So with that alone, it might be understandable for me to leave the table called Church. Especially since I already left the seminary and especially when, in my situation, so many people did not want to hear my story, were directed away from talking to me or didn’t believe me or handle it carefully at all when I did tell the story. Most of my non-Christian friends think it’s insane not to leave; though, they think the whole thing is an insane charade to being with…and it’s been a rare occasion when I’ve been able to argue against that with them in a way they’ll even listen to largely because I agree with them.
“Why would you continue going to a place where people claim to love each other but are really no different than any other organization or club?” “The Church has a long history of abuses, coverups for those abuses and failures to discipline those that commit them. Sure, every human-run organization does, too, but the Church is supposed to represent God, right?” “Speaking of God, even when we grant that people are fallible and imperfect, why doesn’t God do anything about the river of victims flowing from the Church?”
But for me to leave the Church would be speaking out both sides of my mouth. I hope I’ve shown that this is not just a flippant statement: I did leave for a while and have wanted to many times. I’ve heard it said that one of the hardest places to be new is Church (there is something deeply wrong with that). Then add on abuse of power and being cut off by leadership while the perpetrator is protected and the victim is pariah-ed and…well, good luck. But hypocrisy is detestable to me and so I can’t honestly sit here and bemoan being abandoned by my church if I’m going to turn around and abandon the Church myself. I want the Church to be better than it is and I don’t want to have to start a new one to get that (how well has that worked anyway?). I want the crushing isolation to end and not just because I’m really not finding much of God on my own.
I don’t leave the Church – the family of God, not my former one – just because I don’t want to be a hypocrite but because, as the friend at that unplanned meeting last week reminded me (his intention was clearly to preach to his own soul; he did not know how much mine needed to hear this, too): only God has the words of life; where else would we go? My best friend has said it this way a number of times recently: the Church is the only game in town.
But how does one called Difficult (by the Church, by her family, by many friends) begin to re-approach a community that has, in her perception, twisted “love” to “never say anything “negative” about anyone,” “peace” to “avoid hard issues,” “joy” to “never showing how devastatingly sad you are,” “hope” to “we don’t have to take responsibility for the messes we make because God will take care of everything” and “faith” to “stop asking questions, you’re not trusting God”? How does one who has never experienced fitting in herself but has watched from afar while others are accepted, loved and fought for rejoin the people who claim to welcome ‘whosoever’ will come? And how, Lord have mercy, how long will she have to wait for balm?