Before I begin, I want to be clear that the intention of this piece is not to be another “state my side loud and proud and decry all other viewpoints as null” rampage. I want to be clear that this is not another “fuck the church because xyz. End of story” piece either. Rather, this is a reflection upon how I came to where I am and a starting point for a discussion which I’m open to.
I recall as a child, most Sundays feeling nothing but guilt and shame for every small action that seemed to stray from regaling my Lord and God as the highest. I still hear multiple pastors’ voices asking us, “you say you love God, but were you distracted with things like pop culture, entertainment, romance novels this week?” before proceeding to lecture that those actions break the first commandment.
I was told to submit to others with humility. But I was not taught what emotional abuse looked like (which, for the record, I was experiencing from somebody for the majority of my childhood).
I was made to feel shame and to repent for all my sins. But I was not taught what self-love and self-care looked like nor the greater impact you’d actually have on others’ lives if you practiced those things.
But ultimately, I was not given a realistic picture of the unjust world we live in or challenged to reflect upon how my gifts could positively impact greater societal injustices around me.
Unfortunately, the majority of my experiences with the church and churchgoers since childhood haven’t been much different. I see individuals claiming to be devout believers in God but treating others with abrasiveness and condescension. I go to services where we are taught to love others and to help the poor and hungry, but are not taught concrete high-impact action steps that we could take to do things like reduce homelessness. Nor are we challenged to check our implicit biases that prevent us from truly moving toward liberation for all. Or to check our privileges. Or to lift up and include the voices of women. Of people of color. Of the LGBTQ community. Because doesn’t Jesus love ALL?
I believe Erna Kim Hackett’s frustrations about Easter best sum up my frustrations with the church in general:
“Every year Easter is about individual sin. But I need an Easter that is big enough for our collective sin and brokenness, big enough for our systemic and institutionalized brokenness. I need an Easter that goes beyond the personal. The things that overwhelm my heart and soul right now have less to do with my personal wretchedness, than the brokenness of the systems I’m embedded in, participate in, and that impact me and the communities I love.”
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t repent of individual sins. Obviously, large-scale change starts with the individual. I just see a disconnect between the types of individual sins we are taught to check and the lack of high-impact, concrete action steps we are taught to take with the truly just world that, I believe, Jesus actually envisioned
So until then, I still remain a believer in God, in Christ, but a non-church goer. I’m not opposed to the possibility of returning, yet I also know that many things have GOT to change in a drastic way for me to feel comfortable doing so.
I recognize some may shake their heads and think that I’m simply missing the point. Be that the case, I respect those viewpoints and hope those who hold them are able to at least somewhat understand how I’ve come to hold the perspectives I hold. In the end, I’m open to discussion and I thank you for reading this piece.