There are those who have never been hurt by religion. Yes, I know that’s hard to believe for some of us, but I’ve found it to be true. I’m very glad for those people and that they haven’t been through the pain it takes to fully comprehend what I’m talking about when I say that Christians can be manipulative and deeply hurtful, or that some of them have significantly damaged the hearts of thousands upon thousands of people.
I’ve certainly had great experiences with Christians and even churches, don’t get me wrong. And while it’s a dangerous thing to let yourself become bitter (been there, done that, got the festering ball of hate where my heart used to be) there’s nothing wrong with talking about your experiences. In fact, I’d say we are more bereft without your stories.
In general, we humans use guilt and shame as ways to derail any behavior we don’t like in others. (I’ll give the simple example of my grandmother once, after all other arguments had failed, telling my cousin he looked like a little girl with a dry laugh when he refused to get a haircut.) But we Christians have a little something I like to call Guilt-Plus. It’s got the scouring power of guilt along with the scrubbing bubbles of an angry deity. And some people aren’t afraid to use it when it comes to those who want to tell their stories of church-related pain.
Whenever someone opens up about the ways in which religion can be harmful when misused, those people are often shut down. Despite the fact that this information might 1) open up a dialogue about how to do a better job of guarding against these harmful practices and 2) let those who have been hurt and think they’re alone know that they are definitely not. Often, we’re told that we’re being divisive.
Guarding the Wolves Against the Sheep
“Jesus called us to be a unified front,” they might say, “and here you are trying to give the church a black eye.” But that’s a misuse of Jesus’ desire. His desire is that we would be one, yes. But that’s to be understood in light of his command to love one’s neighbor as themselves.
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, that family probably tried to put on a good face to the public while there was a sewer’s worth of smelly insanity going on behind closed doors. Sure, some people probably thought you had it all together, but it was a lie–not real unity.
A Big Fat Crowd of Love
Real unity happens when our brothers and sisters in Jesus who have been hurt by others—the least of these—are stood up for. Where love is the thing which creates a united front. It isn’t hiding from the truth, but facing it head-on and loudly disapproving of the hateful practices that caused our family members pain, even if it was caused by other family members.
It is a chorus of love surrounding the downtrodden, we will be speaking to the world the truth that the death-dealers do not speak for our God. Our standing there and then and always with one another in love–that will speak volumes of truth.