The first metaphor to challenge my theological views was one of brick walls and trampoline springs. I find myself, all these years later, still longing for springs on a Sunday morning.
Churches usually don’t acknowledge different perspectives and interpretations (unless it’s to say how wrong they are), let alone teach them. When you discover your life can’t fit into faith clichés, this can be devastating.
When people stand up to give a sermon or lead a Bible study, they are using their ‘authority’ to tell you the way things are, so you can adapt your life to it. They usually aren’t widening your view to the vastness of God and the millions of ways he interacts with this gloriously diverse world.
Insisting on only one true way to follow Jesus means they see all other ways as wrong. Is there a place for wrongness in evangelicalism?
Church often feels unsafe, because they don’t seem to want to hear your story, or understand your way of life – unless of course it’s neat and tidy, tied up with a big Jesus bow on top. They just want you inside their walls so you will change and agree that they have the rightness.
Validating differences requires admitting there isn’t one right and thousands of wrongs.
It’s a systemic pride that stands up in front of people week after week, all across the country, proclaiming with absolute certainty their handle on the truth.
A systemic humility is desperately needed. A humility that puts another’s viewpoint above theirs. A humility that acknowledges that ‘there is no absolute viewpoint; there are only views from a point.’ -RB
If churches were humble, they would handle beliefs and verses with more delicacy and trepidation. They would be aware that people are disagreeing with them and would want to sit in that tense space, allowing room for dialogue.
The assumption is that those who are questioning or thinking differently are the ones who have to defend themselves, explain themselves.
If you are questioning the status quo, then you’re the person with the issue to be resolved, because the status quo is how it’s always been, so it’s perfectly fine.
But of course, it hasn’t ever been that way.
And when it seemed like it was, we used to call that the Dark Ages and we would cluckcluckcluck over those poor people who couldn’t read, and relied on priests.
Are our churches – is evangelicalism – a place that is open to reforming? To changing with our culture? Do we believe God incarnates this time, this media, this technology, this generation?
Or are we going to be the ones burning and strangling and drowning them?
Spiritual abuse, the systemic isolation, and condemnation and invalidation can be just as damaging as the physical atrocities committed against other believers in history.
But just as then, the Church now will not be held to the status quo. Aslan is on the move. Stories are being told, chains are being broken, wounded hearts are being held, and communities are being formed.
No longer must we be contained within 4 walls. No longer are we limited to pastoral ‘authority’.
We have the freedom to seek out those people who both love Jesus and doubt. Who speak truth into our lives as they are, not as the 1950’s church mentality wishes they were.
So yes. I disagree a lot. I come across as opinionated and intimidating.
But why is the assumption that agreeing is good and disagreeing is bad?
It feels like churches think that the reason we aren’t better or nicer or more moral is because we don’t know enough. So our job is to sit and listen to someone smarter and wiser tell us what to do, and then we go apply it.
We don’t critically think, or wonder if they are saying anything wrong or unwise. They just slap a Christian label on a book or movie or person and we gulp it down. They don’t even suggest they could be saying anything wrong or unwise. Because The Bible Says. So, obviously.
I don’t know why our churches are so afraid of diversity, of valid differing opinions. I’ve been told ‘it’s ok that you think different.’ And that may be true. But it feels like what is going unsaid is ‘you’re wrong, but we still like you.’
It’s not a case of ‘you have a different view that is just as true as my view.’
Because if that was the case, then the church would be affirming of, and presenting differing views and opinions, all rooted in Jesus, of course. But no. It’s always one way, our way, the right way, and we will support you on your journey to find the right way. Because that’s the unspoken goal. Allegiance to an ideology, to a building.
“When we act in the world on behalf of the mistreated, oppressed, forgotten and marginalized, we’re acting out the love of God in flesh of blood. This will often involve resistance, specifically resistance to the things that God is against, from injustice to violence to indifference to a number of other ways we turn from the path God has for us. So yes, [we] want a God who’s against, and [we] need people who are also against to show us that that God is real.” – Rob Bell
I disagree and I have opinions, because in being for that large group who has left church, I am against the beliefs and practices that compelled them to leave. I’m against that which continues to isolate and alienate those who are gone. I’m against the beliefs and practices that crush and invalidate those of us who are staying, but just barely.
My disagreements are my way of saying, ‘this is hurting, this isn’t healthy, this is oppressive, this is limiting, this is offensive.’ I seem to be critical because I’m against brickianity.
Because why would someone want to find Jesus, find community, in a place that needlessly offends, builds walls that don’t need to be there, that repeatedly affirms you are not a good enough Christian because you are different? Where is the flexibility, the trampolines for the millions of us who need them?
I disagree and critique because I am against the abuse and limitations, the emotional and spiritual violence inherent in the system.
And until churches realize they are the ones creating and upholding this system, I will continue to cry, help, help, I’m being repressed, and church will not be a healthy place for me.
This post is linking up for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week. Check out the other stories.