I genuinely love the Church. I love what it can be and what it has been for so many people. It has been “a shelter in the time of a storm,” the hub of Black communities, the dispenser of aid and clothing, and even the provider of education. The institution has helped my people when America did not deem us but ¾ human.
Unfortunately, the church has also hurt quite a few people. It was the central hub of the community, but it was also the place that many attended due to cultural norms or just plain communal guilt, as opposed to genuine relationship with Jesus or the desire to draw nearer to our Precious Lord.
It is the latter of these two statements that hurts the heart of this Pastor, for the former statement isn’t negated by the latter, but the pain of the latter drowns the reality of the former. Said plainly, Church should be the safe yet shaping place where sinners are drawn near to God AND the place where needs are met, and not a place of guilt and harm. It is in the reality of the latter that the ex-churched find themselves.
A few days ago, a group of Black Pastors sat around the table with the President of the United States to discuss Prison reform and other issues pertinent to “the inner city.” (Quotations are used because this term always seems to be associated with the Black Church. It is far from all encompassing.)
There were many statements made, one being that the Trump Administration would be one of the most “pro-black administrations of (his) lifetime.” At large, Black America seems to disagree with that Pastor’s sentiments and the whole meeting.
To the ex-churched, this was the nail in the coffin, for how could one even sit down at the same table with a President whose rhetoric rarely seemed friendly towards, or even of aid to the Black community?
It is this meeting that personally brought to the surface the depth of pain caused by the church over the years. I believe this quote from a friend sums it up well.
“ I can no longer disentangle Evangelicalism/Christianity from racism in America. To me, they dovetail. It’s all anti-brown/black, homophobic, xenophobic and rooted in hate. I will continue to respect those who follow the tradition.” – Anonymous
That saddens this Pastor, for I know what the church can be and what it has been for many people. Unfortunately, the church has hurt quite a few people.
Ephesians has really been blessing my soul lately. Jammed throughout this letter is amazing advice about how to honor each other as members of the Body of Christ. We are taught that we each are given a gift and that no unwholesome of unhelpful talk should come out of our mouths. We are taught how to honor our spouse in the same way that Christ gave up himself for the Church.
It saddens me that the body of Christ has yet to get to a place where, actively and for the majority of the time, we are building people up using the principles of Scripture as opposed to creating our own statements of oppression, I mean statements of belief.
This meeting shows us, purely from the diversity of opinion that came out as backlash, as well as the growing number of people disgusted with the church, that we owe so many people an apology, and we also owe them the opportunity to come into His Holy Temple and to be treated like a King and Queen because of the sacrifice of Christ. We cannot continue to act like we wrote the rulebook of holiness, we cannot continue being afraid of engaging the educated populous’ questions regarding faith, and we cannot be afraid to strengthen our lived experience with education.
Frankly, we’re missing the mark. We are intoxicated with “my life is going to get better,” without any regard for building communities, rooted in Prayer and Scripture, that provides the structure for it to get better.
Regardless of where you fall on this meeting, what would it take for the church to be a safe place again? What would it take to open your wounds to Christ with my wounds at his feet as well, together…side by side?
The church isn’t perfect. None of us are, but maybe we need your critical eye to get there.