***Reader beware: this is a raw post. If you disagree with some of what follows, I understand. If it upsets you, I’m sorry. I’m upset. This is me trying to figure out what in the world is going on around me and in me. I am trying to just name where I am right now and I’m trusting God is meeting me here. I’m still a work in progress.
There are sometimes when the frenetic activity of the world in which I’ve grown up in reaches a fever pitch and it really affects me. This world I mention is the Christian world in North America. It’s certainly been on a low boil for awhile. That’s probably not the best metaphor, but consider this: evangelicals love affair with and unequivocal support of Trump, patriotic worship services in megachurches where they sing “Make America Great Again, the deafening silence around unaccountable (and un-indicted/acquitted) police officers increasing the black body count, the ridiculous questions about whether Christian women can blog without male pastor approval, the fear-inducing rhetoric surrounding refugees and immigrants, the political litmus tests for ministry positions…
And now, one of the most influential pastors and writers I know, Eugene Peterson, says he would perform a same-sex wedding and the Christian Twitterverse loses their collective “mind”–many outright questioning his eternal destiny, pulling copies of his amazing paraphrase of the Bible (The Message) from bookstore shelves, and sharing how “disappointed” they are in him.
I suppose I’m disappointed, too. But not with Pastor Peterson.
More to the point: I’m embarrassed. I’m sad. I’m angry. And I’m sorry.
I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that professors from my alma mater are suggesting that someone who disagrees with them over this issue are in danger of eternal torment in hell. (I won’t hyperlink to that one here…sorry) I’m embarrassed that the bookstore I used to work for years ago is preparing to act on the decision to pull copies of The Message Bible over this one interview. (They do this specifically when authors come out with a Pro-LGBT position, like Jen Hatmaker did.)
***PS Lifeway does still choose to carry a book by Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, who wrote The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again . Starnes also argues against the removal of confederate statues (comparing politically liberal people to ISIS), thinks Trump’s election was divine intervention, and calls immigrants “enemy invaders”. But yeah, keep selling his books and stop selling The Message (which is a paraphrase of Scripture-the product of years of ministry in trying to connect the Scripture to everyday people).
I’m sad. I’m sad that these sort of polarizing statements get the most press and that this is what we are known for: arguing over issues. I’m sad that more people in the LGBTQ community will have more (justifiable) reasons for keeping people of faith at a distance while still longing for personal and spiritual connection. I’m sad that true dialogue about our differing understandings around interpreting scripture cannot happen without throwing bombs and labels at each other. We are so afraid.
I’m angry. I’m angry with the hurtful words that so many spew at one another. I am angry that this keeps happening. I’m angry that we continue to have these litmus tests for fellowship and communion. I’m angry that it seems to be getting worse and not better. I’m angry that when I say I’m a Christian to my neighbors, they often associate me with this sort of hate, vitriol, and nonsense. I’m angry that we can seem to still be ok reading and endorsing the works of those who have come before us who fully endorsed slavery, treated their wives and children horribly, endorsed the extermination of different ethnicities and the physical punishment of people who disagreed with their beliefs, and thought of women as second-class citizens (i.e. Edwards, Whitfield, Wesley, the Puritans, Augustine, etc,) But this is the line in the sand? I’m angry that I continue to be angry and don’t know what to do next.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry if any of this hurt you. I’m sorry if it stirred up things for you. I’m sorry that the name of Jesus continues to be pulled through the mud. I’m sorry that we get it wrong way more than we get it right. I’m sorry to those of you who have been deeply hurt by the words of those on all sides, including my own. I’m sorry to my LGBTQ sisters, brothers, and friends who again feel like an “issue” more than a person because of responses like this. I’m sorry that your pain is compounded again and again. And I’m sorry for failing to be a loving and attentive neighbor to you.
In some ways, this feels like a break-up letter to my conservative, American, evangelical past and present. But more so, it’s just a letter of heart-break and disillusionment. In trying to follow Jesus as best as I know how, I am finding it more and more difficult to be in your world. I just don’t understand it anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me. And it hurts to read your words.
But I also feel a bit spiritually homeless; like I don’t quite fit in any of these worlds we’ve constructed for ourselves. Like I don’t belong in the right club or something.
I will make the turn, in the end, to actively choose to trust in the unfailing love of God. But I have learned that trusting God means trusting God with all that we feel, think, and see. This is my lament. How long, O Lord? And help me know what it means to trust you. And to trust while I’m still very much embarrassed, sad, angry, and sorry,