Before you read this, I want to make it clear that I am not addressing a specific church but rather a specific group of people that exist within all churches.
It’s been a while since I entered the doors of your building; any of your buildings. Your houses of worship have slowly but surely morphed into a treacherous place. Every day I grieve the safety of your spaces and being with your people.
I used to fit in so well. I sang your songs. I prayed your prayers. I hung out with your people. I memorized your scriptures. I loved your songs. I loved your prayers. I loved your people. And I LOVED God’s word.
Many of your members have probably written me off as having abandoned my faith or turning my back on Jesus. The truth is that it seems like many have turned their backs on love, faith and kindness, and usually these members are the loudest among you. I have slowly watched as the belief systems I clung to and admittedly ascribed to with adamance and self-righteousness have fallen beside me. Slowly, all the theology has stripped down to a simple and desperate plea to God that His two greatest commands were still true. “Love God and love your neighbour”, while watching your members consistently choose to prioritize beliefs and principles over other people.
I can relate. I get it. I grew up within your doors. I know these scriptures on which this theology is built. I understand the vehement march for TRUTH.
I know part of it is my own fault. I’ll admit that. It’s impossible to become close with others without vulnerability and I’m no longer comfortable being vulnerable. What causes my vulnerability doesn’t fit into the category of “acceptable things to struggle with as a Christian”. I didn’t know this category existed until I found myself in this dark space and I had to wade through the thoughts and structures that had formulated through years of youth group, Bible School, Bible studies and like-minded peer groups. No one told me there was such a category, not outright. But we were taught these ideas from a young age.
The thing is that while I still know these things, I have changed. I’m hurt. I now personally understand the nuances and complexity of being human. I’ve felt really uncomfortable walking through your front doors, but still I persisted. I was desperate to find that same sense of belonging.
As the change occurred within me, I began to be quiet. I listened. I watched. I systematically categorized people as “safe” or “unsafe”. I began to mourn the friendships that I once believed to be supportive. I could see that when I no longer checked off all of the “Christian” boxes, I was no longer worth pursuing, nor did my heart/thoughts/values matter anymore. I had too many things to sort through and not enough answers. Jesus felt far away and I had never experienced such a silent time in my spiritual life. Some of your members tried. But it was often people I wasn’t close with so it made me grateful yet simultaneously anxious. The ones closest to me that I could bring myself to reach out to would eventually slip into silence, or the occasional “ We should get together” when they uncomfortably found themselves face to face with me.
A consistent theme began to show up: Non-Christians were the people who surrounded me without preaching, without spouting off scriptures. They didn’t need me to fit into a mold, they didn’t need some kind of elaborate change to take place in my journey, and they sat with me in my pain without forcing anything. Non-Christians seem to be more comfortable with angry truths without immediate resolution and letting people work things out in silence. I was guilty of this before everything happened. I talked too much, didn’t listen enough, and wasn’t comfortable sitting with someone in their pain. I now understand how divisive and isolating that is.
For self-preservation, I began to observe. For the most part, I listened to the words people spoke or shared. I listened as your members words spoke to me while they were actually writing to someone else on the internet. Their words slapped me with the blunt self-righteousness that I also once had. I don’t think your members know how easily they slam your doors shut with the words that they speak.
Systematically, your members showed me which of your doors I could never enter. I don’t know which place is safe, but I do know which ones aren’t. It’s not God’s fault. It’s your people, those loud ones I mentioned. Arrogant. Proud. Unwilling to listen to those willing to be vulnerable enough to share. Fighting for “TRUTH” at all costs even if it costs the commandment to “Love your neighbour”. As I’ve been observing, arrogance and pride masquerade in many different ways. Condescension and an unwillingness to apologize is one of the most common ways I’ve seen it. Many of your members treat others as if they are “illogical”, “unknowledgeable”, and “too emotional” without being willing to listen to any other schools of thought. Don’t get me wrong, I have studied and understand the concept of absolute truth, so I won’t need your members to explain that logic to me. I get it. But I also think that we oversimplify and miss the point. All I wish for is a bit more patience, or kindness, or just a plain acknowledgement that some of the topics your members address can be really painful and personally relevant subjects. Meanwhile, for your members, it’s just a non-truth that needs to be debunked for the sake of politics or in the pursuit of truth.
I know some of your members might be upset by this “attack”, claiming that I’m too sensitive, or I haven’t put in the work to get right with God etc. I suppose that is their prerogative to feel that way. I just had to say this because it’s been so long since I have walked into one of your buildings, and even longer since I felt like I belonged there.
Writing that sentence broke my heart. I didn’t leave because I hated you, I left because I couldn’t stay.
It saddens me to say this, but the most love, kindness, patience and acceptance that I’ve found have been with people outside of your doors and outside of your organizations. So for now, I guess that’s where I’ll stay. I’ll drive past your doors each Sunday and wonder if the day will come again when I will ever feel safe enough to enter.