I don’t want to leave you.
But I will if you make me.
And make no mistake, the fault would be yours.
I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry. More sorry than you will ever know. Because this year has been hard and I need you. We need each other, and I don’t want to do this. You’ve been so good to me. You’ve been there for everything. The weddings and funerals. You brought food after the babies and when my son was in the hospital. You’ve taught me so much. You brought me closer to God. You offer me counsel and counseling. My husband is on the worship team and my children love seeing their friends at Awana. I know you try hard. But this is about so much more than lasagnas and Vacation Bible school.
This is not about our Bible or our pastor (who is an amazing, kind and accepting man). It’s not about a Ladies’ Bible Study or a Small Group and it’s not even about one specific church. These examples are only symptoms of a much larger problem. And, while I’m sure I’ve played my part, I don’t think it’s really about me this time.
This is about a hurting world and all its pain.
This is about the place that should offer healing becoming a place that inflicts additional wounds.
This is about how a few years ago I brought a close Mormon friend to our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. After a few visits she politely declined to return. I didn’t understand why she seemed uncomfortable, but I shrugged it off. Maybe she just didn’t want to leave her babies in the nursery. It was not a big deal, we kept having our playdates at our houses instead. Then a few days ago I was engaged in a Facebook conversation with some people from our congregation. One man who is not local pointed to a Bible verse to justify his opinion that Mormons knocking on neighborhood doors to share their faith were visiting “in the spirit of the anti-Christ” and that as the true Christians we “shouldn’t give them the time of day.” Others suggested calling the police on the them. Then in the same conversation, those same people said they didn’t understand why the Mormon children in their neighborhoods weren’t allowed to play with their own kids.
I thought I started to understand.
This is about how I’ve wanted so many times to invite our friends to hear my husband’s band play at a church event and deleted the email because those friends were Jewish, or agnostic, or members of the LGBTQ community. I knew I had no control over what you would say to them. I didn’t know what two married moms would hear upon checking their son or their daughter into the Sunday school room. I didn’t know if a Jewish child would be told to his face by another 6-year-old that he would go to hell. I can’t subject them to that and it is getting exhausting lying to myself about why I am welcome somewhere and they are not. I’m tired of leading seperate lives where we have “church friends” and “regular friends.”
This is about how I had to walk out of a service once before the sermon because the video mocking people who believed bathrooms shouldn’t be held to a strict gender code was so offensive. The purpose of the video seemed to be to make viewers laugh at the teenagers who had a difficult time answering the poorly worded questions designed to confuse them. I felt horrible for any member of disenfranchised communities who may have been visiting the church for the first time that day. Was their first impression to hear us in that room mocking them? What do you think you are doing to welcome disenfranchised youth? I hope this is not it. I am not transgender, but they could have asked me the same questions. I would have told them how as a mother to an almost-eleven-year-old son with disabilities, sometimes I need to be in the bathroom with him. I could have told them about how when my grandmother was dying someone needed to help her in the bathroom, and if my father was there sometimes that someone was going to have to be him. Would the room have found those answers so hilarious?
This is about that time my husband and I took a Sunday school class together and afterwards I asked him if he thought the women were allowed to pray. He asked me what I was talking about, why wouldn’t they be? I told him to watch. For the next five weeks, despite the fact that there was a higher percentage of women in the class, every single time we were asked to pray out loud only the men spoke. After that they asked if we wanted to become members. I told my husband he was welcome to join if he wanted to (he declined). We love the people and the activities. But I was not about to become a member of a church when I still couldn’t even tell if I was allowed to pray.
This is about the fact that we’ve been attending the same church regularly for nine years and in all that time I’ve never seen a guest speaker on a Sunday who was a person of color and I’ve only seen one speaker who was a woman. Or maybe this is a case of “there was that guy who spoke there that one time back in 2011” and I just so happened to miss it?
This is about seeing Confederate flags on pickup trucks in church parking lots and hearing claims that they are about “heritage” while we are actually standing in a Union state, in a town that was occupied by enemy Confederate forces during the Civil War, in the county adjacent to Adams (where Gettysburg is located).
This is about the messages we are sending.
This is about using scripture to justify intolerance.
This is about the fact that I’ve sat with several women and listened as they used scripture to justify their husbands’ abusive behavior.
This is about all of the private messages you don’t see where my “regular friends” ask me Who is that and why on Earth are you friends with someone who thinks that way? after you say something on my feed you don’t even realize is hateful. I have a foot in two different worlds and I love you, Christian friends, just as much as I love them. But your words and your actions are cutting people down and I can’t associate myself with that much longer. If you are going to make me choose, I will go to the people who have been hurt.
This is about all of the times I asked why women can’t be pastors or elders and was told there was no biblical precedent. So I asked about Phoebe. (In Rom 16:1 she is referred to as a servant of the Church of Cenchrea. In the original Greek, it is the same root word used to describe other deacons.) I’ve been told that when that word is used in the context as it applies to Phoebe (who may or may not have been a deacon, but was a woman so…) we can’t be sure. I also asked about Deborah. Deborah was a female judge. They spoke to my question about Phoebe instead.
This is not at all about my spiritual Relationship. Or maybe it is. Because, you see, I’m finding that at the moment your religion is getting in the way of it. And right now that Relationship is in the best place it has ever been. You might not know me very well if you are just joining me, but I’ve been through quite a bit. More in the past six months than many people have to face in a lifetime. The ten years before that were also quite challenging. You don’t get through those kinds of trials without leaning heavily on God. So, my Relationship is in a very good place.
But in order to keep it that way, I need to make some changes. That’s why you might not see me on Sunday. My husband will still be there with my children. Like all of us, they’ll need to make those decisions for themselves. They are in a different place and I’m okay with that. They want to be the salt. They want to offer a different perspective. And, God love them, they want to be there to welcome whoever might show up, just in case other faces and mouths are not quite as welcoming. But, at this moment in my life, I am finding that I am fresh out of patience for this behavior. I need a few minutes to recharge. I’m beginning to see that, while I love you Dear Church, some things about you are too toxic for me to handle. And I think you and I both know that toxic relationships are not healthy. My prayer in the meantime is for the church to work on healing itself. For my own mental health, I need a break. I can both love God and step away from this for a minute.
You’ll see me around. I’ll be at Eddie’s shows. I’ll drop my kids off at events. Maybe I’ll get to the place where my husband is. I’d like to be able to show up again on Sundays. But for now I just can’t do that. I need you to promise me you’ll try harder, okay? In the meantime, I’ll still be here. I’ll still love the dear friends we made and cherish those relationships.
But we need to talk about this.
Thanks for listening.