A letter

Posted on 11 Jun 2010 in Breathe | 0 comments

I wrote a letter today. And old-fashioned, pen-to-paper kind of letter. It started out as an exercise, merely to eradicate some of my own demons from the past. The plan: write a letter to someone who had corrupted my vision of art and beauty. But it turned into something a bit more. It turned into reflections on life, practice, and the reputation of the Church in today’s society. In my field, I engage with thousands of people who have been wounded by churches. And thousands more who have been wounded by people within those churches. The predominant complaint has been – I thought that Christians were supposed to be different! I don’t have any issues with Jesus, but I have loads of issues with his followers. There’s even a film with the title “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers“.
Christians that I know mostly fall into two camps. First, there’s the group that tend to be a bit volatile – they fulfil every stereotype that is splashed across the media. They tend to politic almost as religiously as they attend their Sunday services. Their lives and claims are earmarked with verbal violence and judgment. They tend to interpret the Bible literally and are relatively devoid of irony. Many of them even had significant issues with A.J. Jacobs and his experiment with The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. The second group tends to be on the apologetic side. Our favourite phrase is probably “I’m a Christian BUT…” And they fill in the blank with whatever phrase is necessary for that particular conversation. This is something I find myself saying on a regular basis. There are others who fall in the spectrum of these two extremes, of course.
It seems that something has gone significantly wrong with the Church if half of us have to apologize for who we are. But more than that, it’s a tragic thing when those of us apologizing are the ones cleaning up the messes of those who are the most vocal. And I think that’s why my letter this morning became such a rant of frustration and hurt. Because the person who did the damage will never have to face the consequences of his actions. He gets to sit in a place of pride in a prominent congregation, praised and complemented for his exceptional skills and gifts. But the collateral damage along his path has been extensive. And those of us who simply try to ‘do the stuff’ it says in the New Testament wind up becoming a hospital for the spiritually wounded.
If the Church were truly being the Church, there would be less and less of this collateral damage, and further, people would be held accountable for the wastelands left in their own wake.
Many of you might have issues with the Church. I get that… after all, I’m one of the group who say, “I’m a Christian BUT…” And for all of us, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we blew it whenever we blew it. I’m really sorry that almost all of us are walking basket-cases. And I’m sorry that we displace our own senses of inadequacy and self-loathing onto others. But as long as we’re talking, maybe you could give me some help. You see, I know where this guy still is. I can get in touch with him easily enough. So I’m wondering from all of you who don’t have the same faith-based hang-ups I do…
Should I send this letter? Should I hold him accountable for his collateral damage?
And further…
If you had one request for the Church today, what would it be? I’m looking for deep, raw honesty. If you want us all to go away, that’s a fair answer. But if there’s something else, could you tell me?
As someone destined to be in this for awhile, I want to know how to change. How to be better. How to stop apologizing and start fixing. I need your help.

Photo by: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net