Last Sunday (11/16) in a FB group I belong to a member confessed she just “lost her church (fellowship)” after sitting through a message which included statements about Christian principles being under attack because a bakery was sued for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The pastor told his congregants they needed to stand strong against such attacks. My friend left the service knowing she could not just keep trying to show “the other side of love”. She ended her comment to us with the question: “Why is it hurting so much?” Our group is very quick to love on moms going through this kind of pain after all the purpose of the group is to support Christian moms of LGBT identifying children and most of us have similar stories.
I have been a part of the group for about seven months now and it has nearly double in size since I joined (just over 300 members). Multiple times a day women in places of grief are respected, heard, and assured that they are not alone and it will get better. My answer to the above question is one I have shared in various forms multiple times.
It hurts because the very people who are supposed to show the world the love of Christ can not let go of their own fears, judgments, and pain long enough to realize they are passing those very things on to others. We seriously do not trust that God’s love for us is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, that it is unconditional, and that it is able to reach to everyone. I am sorry for your loss, for the pain. I am sorry, too, for theirs.
While I do see life getting better I am almost always struck by how deeply many of the women in my mom’s group feel the pain caused by broken fellowship, rejection, and ugly religious rhetoric. I am probably lucky to have moved as much as I have as an adult. My roots in one particular group (9 fellowships) were not so deep that moving on was especially painful. In addition, my last exodus was not caused by a child coming out as gay although his exodus from that fellowship was. His exit actually helped me understand the pain involved just a little since he had been deeply rooted.
Feeling deceived by the fellowships I have been a part actually overshadowed the pain of broken relationship. And, those feelings can be frightening and painful as well. Often those going through Church hurt due to rejection are left with lots of questions, one of which is almost always: How could I have been so foolish as to think they cared? These questions are followed by serious doubts as to whether we will ever trust such a fellowship again, even if we are able to find one. This combination of pain, fear, and doubt generally leads to loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness, none of which sound like the manifestations of a loving God to me.
I will forever be confused by my fellow Christians who believe in a place of never ending torment and who think rejecting entire groups of people suddenly lines up with God’s character as loving. And yet, through all of my childhood and most of my adulthood I held my own vague belief in hell. It was only after my thoughts of hell were blatantly challenged by a growing revelation that God truly is the manifestation of love that I understood how disjointed this thinking had been.
I found a huge disconnect between my experience of love (NOTE: 1 Corinthians 13) and the idea that God’s character would suddenly change and become very un-loving toward me if I didn’t lived up to the correct interpretation of scripture. I tried to imagine under what circumstances I could reject my own children but I could not come up with any. And so, I cannot understand people who while calling themselves Christians think one of their great callings in life is to model rejection, censure, and ugliness in our fellowships and to the world. These misguided souls–and they must be misguided or seriously tormented themselves to believe such things– honestly hold some twisted definition of agape love that allows it to include condemnation and abandonment.
People, like wounded animals, often lash out at others when they’re hurt, so I understand the pain turned to anger some of the women in my mom’s group feel toward the Church. Still, if we are going to be advocates of real change within Church walls we need to figure out how to love and educate, love and confront wrong thinking, love and speak the truth, love and in some cases let go, bow out, and refuse to engage. When those we have been holding onto refuse to let go of the beliefs and attitudes that harm and misrepresent the God of love we believe in, as well as our families, our best option is sometimes to let go, regroup, and move on.
I left a building several years ago but I did not leave the Church. I still believe in a benevolent Creator, a relational God. And, having left one building is not saying I won’t ever walk into another. Groups meet needs more effectively than individuals. Shared resources and energy often proves the adage “many hands make light work”. Help, meeting needs, providing services, developing fellowship becomes more reliable, accessible, and possible when multiple people pull together, share the burden, and spread the joy. Even though I have not yet found another, safer, building I still believe God’s creation is meant to work together and I have confidence that even if I need to look in the most unlikely places I will find others who try to reach out, choose to lift up, and want to share life.