Dear Church Leaders: Can You Please Do Better? (Lent, Day 25)

*Please see my disclaimer page for a list of disclaimers.

CW: sexual abuse, church abuse, homelessness

When I was a little girl, you fascinated me. You were intoxicating, Church, and I wanted to be part of what you had.

Walking into my grandmother’s Catholic parish, the smell of incense, the feel of Holy Water, and the sight of the Crucifix lulling me into a trance, I was lured into loving you by my senses.

But I was told this wasn’t true and it was a sin to follow feelings. We attended a new church, a Southern Baptist one, full of a wealthy, well-dressed preacher who spit hellfire and brimstone, hymns sung by a chorus of choir robes with bouffant hairdos, and pews of families who looked down on mine.

I lost my love for you and instead grew to fear who you told me God was: vengeful, wrathful, unsatisfied with the death of his son on the cross.

A God who still needed me to do A, B, and C to be forgiven.

Oddly, that A, B, C were things that “church” people didn’t openly struggle with. “Sins” like alcoholism, homosexuality, fornication.

The first time I was sexually abused, I looked to you for help.

You provided none, instead convincing me that it was my fault. I’d been a promiscuous girl who liked to kiss boys and watch MTV. If only I’d been an obedient little Wednesday youth group, Sunday school attending girl, this wouldn’t have happened.

Never mind that no one wanted me in the youth group or Sunday school. I came from a “trashy” family, I smelled like cigarettes, and my clothes weren’t the designer brand the youth pastor liked the kids to wear.

They didn’t even want the “weird” homeschooled kids there, the ones whose parents had been missionaries overseas, who swore off cursing and smoking and drinking behind closed doors because they were actually trying to walk what they talked, legalistic as it might have been.

No, Church was for the right people: The All-American, White, Wealthy, Evangelical, Republicans.

I learned so much attending that church. I learned that many Christians:

  • will say they believe one thing and do the opposite
  • claim to be pro-life but actually aren’t even pro-birth
  • want a preacher who has a materialistic quality of life they hope to emulate
  • don’t actually love the way Jesus asked them to
  • fear hell more than they adore God
  • can’t be bothered by truth, especially if it shakes their certain world

That last one? That’s a biggie.

By the time we left that church, my parents’ marriage was over, my brother was in jail, I’d been sexually abused by two people, and my life was in shambles.

As bad as that was, the church was worse: the preacher confessed to having an affair, the church was in dire financial trouble and the music minister was arrested for sexually abusing young males.

All of this had been going on for years, everyone knew it, but no one would hold their leaders accountable.

It was more comfortable to be able to attend church on Sunday than to help the preacher’s wife leave an abusive marriage.

It was easier to tithe without questioning than to ask where the money was going and if it was truly helping those in need.

It was less disorienting to save a young person’s murdered soul (because that’s what abuse does to you) than to confront this music minister.

When people ask me why I left Christianity, I tell them it’s easy.

Christianity did not show me Christ.

Christianity has become a political weapon, a lifestyle, a club, a weapon used against innocent sheep who need to be fed.

I wanted no part of that for a very long time.

However, I recently attended church on Christmas Eve, and though I struggled at first, I felt God whisper to me…

This place is as much yours as it is theirs. You are the church.

So you better believe I intend to do my part to make it better.

And if that makes you uncomfortable; if you think I don’t belong…

Too bad.

Do better, church leaders.

You owe it to your sheep.

See you soon,


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