Speaking up is hard. (This story is a 5 minute read.)
I had some church issues to address this week and that was a big thing for someone who has many issues with Christianity and churches. 🤷♀️
It’s easy to put a sign on a church lawn, but being performative and being genuine are not the same things, from a church. Sometimes you need to test that out to know which it is. And that is always a really brave and difficult thing. It’s scary if you’ve gotten healing in some place to put that to the test. To risk being disappointed. To risk losing a place you thought was safe.
The children’s sermon on the last week I was there, encouraged children to use their voices and actions to speak up or ask for change and be a part of that. But what happens when you take up that challenge as an adult? Did they mean it? Or is it just cute when kids do it?
Those of us who don’t shy away from conflict don’t necessarily enjoy it either. I know some people love arguments and can make a sport of finding conflict, and then there are those who run and hide and flee from conflict or avoid a hard conversations at any cost. And there is always a potential cost, even for those of us who speak for the safety of ourselves and those around us.
Speaking out is often hard because you can lose people that way. But you can also make a difference and the right people will appreciate your voice. The genuine will come to the surface. But if they are not genuine the conscequences of losing people and places you thought were safe is devastating. You can also suffer a lot of personal attack and false accusations from those who want others to dismiss you and not listen to you too.
I speak out about progressive churches a lot because resting on having ‘the right positions’ is not the same thing as living it out. I come from an evangelical background that cared about ‘right doctrine’ (orthodoxy) but when it came to loving others (orthopraxy) the cognitive dissonance needed to kick into high gear to make it work.
I held onto that cognitive dissonance for a long time. It wasn’t one church. It was a system of beliefs that span across evangelical denominations and parachurch organizations. It looked like re-defining love to look away from and trying to justify the harm of our so-called ‘truth-telling’.
We had to redefine truth too; Ignoring the bad fruit and pretending any conscequences of putting those beliefs into practice wasn’t because the teachings themselves were harmful (if it’s in the bible, God said it, that settles it, end of discussion, right?!) but if it’s not working out right it must be the devil messing with God’s truth. They never wanted to acknowledge it came from the tree (teachings and leadership) that produced (interpreted/implemented what lead to) that fruit.
I think we all need to begin with the plank in our own eye. Introspection with your own group before going at others. Looking at where we need work before ever imaging our role in the world is to help ‘save’ others. (A concept that leads to so much messed up thinking and actions but I’ll digress!)
There’s a verse about keeping your own house in order first:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” 1 Corinthians 5:12
I don’t think this verse is so much about being judgey as learning to speak up and address things that concern you. (At least that is how I find practical application.) Deal with the communities you are a part of and participate in. Especially if you claim to exemplify specific values and beliefs.
But for those who think this is a permission slip for being judgey about your fellow church people (many of you were part of an abusive or controlling church or bible college, that under the name of discipleship or discipline liked to enact this judgement on it’s members so often!) — here’s another verse to put in to perspective that scripture highlights that is the 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱 that needs a process of accountability to the members first!
“But those 𝗲𝗹𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” 1 Timothy 5:20
Ask yourself with churches/organizations that ask members to leave (to discipline them) how many are willing to do that with their leadership instead?!
And I don’t mean once the scandal has become public and the leaders fled the scene. 🤦♀️
Expecting perfection from churches is silly.
Expecting wisdom, integrity, accountability and compassion from your leadership?! 💯 reasonable.
There is a need for using our voice when it comes to how things run.
Jesus always seemed to be a “put your sword away” peacemaker type, but he knew true peacemaking required leadership accountability.
A great quote I read this week:
𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦, “𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯” 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘱𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.
𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, “𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴” 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨.
𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦, “𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺” 𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘭.
That is probably why Jesus saved his rebukes for the religious leaders who caused harm. That was the group he had the harshest criticism for. To those with the power who held the keys to the structural dynamics he had a lot of choice words.
𝘝𝘪𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘣𝘴, 𝘩𝘺𝘱𝘰𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘴. Not my words, he didn’t sugar coat that.
(But I didn’t go into my discussion like that this week, although I’m not arguing that there isn’t a place for that when going up against leaders who continue to cause harm and refuse to change!)
Leaders set the tone for any organization. Jesus said bad leadership looked like ‘the blind leading the blind’ because the results would be ‘both will fall into a pit’. He was concerned for safety!
How do you know when a community is really a safe place?! I have a few ideas.
‣ see that the diversity of the leadership represents the diversity of the congregation.
‣ watch how leaders (those in charge) respond when you come to them with your problems and most especially your criticisms of the church they are responsible for.
That first point you can do with your eyeballs. Sometimes without visiting the church you can just go to their staff or team page on their websites.
The second point is when you need to speak up about something. That is when you find that stuff out. And this is where I landed this week.
For those curious about the conclusion to my story, I had a great experience taking up my church issues with my pastor. One of the best and most healing conversations I’ve ever had with clergy in my life.
I felt seen and heard. They did not have a chance to rehearse their response and consult with a PR specialist before crafting a response to me. Their unfiltered response was that I mattered. My concerns mattered. My pain mattered. (And not like I was some wounded animal taking this the wrong way because of ‘church-hurt’ or trauma.) There was no pointing to Jesus or the devil as a way to deflect from their part in dealing with it.
I wasn’t gas-lit.
Nobody told me to get thicker skin.
My feelings were not viewed as some weakness or womanly wiles. That’s probably because my reverend is female and doesn’t look at emotions or women with disdain.
And as a bonus: the one man invited into this conversation didn’t interrupt to give his opinion. He didn’t assume he was God’s gift for spiritual insight granted by his body parts. He didn’t think his male voice represented default humanity. Instead he stayed in the background listening quietly. Learning. Maybe it’s because he’s also the type that goes to therapy for himself. Shedding that toxic masculinity. Love you Nate ❤️
Speaking up is hard. (This story is a 5 minute read.)