I have been on a huge learning curve this last week. I’ve come to realize on a deeper level how significant a role shame plays in our culture, and especially our religious, spiritual and church culture.
I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1986 and began the ministry by pastoring three small rural churches. The sermons the people liked the best were the ones where I poured out my wrath upon them for not measuring up to my idea of what a Christian should be. They loved those ones. Then, after I went through a major spiritual transition and realized how arrogant and manipulative I was and decided to change the way I spoke to the people, there were complaints. I recall one woman in particular begging me with tears to spiritually beat her up every Sunday and make her feel guilty. She actually said, “I love to be brow-beaten!”, which essentially means “to intimidate or subjugate by an overbearing manner or domineering speech”.
It saddened me then that this was what people wanted. And it saddened me to realize that because we were in the church and I held the position of authority, that this was what I could easily give with their permission.
Why? Do people feel like crap and like to be reminded? Are their identities so wrapped up in shame that they only feel addressed when their shamed selves are addressed? Is our theology so anti-human that the language of shame is the only accent we can understand? Is church culture so dysfunctional that we only know how to function when it is sick as usual?
Shame is the air we breathe. It’s a major part of our culture. It’s everywhere, pervasive and toxic, to the point that many people can’t even feel unless they’re humiliated. And the church is one of the most perfect sub-cultures to fine-tune shame into an art form to dominate people.
There are too many people administering shame. There are too many people taking it.
We are addicted to shame, and we have our dealers and users.
To provide an encouraging and non-shaming space is one of the reasons I started The Lasting Supper. I personally extend an invitation to you.