I used to be a pastor, a youth pastor to be exact, but I quickly came to find that church wasn’t for me. The churches I attended felt more like country clubs for the elite, where we learned how to appear moral and nice, it was the message of, “Be everything but who you are.”
I was tired of pretending. I was tired of lying. I was tired of feeling forced to put on a mask every Sunday morning.
I grew up in a caucasian conservative evangelical church, and have worked in only conservative evangelical churches, and went to a conservative evangelical college… this was all I knew, this was my family, my heritage.
I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I stopped doing it. I packed my things. Moved across the country as far as I could get from the church.
I was “lost” but I was free.
For the longest time I’ve been trying to figure out why I had such an issue with the Church. I think I figured a piece of the puzzle out:
It was all about us. I know, not rocket science – who doesn’t feel this way about Church sometimes? But it was so vacant of Jesus, of justice, of mercy…
I think it’s also the conflation of justice and niceness. For instance, someone not being nice is not someone being unjust. We can be really nice people who ignore really unjust things.
See, we as people have expectations constructed by the society we’re surrounded by, and when these expectations are not met, it’s incomprehensible. For instance: an Asian American who’s athletic (#Linsanity), a female in power, an African-American living in the suburbs. Or in this case: A church that does not revolve around us.
We know enough about racism, sexism, and oppression so that we don’t appear to be any of these. Don’t ignore them, but don’t acknowledge them, just do nothing about them, and you will be just fine. You will be, but they won’t be.
We’ve training ourselves, our churches to become unaware of these prejudices. Which is why many People of Color within academia equate racism with “ignorance.”
It’s the conscious or subconscious act of ignoring ones given contextual reality, and we’ve done this by creating our own contextual reality that is a picture perfect lie. Every body is happy, none of us look at porn, and Syria, Trayvon Martin, patriarchal oppression…we’re not even going to go there.
We must excoriate an exploitative sociopolitical system (i.e. the Church) which shuns the idea of diversity while oppressing females, disregarding historic injustice, and keeping the poor powerless. I by no means wish to draw on my own ethical agenda, but I do want to draw upon a traditional and consensual Christian ethic, i.e. the life of Christ, to prayerfully hope for reform.
Take figures like Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus Christ, Ghandi even: Mandela was imprisoned for decades, Malcolm X murdered, MLK shot in the head, Ghandi almost starved to death, Jesus Christ was crucified. To acknowledge injustice is to upset others, to acknowledge injustice and then as a result enact justice is arguably masochistic.
All these men had to do was blend in. Stay quiet, keep there mouths shut, and the pain, the suffering, the antagonists… they would have all gone away. These men might have lived a little longer, had a couple more decades with their families, wives, sons, daughters… who needed them.
Instead of choosing comfort, they chose justice. As the Church, instead of choosing the status quo should we not choose Jesus?
If I’ve learned one thing in my short life here, it’s that you can stand for justice to the point where you solve world hunger, and there will still be someone out there who wants you dead or silenced.
The fact is, justice will not be had without blood. Not our enemies blood, but our own. To seek justice is to seek out and bear the weight of the cross which we will inevitably be nailed to.
To be clear – the goal is not to hurt the enemy back, but to love our enemy regardless.
This might not always seem “nice” – but it’s good.
And we ought not forget: the “enemy” of Christ was not the prostitute but the religious elite.