Today I have a heavy heart. I have been on a long journey to readjust my path based more closely on what the Bible says we are called to do. I have found this journey both exciting and exhausting. It is simultaneously freeing and joyful while being filled with a sense of constant loss. Loss of long-held beliefs. Loss of ability to float along the unexamined tide of Christiandom. Loss of respect for old leaders who have chosen anger and fear over love and grace. Just…loss.
I have been renewed by discovering the simplicity of Christ’s teachings. Love all. Show grace to all. Let God work on people’s hearts and minds. Be willing to tangibly help others, sacrificially.
I have been saddened by how often the church does not mirror these teachings. Rules. Lack of acceptance of differences. Forcible lecturing of “our ways”. Crying out about a perceived loss of “our rights”. Budgets strained by the “needs” of the church rather than the community which they serve.
My heart is not heavy for me today. My heart is heavy for several people I love. I have watched their trust in the church as a place of health and healing…dissolve. I have seen the hurt in their eyes when recounting the venom spewed at them when they dared to ask questions. Just questions. Or, worse yet, I have listened as they talked of their fear of asking questions.
These people I love have come directly up against the claim of love and grace presented with narrow minds, immovable opinions, and…no love or grace. When faced with the words being quite contrary to actions seen it is difficult to soothe troubled souls. The life of Christ and His beautiful example has been overshadowed by the present blind hypocrisy.
I have often told people that it is ok to ask questions of God. It is ok to get mad and yell. It is ok to have doubt. He knows anyway, so we might as well be honest. I’ve told people that God is big enough, powerful enough, and wise enough to draw us to Him even when we don’t know who or what we are searching for.
But today those truths are harder to trust. Today those truths are connected to the journey of people I love instead of myself. So I worry. I hurt. I grieve.
I am incapable of wiping the tears from their eyes with any genuine advice to live by. I cannot say “Trust God” when that is exactly their struggle. I cannot say “dig into more scripture” when they now wonder if there is anything to be found in those pages. I cannot say “pray” when they have been told repeatedly that they should feel connected and emotional when they pray when all they feel is….nothing. I cannot say to talk with some other friends when those are exactly the people who have made them feel less than.
For some of my loved people, church has become a hospice instead of a hospital. It is a place where faith and love go to die instead of where doubt and fear go to heal. It has become a place of hollow music sung without reflection and words spoken but not heeded. It is a place where we can lie about our commitment to others, our commitment to God, and our willingness to grow. We can hide under the umbrella of the good christian while never offering any goodness to anyone standing in the rain.
It is a place where we say we must love others but we must support a president who lies, mocks, and accuses. It is a place where we must “die to self” yet continually “fight for our rights”. It is a place where the poor are blessed (according to Jesus’s beatitudes) yet the poor are seen as lazy and deserving of where they find themselves in life. It is a place where we cry out about the sanctity of life while cheering the turning away of refugees.
It is a place where those who embrace Christ’s teachings of submission and turning the other cheek in all of life are mocked as weak. It is a place where life-long elders can say, without irony, that we should let addicts die after two doses of the drug to revive them. Then they had a second chance. I am at a complete loss for where Christ’s example would back that up. And yet I have heard it with my own ears. I have read it with my own eyes. Calloused and hard hearts toward real, actual, skin-covered humans struggling with a horrible addiction. Such is our current Christian rhetoric.
Church is a place where we teach our youth how to share their faith with others before teaching them how to live their faith. It’s easy to pass on rehearsed answers to genuine faith questions. It is not so simple to just let those questions be. It is far scarier to encourage the journey to be personal and in one’s own time. That involves an inherent loss of control (which, quite honestly, we never had in the first place). Church is a place where we really don’t trust God.
I have listened as one said they could not accept that Jonah was swallowed by an actual fish. This made them a bad believer. This meant that some other Christians thought they had weak faith. But why? Can’t we learn from the story of Jonah even if it is an allegory? Can’t the teachings of scripture have just as much power even if they are stories used to illustrate lessons in language understood by those being taught? Why get hung up on a minuscule argument? Can’t a big God speak through direct history AND figurative language?
We argue that God is male because the Bible uses male pronouns. Who chose those pronouns? During which translation did they appear? Is it not more realistic to say that God is too big and too complex to be either exclusively male or female? If not, I’m wondering how we women can claim to be made in His image (as we church folk are taught). Isn’t God big enough to either create the universe in six days OR set things in motion that created the universe over millions of years? Why must those who wonder be seen as lost and lacking faith?
So today I sit here with several beloved souls on my mind. Beloved people who have been damaged by the church. Beloved people who are struggling to find faith in something to trust again. Beloved people who are hurting as the ground shifts beneath them.
No, this is not the handiwork of an evil enemy preying on their minds. It is the direct result of being treated as inferior for being divorced. It is the direct result of being taught to use your talents for God, but only if we approve of your methods and opinions. It is the direct result of the anti-LGBT post by the loving Christian being read by the gay teen. It is the direct result of the horrific abortion images posted by pro-life Christians being seen by a woman who had made that painful decision in their youth. It is the direct result of famous church leaders stubbornly defending a morally bankrupt presidential administration while atheists shake their head in disbelief. It is the direct result of Christian’s refusal to honestly examine their beliefs, motives, and behaviors.
We, the church, are our own worst enemy. And until we realize that and work toward repairing our self-inflicted wounds we will continue to be less and less and less vital in our communities.