All views are solely mine and not necessarily the perspective of any group in which I am associated.
Many times as a younger person, I was hurt by Christianity.
Most of those times it’s been from people of the Evangelical perspective. When I was in college, I was told by a Christian counselor that I needed to dump a boyfriend because he wasn’t a Christian. In my 30’s, I was told that I wasn’t going to be allowed in heaven because I different views on salvation. I was told that I was in that same decade, I also had to stand up to a pastor because he dismissed me after I told them that his pro-marriage views belittled me. I had to stand up to him because he wouldn’t sell a property to people of another major religion because they didn’t hold the “truth.” And he told me that he couldn’t support me to go into the ministry if I believed that people who are LGBT should be allowed to be married or ordained.
I’ve seen how some Christians have told a City Manager who is transgender that Jesus would want her fired. I’ve seen how people with these perspectives have shamed women who have been raped or had abortions.
(Before we go any further, I’d like to say this: many who consider themselves Evangelical are absolutely NOT like this. A few have tarnished the reputation of the many. If you consider yourself Evangelical but do not identify with the above, I acknowledge and appreciate your perspective. Likewise, there are many fellow Mainline Protestants that can be equally judgmental.)
Pieces of my soul have been itching to recover from my spiritual injuries. And they’ve left not just scars but scar tissues that flares when triggered by words and sentences.
And yet, I’ve refused to let them kick me out of the Body of Christ. Instead, I’ve felt responsible to continue to be a part of the Body of Christ and create spaces that welcome and include people.
I’ve been working for years to make sure to care for my wounds that continue to reopen and keep the wounds covered so as not to infect my ministry. Yet there are some piece of my experience that I never want another young person (or anyone) to experience, and I will reflect deeply to make sure to separate my wounds from the reality of the situation. But I will also reflect deeply to ensure those who I minister to are emotionally and spiritually safe.
There’s never been a unified Christianity. Ever. It’s a myth. Right after the time of Jesus, the early Jesus movement folks were arguing about the necessity of following the purity issues and circumcision. Even today, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and Evangelical Protestants range from liberal to conservative. Assuming that a person has certain beliefs and values solely based on their religion or their place of worship is damaging to them, us, and the church. It’s truly important to speak to each individual before making assumptions about their theology.
I suppose we all “other” some Christians who believe differently than we do. Who gives us the right to establish a purity test for the faith? Yet as leaders in the faith, we should be in relationship with people who think differently and learn something from our relationship with them them even when we are called to create programs that fall in line with our ethics and values. I don’t expect a person on a different side of the Body to be pro-choice. However, I will not support programs or perspectives which condemns those with my view and those that try to inject shame into our faith community or spiritual lives.
Saying that you must believe (Fill in the Blank) in order to be a Christian is blasphemy. There are Christians who are pro-life, some who are anti-choice, and some who are pro-choice. There are Christians who believe in the sacrificial death of Jesus and others who believe that it was Jesus’ life that brought salvation to the world.
- You can believe in excluding refugees in our country and still call yourself a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
- You can believe in complimentarianism (different roles for women and men) and still call yourself a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
- You can believe that a marriage is only between a man and woman and be a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
- You can think some people need to change before calling themselves a Christian and still call yourselves a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity that deems anyone not made in the image of God as they are today.
My challenge is this: When I am faced with allowing these competing perspectives into the places where I lead and into our programs, I take on a Mama Bear approach. Because these perspectives often exclude and shame people in the name of Christ, I want to protect others from having to go through what I have endured. I want them to experience Christianity in a more-loving and open way than I have experienced it.
So from this Mama Bear in the Pulpit to you – I’m doing my best to balance unity in the Body of Christ and ensuring that the spaces for which I’m responsible are filled with theology and ethics that stand for love. I’m trying my best to expose people to other Christian perspectives in dialogue but distance ourselves from those who say what Christianity MUST be. As an ordained person, I have a responsibility to reach out to people across the Body, and I have a responsibility to create faith formation that represents a loving, accepting, and inclusive Christ. I have a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable people experience safety for their bodies, minds, and souls as much as possible. All of this is a tough balance. I’ll keep doing the best I can in my service to God, neighbor, and Church.