Dear Church,

I've been meaning to write to you for quite some time. But writing, while something that flows naturally from me, has never been something I've enjoyed. I overthink my word choices, worry about my grammar and remind myself that someone, somewhere else in the world could write more eloquently than me. (Or should it be "than I?" Here we go again...) But a few things have convinced me to start writing, regardless of where that writing goes:

  1. A friend told me that my words on paper were powerful and incisive. Encouragement from a friend is what persuaded me to become a counselor. Sometimes the positive feedback from a loving individual is enough to change our course in life.

  2. Another person asked me the question of whether I felt like I had a lot to say. While I oftentimes freeze in the moment during face to face conversation, I do find boldness in my pen. (Or keyboard). I often feel that I am bursting at the seams with things to say but find communication with my mouth more difficult. Perhaps this will be an outlet for whatever helpful messages I can muster.

  3. I've never been one to turn down an opportunity for new hobbies. So honestly, why not try blogging? I can always stop if I wish to.

  4. And lastly, trust between the two of us was significantly damaged a few years ago. You caused more pain in my life than I can barely begin to describe. While there have been a number of friendships that I have grieved and been willing to let go of for the sake of my own safety, you have not been a friend that I have been willing to let go of yet but have a lot of unresolved feelings towards. I think this is, in part, because you have done so much good in my life. The safe people who worship with you (as well as the safe people who do not worship you) have been responsible for the very healing that I needed in order to recover from the damage you caused. It's as if I was healing in the same hospital that brought me my sickness. But I am tired of sweeping the damage you did to me and to so many others, under the rug of your blessings. I need to be able to speak to you honestly. While I am in many ways, a very private person who lets her guard down only with a select few, there is another side to me that needs to show herself publicly. I'm not completely sure of where that side comes from. I oftentimes wish that I was a completely private individual. It leaves less room for judgment from others. Perhaps this need helps me to face my fears and live in freedom. Regardless of where this side of me comes from, I feel that the world needs to see you and I having it out with one another. Is that not what the Bible is, in many ways? Public acknowledgements of how fallen "godly" people really are? It is often an emotional testimony of the atrocities done by individuals who are devoted more to how they interpret scripture than they are to God's Spirit. The loving Father has never hidden, in his own biography, the abuse that people in His own community have encountered. Why should anyone else? Do we not have faith in the promise that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more?" (Romans 5:20)


A Declaration of Division


The amount of sermons that I have heard in my fairly short lifetime about how the church's problems are due to division and rebelliousness truly makes me nauseous. This simplistic statement has been used time and again to sweep the stories of abuse and manipulation that people who seek life but find death encounter, under a very large rug. Under that rug are the screams of pain and injustice that desperately need answered. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 4:10 when God speaks with Cain "“What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.". The injustice of Abel's death might not have been audible to anyone else, but it was not silent.


I am tired of mega- and mini-church pastors alike, trying to pin a singular diagnosis on why there are problems in the church. Do we really need a scapegoat for our own depravity? Can we not talk openly about the patterns of manipulation, coercion, and emotional abuse that we cause to one another, whether it be intentional or not, without that conversation and all of its emotional components, being deemed as rebellious or prideful? If that conversation causes a division among people, I truly believe that division is something that Jesus would be in support of. Did he not spend his life speaking on topics that the religious elite shied away from? Did he not warn his disciples that the work he had for them would in fact, cause healthy division? (Matthew 10).


You, (the church) must be willing to look inward and be willing to have conversations about the systemic abuses that you cause. If your members can only manage to have conversations about individual occurrences, while that is nice, it is not effective. We all know the saying "If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn". If you teach a person to apologize for individual problems but fail to teach them about how the system plays into these occurrences, you are simply allowing for those problems to continue in the long run while allowing those individuals to feel that they did all they could to resolve those problems. It enables people to sleep soundly at night while the voices under that very large rug go un-answered.


A Guilty Party

I am declaring division, not against you necessarily, but against practices and systemic issues that you are often unwilling to speak against. Issues and practices that I previously partook in myself because I have fallen components to my being. The least favorite parts of myself shone most (brightly?) when I involved myself in communities that claimed to represent you but practiced authoritarianism more than they preached the gospel of freedom. The version of myself that I have become most proud of has been the version that was willing to separate herself from communities that breathed such air. What I write is directed towards you and in many ways, towards my old life. I participated in the toxic practices that you modeled to me from my very young teenage years. I will spend the rest of my life speaking against those toxic practices, creating buzz around these topics, and playing as imperfect as a role as I can in making change.


Whether or not you will listen, I will speak. The dusty pile under your heavenly rug is growing too large to ignore.


Love,

Sarah





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