The title may lend itself to more of a follow up piece than what is contained here, because I also have a lot of love for SO many who find peace and community at church. I read a lot, and usually bookmark what I “may want to possibly consider thinking about responding to later,” but this felt right on time today as I saw posts sharing in agreement for why it’s the absent church-goers fault for not fitting in or having their heart right. It’s not always the fault of the person who is having the sweaty panic attacks or running screaming from the church walls, and I believe more often than not that “blame” is misplaced while those who are hurting continue suffering.
Below is my reaction to an article written recently by Barry Cameron, Senior Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church related to those who don’t want to go to church. While I have a great deal of respect for Barry and the work he and his family continue to do, my heart sank when I read this article. His words are passionate and while there are words I can give nod to, for the parts I believe are missing from the bigger picture, I make space below:
The original post: https://www.crossroadschristian.org/blogs/blog/117658885-if-you-don-t-go-to-church-can-you-still-go-to-heaven
I have read many posts online saying the words in Cameron’s article are, “Harsh words, but biblically sound and correct.” They might be harsh, but for me they don’t take into account each person’s experience. Blanket statements ‘never’ work – like, ‘those who gripe the most give the least’ – not always true. Nothing is ever always something. (See what I did there :)). And quite honestly, what better way to silence very painful stories, than to proclaim that those who are the loudest are actually the ones contributing the least. That lathers them in shame them before they’ve ever had a chance to find their voice.
The focus is on those who claim they are unwilling, uninterested and comments discuss those who go so far as to say they “hate” church. There are people who may 100% in fact hate church, and I can understand that!… but I suggest underneath what presents as hate, might rather be fear, sadness, or hurt, but mostly fear.
Side note: Having read numerous articles recently on the amount of sexual abuse covered up in various denominations, I believe strongly that the conversation around sex in many churches needs to change. It needs to be talked about more, and parents need tools to help address more openly and at earlier ages. A child will not know she/he has been touched inappropriately, unless someone has consistently had conversations with them about appropriate touch and what to do if something feels uncomfortable to them. Even my own child, who I would do anything to protect, knows if anything ever feels uncomfortable, like when I tickle him or we wrestle, he has complete voice in tell me he doesn’t like something and can set his own boundaries… as well as anybody else that should ever make him feel uncomfortable or trapped. He learns to set those boundaries with me and knows I have his back if/when he sets them with others.
We can’t afford the “sex talk” to remain confined, uncomfortable and as irresponsible as, “Don’t you dare do it before marriage,” if we really want young people growing into partnerships where they find freedom in healthy sex, instead of bondage from ‘mistakes.’ Children who grow up in that type of environment, whether directly abused, having navigated inappropriate seductive energy, or are shamed to pieces when anything in their life goes ‘wrong,’ (sexually or not) can, and often do, run full-speed away from “the church” because it’s not safe. – It’s a dangerous place. – They don’t know who they can trust.
It can by all appearances ‘seem’ like people have good intentions, but “Even when the safest person says, ‘I love you,’ if the one on the receiving end has experienced great pain at the hands of another using the same language… love becomes terrifying.”
It’s not that they “hate” love, but their mind and heart recall the experience of being loved as one fraught with pain and they are physically unable to tolerate the feelings it gives them.
In more than one passage, we read, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” When the relationship is positive, the message is truth and motivations are pure, I believe many disagreements can stem from not having the ears to hear the message at the time it’s given. It is not the fault of the listener, but the result of her/his past experiences that shut them down, often without them even being aware that’s what is happening.
In my practice, and other life relationships, I often have the privilege of working with many who have experienced spiritual/religious abuse at some unimaginable depths. Some prefer to be at the lake on Sunday morning, while others are exhausted and feel like they’re suffocating by the time the weekend arrives; it becomes their only time to take a breath. For too many others, underneath their very justified anger, are deep deep wounds and a mountain range of fear.
Some people hate the church, and are angry with God for that matter, for what happened to them or their families. But mostly, they don’t ‘hate’ the church and aren’t ‘unwilling’ or ‘uninterested,’ as much as it terrifies them. Instead of quoting scripture and pointing fingers of blame, I love when priests, ministers and those who have found peace and community within the church environment, take the time to join in one another’s stories and allow the “haters” to be seen, known and fully welcomed as they experience a new kind of authentic love.