A Global Apology

The apology is (usually) a powerful thing. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears, but when it is sincere and contrite and is met with grace, it can change the world.

I have been in conversations both past and recent about what the church has done to people in the name of the gospel and it just makes me so angry. It’s abuse. Grand scale church leadership abuse has been in the news lately but the smaller, subtler, more nuanced cases are what’s on my mind today.

A few years ago I hosted a group of folks from the LGBTQ community and World Vision in my home to talk about a partnership with the WV AIDS Village experience. I’m not sure that much came of that, but what did come of that was much more beautiful and fruitful than I could’ve imagined. As we were having our conversations, some of the people in the room began to talk about the pain and rejection they’d experienced at the hands of the church and as they told their stories, I looked them in the eyes and apologized. I apologized for their pain, the feeling that they were less than the rest of us, and the message that God couldn’t love them. They were shocked. They didn’t know what to do. They wept. It’s not that I was doing anything remarkable, just doing something that should have been done a long time ago, and probably should still be happening on a regular basis.

Recently I’ve dealt with people, specifically women, who are dealing with more subtle, insidious types of abuse meted out by the church. The tough part about this is that these women are the victims of a cultural view of Christianity perpetrated by people who think they are honestly doing the right thing. As progressive as some of my friends are, they’re realizing some of the misogynistic crap that has seeped into their own psyches. Some friends are just now realizing the bill of goods they’ve been sold and are running in the opposite direction.

I’ve been processing what I’ve heard and experiencing genuine sorrow on behalf of my friends who are so hurt and damaged by what they’ve been told by the church about who they are and about about who God is, and I feel my best response can come in the form of an apology. If moderate Muslims are constantly called upon to denounce the behavior of the craziest members of their group, then I can do the same.

I’m sorry that through the use of masculine language for God we told you that you were not quite made in God’s image. Language is the key to culture, and our language says that God is all things male, so since you’re not, you must be missing something. You must be less than. You must be destined to be a second class citizen in church. You must cover your head, be silent, play piano, teach only children and clean up after pot luck meals. Using masculine language for God limits God. It puts God into our more manageable, patriarchal cultural box but it’s not who God is. God transcends gender and we all contain the stamp of God’s image in us. All of us.

I’m sorry that you were told that your body exists to serve your husband. I’m sorry you were told (either explicitly or implicitly) that you really weren’t a full member of the community unless you had a husband. I’m sorry that you were told that faith was something to be endured rather than relished. I’m sorry you weren’t told that God has such crazy, irrational love for you that God can’t contain it and it spills over in the form of beauty, and friends, and great food, and art. I’m sorry that you heard that you had to work more than you could celebrate. I’m sorry you were told that the kingdom of God is something to be achieved after you die and has nothing to do with the world now. I’m sorry you weren’t told of the gospel as a loving, courageous person who restores the outcast to full spiritual participation. I’m sorry that God’s desire to change the world through the church was sold to you as a burden, an obligation, and only for the select few who were in the right crowd.

I’m sorry. I want better for you, for the church and for the world. I will support you. I will listen to you, pray for you, sit with you and walk with you as you become who you truly are. You are beautiful, you are loved and you are valued. You matter. And I love you.

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Change of Scenery

Yesterday I got out of town for a bit. I’ve been experiencing some personal unpleasantness, and when I have to deal with unpleasant feels I typically want to change something. Right now. While change is something that most people run from, change is my coping skill of choice. A haircut, a new outfit, even looking for new (internal) job opportunities. I just want to change something. I know. I’m in therapy.

I’ve got a big vacation coming up in just 25 days but that wasn’t soon enough. My Friday plans were cancelled and I stayed home watching recorded TV and was bored out of my mind and didn’t want to sit with some of my discomfort at home, so I decided to take it on the road. Fortunately, I live about an hour-ish from some pretty decent scenery and cooler weather so I filled up Fiona’s tank and we headed first to Jerome, then to Sedona.

The day was all about seeing things differently and letting things go that don’t belong to me. I have a hard time letting go. I’m a control freak anyway, but when I want something, I cling to all hope like grim death before conceding defeat. I hate conceding. I had to concede something this week and it pissed me off. So I went into the woods because I wished to concede deliberately, and I feel like I did. Mostly. It’s a process.

When I arrived in Sedona, I passed a sign advertising a Taize service at 7pm that evening at a local Episcopal church. I felt like I needed to attend, but it wasn’t for a few hours so I kept driving down into Oak Creek Canyon and stopped off to sit outside and listen to the water and just be for a bit. The traffic heading back into Sedona was horrendous so I wasn’t sure I’d make it, but wouldn’t you know it – I rolled into the church parking lot at 6:59.

It was a really nice service. There was a small but diverse collection of parishioners there who genuinely seemed to care for each other. It’s a church I might attend if I lived there. (side note: why are all the churches – and men –  that seem to suit me located hundreds of miles away?). I didn’t have a life-altering experience, didn’t see a light, hear an audible voice, but was quietly reminded, both during the service and all day, of God’s bigger plan.

I don’t know what’s up for me, on most, if not all, fronts. I’ve never felt that my move to Phoenix was permanent, and I still don’t, but I’m here for now. I don’t know what career opportunities are going to come up for me, but I’m grateful to work for a global company so I could theoretically go anywhere. As I said, I don’t like conceding, especially when I feel like I have a positive vision of what the future could be, but that’s what I’m doing. So I left town. And it was a very good day.

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Back to the Couch

Last week I started back into the therapy. I’ve periodically gone back in for a tune-up and now I feel it’s time. I connected with a woman called Stephanie through a work benefit and am entitled to 8 whole sessions of being de-crazied. Of course the question, “Why are you here?” comes first. Umm…well…there’s no precipitating event. I’m just experiencing some mild depression, lack of motivation, and some irrational thoughts that I think are holding me back so I want to get some of that adjusted. Stephanie is an older, east-coaster person who comes from a more cognitive-behavioral model (which I like) and is very direct. I promise you there is nothing like having someone sit across from you in a tiny room and repeat back to you what you just said and look a you like you are, in fact, nuts. She doesn’t even pretend. She’s not touchy-feely, which I think would drive me bonkers. The things that I say in my head really are nuts. Like crazy nuts. When you have to say them out loud to another person it definitely motivates you to change them.

I went to see Mz. Stephanie, LMFT, MSW, the day I began the moving process, and was packing and starting to stress out about it all, so I threw on a black t-shirt, gray yoga pants and a gray jacket. I briefly considered a light blue t-shirt (this will become important later), but I went for the black. At one point we were discussing certain types of personal interactions that make me uncomortable, and I told her that I have ways of keeping people at bay that make me feel better. I was referring to my social awkwardness or my withering wit, but she went for the wardrobe, “So, you wear black, drab colors as a way to keep people away from you.” NO! I wear lots of colors! I almost wore blue! Blast! I kind of want to come to the next session all dolled up & wearing bright colors just to show her. Honestly, of all the crazy she pointed out, the thing that bothered me most was that wardrobe comment. I am that shallow. Is it wrong that I want to dress up for therapy?