They told me, “The church is a hospital for sinners.” But the call for an ambulance is coming from inside the house of worship.
Who do you call when Christians are behaving badly? Is there a local number we can call to report the church’s discrepancies? Because you’ll catch more flies with honey than with hypocrisy.
Who is on the accountability committee? Who will be in touch with us shortly when pastors commit adultery, when deacons steal money, when the theology smells funny, when you have more questions than they have answers, and they treat doubters like dummies?
We’re just not believing the right way, I guess. It would all make perfect sense if we just kept coming. But I used to go to church at least three times a week and, literally, twice on Sundays. There were afternoon services, concerts and revivals.
I also had no social life, but I didn’t believe I needed one. Jesus was coming back soon, and I needed to be found walking circumspectly. Well, then how did I get here?
Triggered when I hear the words, “Let’s pray about it,” and too traumatized to regularly enter a church building, I have trust issues when it comes to church and denominational leaders. I am a victim of spiritual abuse and toxic Christianity.
I am also not alone. This is why I speak up often and clearly for those who can’t and against those who tell them the truth is not in their best interest.
It is no different than any other form of abuse and the village it takes to hide it. “Don’t tell.” “Don’t get him into trouble.” “Let’s just pray about it.”
Or, if that doesn’t work, they use force. Because “what goes on in this house stays in this house.” And if it doesn’t, then we’ll keep you out. Black sheep.
But what goes on behind church doors is not staying behind church doors. It’s coming out because people are leaving and leaving their complaints: “One out of five stars. Save your money and your time. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to attend. Incredibly poor service.” The experience is not matching what they saw on the church’s website.
I was taught that Christians had it right, but I have never been so wrong in my life. They are God’s “chosen people.” They are supposed to be the good people, upstanding members of society and pillars of the community.
I didn’t expect them to prop up patriarchy, to theologize misogyny, to buy into capitalism, to endorse political candidates, to sign up for endless culture wars, to still be towing “the color line,” to hate more than God loves.
“Not all Christians.” “Don’t lump us together.” This is often the response when persons raise their issues with the church and its leaders. “There are bad apples in every bunch.”
But Christians are a body, members of one another, charged to rejoice and mourn together. So, if one is hurting, then we all should feel the pain instead of going numb.
Jesus showed his wounds, so why can’t the church? Is it because they are self- inflicted? It would require that we look at our own hands, though we are so good at pointing fingers.
The church is going in the wrong direction, and I’m not following. So, where do you go when the church is no longer a safe place to practice your faith?
I grew up in a Christian faith tradition that looked for “signs and wonders.” But what about red flags and warning signs? We need someone to say, “This is not okay and needs to stop immediately.”
Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky write in Leadership on the Line, “To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear — their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking — with nothing more to offer than a possibility.”
So, I am calling for a “come to Jesus meeting” for the church. I am calling on the church to repent of its sins against each other — because we cannot save ourselves.
I’m hoping that God sees this. Because the church is not a hospital, and I am writing to report crimes against our shared humanity.