And I've learned that absolutely nothing I could ever say to them will change them to be what I think they should be. The Church is, as Sergei Fudel says, ‘a miracle of unexpected joy,’ but also a moment ‘that doesn't last very long.’ It is all like love, a ‘catch as catch can’ game.
God is God. That's all that you and I know for sure, and then, anything He shows and tells us about ourselves. The ancient fathers used to say, ‘Live as though only you and God existed in this world.’ I can see their point. In the end, no one can die our death but us, and no one know our name but the One who named us. And there is no place on earth for us, because we know deep down, there is no place like Home.
And yes, ‘Grapes do not yield wine, till they are crushed.’ [*]