-Pastor Melissa Fain-
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Jeremiah 33:15 NRSV
Have you ever misused a tool to have it perform a function it was not meant to, or used the tool like a weapon? If you thought hard enough, you probably have.
Here’s an innocent one. Just two weeks ago I subbed P.E.. It was my job to stay inside with the badminton players. (Because the more rowdy kids chose kickball and touch football.) In the first five minutes of every class the words, “The racquet is for hitting birdies, not swordplay,” came out of my mouth. Then everything was fine, and it was a good class.
There are also times that we don’t even realize we are misusing a tool. I think knives are the biggest culprit. Most of us just pick them up and start cutting. We learn hard lessons as dull knives slip, or we cut towards us instead of away… hopefully just a bandaid later, we are using the tool more as it’s intended when we return to it.
That’s how it is with Christian hope.
In a Christian context, hope is not a feeling.
Let me repeat that: Hope is NOT a feeling. One can feel “hope,” but that is like feeling the sun. You know the sun is not a feeling, but you can feel its warmth. Only, unlike the sun, you can’t see hope. Not in the way that it’s a physical object we could reach or touch. We only “see” the effects of its presence.
Christians are prone to become disheartened when they ask God for “Hope.” They are usually seeking a feeling of Hope, not actual Hope.
A Call to Adventure
Good hope, in the purest sense, is a call to adventure.
A real call to adventure isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t enjoyable. It is often dirty, painful and thankless. People will intentionally and accidently say very jabbing things to get you to stop. Mostly, because a real call to adventure makes absolutely no sense to anyone but the person accepting the call. That’s because of Hope.
Godly hope starts with a prayer: “God, where should I go?” or “God, what should I do?” Then there’s an answer. The answer is Hope. It’s a destination you cannot see, feel or touch, but you believe it’s existence because God called you to it. Because you believe it exists, you work towards that destination. (It’s why, for years, I’ve called Hope a map.)
As the Advent season has finally started, we begin with the first of four themes: Hope. Can you see why we start here, why we must always start here? No journey can start without first hope to light it’s way. Without Hope, there is no peace, reason to be joyful, no love to reach.
Start this season with a simple prayer, “God, what do you want me to do?” It might just be a call to adventure.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
You might notice I don't really write about American holidays and memorial days. It's knowing it's more than Americans that read these meditations. It's also why, as an American, I make sure to not talk in exclusive terms when talking about things people do in the United States. I will qualify my statement with, "Here in the United States..." These are probably things most readers nearby don't even consider, while overseas readers might pick up on.
I am grateful that I know people from all over. It gives me context. It allows me the ability to see beyond my tiny circle of influence, and into larger, more diverse world.
That has guarded me from speaking about U.S. exclusive events.
Yet, here we are. It's American Thanksgiving today, and I'm writing about it. What is there to be thankful for in the United States?
I read, just last week that Covid was the biggest killer of cops this year, more deadly than pedestrian to cop violence.
I'm seeing gaping chasms in the Education system that can't be fixed with money. The entire mechanism is near critical failure.
I'm hearing servant leaders tell their stories of just giving up. Years ago we began putting too much on these kind hearted individuals to be the sacrifice for the appearing cracks. Now the cracks have opened up. It was never fair, and now it's just impossible.
America's future is unfortunately everyone's future.
Listen, this is the third time I've written out something for this week. One I saved for a future post, one I completely destroyed, and this is the one that made it for today.
I know what American's want today. Shut up and pretend. This is the day where we don't talk about the minefield of topics that will completely destroy the false sense of unity within the family. Uncle Charlie, and Great Aunt Dorine don't even talk to one another anymore, and they both actually showed up. We're going to hold this tenuis union together with silence. Just for today.
Well, guess what? I'm Gramma Bertha in this illustration, way too old to walk on eggshells, and much more self-aware than anyone gives her credit for. I'm rolling a bowling ball through this minefield, because opportunities like this only come once a year.
The reason we have supply chain issues is because China has sold her people so the world could have a servant class. In the United States, as the money was pushed in, people began buying things. What should have happened was serious inflation. Those goods and services should have gone up to level off the new money. Pay for United States workers did go up, which did raise the cost of goods some, but our servant class got none of it. The cost of things from China stayed relatively the same. This led to the U.S. people buying more things. Now the stuff can't get here fast enough. Do you think China is going to blame herself when this uneven relationship finally breaks- which it will?
There is a reason oil and food has inflated with the influx of cash.
First, the Middle East knows a thing or two about supply and demand. They are not going to be used for their product. They stopped producing as much oil when we were all in lockdown. The United States uses the most oil, so as we use more, the cost goes up, and goes down as we don't.
Second, most of the food the United States consumes comes from ourselves. Because we are paying ourselves more, the supply of food is touched by that interest. We are paying the employees making and producing that food more, and that more has to transfer into the cost of the food.
China has kept it's relationship, with at least the United States, because we feed her people. Our biggest export to China is soybeans.
What am I thankful for?
All of this remains on my brain today. It can make one wonder if I'm thankful for anything. I'm thankful for so much, and it's a change in perspective.
I have relationships, like real honest to goodness relationships. I deeply love people, and they love me back. These are people I would sit with a can of baked beans, or a Thanksgiving Feast and know in either situation I was blessed.
There is power in relationship. It's stronger than economies. It's deeper than recessions. It's relationship that I have spent my days investing in.
Yep, Gramma Bertha. That's me, blowing up the field, because I need you to stop seeing the things, and start seeing the people behind the things. There are relationships worth more than the things. It's the relationships I'm grateful for. For that I give thanks.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I need people. I realized the best way to prove that point is to post what I haven't been able to do on my own. This would be a video. A tragic tale of abuse in the Church. It could exist, but I can't do it alone.
[Open Melissa looking down at the earth; holding a shovel. A person sees Melissa, and walks up.]
Person:You know he’s already dead, right?
[Camera changes view. It’s Ravi Zacharias’ grave. (Ravi Zacharias was an apologist in the Evangelical church. He was also exposed as a serial sexual abuser of women and a liar.]
Melissa: Yes, but the theology isn’t.
Person: Then fight the theology.
Melissa: [Looking away from the earth and to the person.] That’s what I’m doing. [Lifts shovel and gets one dig in.]
[Fig Tree’s worship area, Melissa sitting behind table]
Melissa: To say this is about Zacharias is to focus on the hill upon a mountain. Zacharias was created within a system that allowed his actions to persist: a symptom to a much bigger illness. It is the small piece of mold when the entire house is being attacked.
Zacharias was born in India to Anglican parents, and in 1966 he and his family immigrated to Canada. That’s what I believe is 100% true. Beyond that, his history is a sliding scale of accuracy. From the different articles I read, it appears his father was extremely overbearing. He wanted the best for Zacharias, and Zacharias kept skipping school.
Based on the little bit of information we have, I actually can relate to his dad! Really! I know what it is like to want the best for a child, and that child only sees the immediate gratification of the moment. How parents handle those situations vary greatly. As parents, we are continually second guessing ourselves. Do we back off and let the choices made lead to their own consequences, or do we step in before we believe it’s too late? For us, it’s somewhere in the middle. Choosing battles. Some are not worth fighting, some are.
For Zacharias’ dad, it appeared they were all worth fighting.
[Cut to graveside]
Person: Why do you keep saying, “appeared”? Did it happen or did it not?
Melissa: Well, in some way it did happen, but stories have tellers. When an event happens people come out of the woodwork to tell their versions. There is only one version of all his stories: His. That’s problematic. Even the story of Christ has four different storytellers. When you only get a single teller, something is not going to be right.
Person: He told his story. Why wouldn’t you believe it?
Melissa: [Jams shovel into the ground and leans on it] I do believe it. His story contains abuse, which means I’m going to take his word until new information is known, but I’m going to take it with a grain of salt. Like, this morning, I got up because the alarm on my watch went off. I went to make coffee, and I realized I didn’t want to clean my k-cup so I used disposable k-cups. I had four cups of coffee, and wrote some while I drank it.
Melissa: You don’t question that story?
Person: No, why should I?
Melissa: That’s the point. First, I haven’t shown myself to be a liar or duplicitous. Zacharias has. But, even with that, I purposefully changed a piece of my story this morning. I did use my refillable k-cup.
Person: [Rolls eyes.]
Melissa: My story is innocent; his are not. He claimed his dad would have killed him had his mother not stepped in. Stories like that have multiple tellers. No one cares how I take my coffee in the morning aside from the fact that I try not to add to our global trash. That’s why I use the word, “appeared.” I want to tell the story he told, but I want to make it clear that the story itself had no way to be verified or checked.
Person: Fine, but no one cares. Do you believe his dad was too overbearing?
Person: Then nothing else matters.
Melissa: [Shakes head sadly, pulls shovel out and begins to dig]
Melissa: This event where Zacharias would be beaten by his dad, and saved by his mother would lead him to try to take his own life. He would sneak into a science class and steal a vial specifically marked poison. He would take it home, lock himself in his bathroom, and drink it. The servant at the house would find him, and take him to the hospital where his life was saved. He would tell readers that he believed his parents never knew he tried to take his life because they would never talk to him about it.
[Cut back to graveside]
Person: Hard stop.
Person: A kid of… how old was he?
Person: A kid of 17 is taken to the hospital, having ingested something marked poison, by someone who worked in the family house, and we’re to believe the parents never knew?
Person: [Horrified at self] I don’t want to suggest someone telling a story about a suicide is fake.
Person: But a hospital would tell his parents something. Why is Ravi in the hospital? As a parent, I would want to know! First there’s the servant…
Melissa: Zacharias says he believes the servant never told them.
Person: He “believes”? He didn’t ask the servant. “Hey, my parents are choosing to pretend this didn’t happen. What did you tell them when they asked you why I was in the hospital?”
Melissa: Apparently not.
Person: Apparently not! Of course apparently not! Then, what hospital doesn’t inform the parents that, AT THE VERY LEAST, their son’s stomach was pumped?! Maybe the parents need to know about potential liver damage from drinking POISON!
Melissa: I hate myself that I’ve asked those very same questions.
Person: What did the servant say when he shared this story?
Melissa: Zacharias shared this information first in 2000, 23 years after the event. No one stepped up at that time to corroborate the event.
Person: So his story is the only one. I’m getting what you were saying about multiple stories. If an event happened, it happened to more than one person. It’s not just his story. The story belongs to everyone who was part of it.
Person: What’s that noise for.
[Return to worship area]
Melissa: While Zacharias’ story was the only story, he had more than one version of it. In 2000 he spoke of an individual reading John 3 to him at the hospital bed. By 2006 the reader becomes his mother, and she is reading John 4:16. Stories naturally change over time, but not in these drastic ways.
What’s the most problematic is how he would later use suicide in his adult life.
Person: [Shaking head and looking down] Now I feel bad for Zacharias, and I also feel dirty because I’m questioning his story. [Noticing where Melissa was digging.] Wait! You haven’t been digging up Ravi Zacharias at all! You’ve been putting the dirt on the grave, not taking it off!
Melissa: Of course not. He’s dead. What good would that do?
Person: Then what have you been digging up?
[Melissa points to the right of the grave. There is another tombstone: Laurie Anne Thompson.]
Person: That doesn’t make sense. She’s still alive.
Melissa: I know. Why do you think I’m digging?
Melissa: Lori Anne Thompson was an ardent Zacharias follower. You might have called her a disciple. This is where everything becomes difficult. The Brad Thompson, Lori Anne’s husband, had always been a huge fan of Zacharias’ work. It was in 2014 Lori Anne was introduced and they both finally met him when they sponsored a table at a businessmen's luncheon where Zacharias was the keynote speaker. They exchanged email addresses. Then, in June of 2015 the couple were invited to a private event. That’s when the three of them began an email chain between the three of them. Lori Anne opened her heart during this time, and shared her own childhood trauma… [looking conflicted]
Melissa: Zacharias’ story of abuse was not questioned or researched. It was simply accepted as truth. Meanwhile, what happened to Lori Anne Thompson does have multiple tellers because her story wasn’t accepted. Zacharias used her trauma to groom Thompson. He convinced her to do things that a Christian leader should never ask a follower to do.Things that were sexual in nature. There came a point where Thompson realized she was being sexually abused, and (with the help of a professional counseling organization) she attempted to cut ties, speak openly to her husband to hopefully move on.
Person: That’s not the end of the story, is it?
Melissa: [sadly shakes head.]
Melissa: When Thompson sent the message that would cut ties, Zacharias did not respond well. He first wanted to know if he would be implicated.
Reader 1: [text message on screen] Are you going to tell him it’s me?
Melissa: Then seconds later, he asked to meet just one last time.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen.] Can we not meet at lest [sic] once before you do this? Please please
Melissa: He then weaponizes suicide to try to shut her down.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen] You promised you wouldn’t Lori Anne. If. You betray me here I will have no option but to bid this world goodbye I promise. [“Later” written on the screen] Little did I know that was the most dark and accursed day of my life. You will not hear from me again
Melissa: All this time he didn’t realize she hadn’t written this message privately. She had added her counselors to the conversation as third party observers. They stepped in on her behalf.
Reader 2: [Text message on screen.] We are Lori Anne’s counsellors and she is currently receiving intensive counselling with us to find healing and restoration for her marriage. It is not her intent to share what has happened to anyone except her husband–which is necessary for any hope of marital restoration. And we are bound by confidentiality. We need some assurance from you that you will not harm yourself. Otherwise, we will find it necessary to contact 911 in your location. We await your prompt response. Thank you.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen.] I am fine Thank you. I am just concerned about her. Thank you please tell her I am praying for her. She is very much in my prayers
Melissa: Abusers groom their victims by telling them they are special, isolating them from everyone else, and giving something that will damage them too if they attempt to leave the abuse. If you were previously abused, you become an easy target for future abusers. It is extremely difficult to out sexual abuse, because the act of sexually abusing stains the person who is being abused. “You’ll get in trouble too,” is an easy way to keep sexual victims quiet. Once Thompson was willing to out herself to find healing, it took away Zacharias’ power. Zacharias then weaponized suicide in an attempt to gain back control. Lori Anne was not the only victim he used suicide to maintain control. There were others, and the others gave him back control when he threatened to take his own life.
Person: He weaponized his own brokenness?
Melissa: [while digging] Yep. Brokenness breaks. Always. If there is one thing I do not doubt, Zacharias was a broken individual who never found healing. That’s how victims transform into abusers. Oftentimes, it’s their own victimhood that is weaponized to create new victims in a tragic cycle of woundedness. But we’re not done here…
[Begin transition to worship, but hard transition back to graveside.]
Person: Stop. Just say it to me.
Melissa: [Stops shovelling] Long story short? Zacharias stated that he didn’t ask for anything from Lori Anne of a sexual nature. The Thompsons were aghast at how he completely changed his own history, and sued him for $5 million in damages. Zacharias responded by counter suing the Thompson’s for defamation. Zacharias then went on a pity tour just telling everyone who would listen that Lori Anne was a bad person, and he was the righteous one. Today, it’s really hard not to believe Lori Anne, because women came out of the woodwork after his death to tell similar stories.
Person: What happened with the lawsuit?
Melissa: [Picks up shovel, goes to dig, but there is a ‘clunk.’] No! No! No! [Goes to see what she hit. It’s a huge piece of concrete with the letters NDA written on it.] This happened. [Melissa places hand on concrete.] You can’t fight people who have the media on t heir side, and Zacharias had some big ones willing to let him come on and smear the Thompson name through the mud. The Thompson’s could have won their lawsuit, but Zacharias used his connections and power, to make the cost too high. They signed a non-disclosure agreement, to have both lawsuits dropped. Now, even in his death, she can’t speak openly about what happened. I can’t dig her out, because she can’t dig herself out. Not until Zacharias’ wife lifts the NDA. She won’t do it.
Person: That sucks. Here. [Hand’s Melissa a sad react.] This one really moved me. Keep up the good work! [Walks away, says to self.] Wow! I’m going to be thinking about that one for days.
Melissa: Thank… you. [Takes the sad react and drops it on Lori Anne Thompson’s grave. Talks to grave] Those reacts are like memorial flowers. They won’t fix what has happened, but they make those around them feel better about themselves. At least they did something. True, that something didn’t actually do anything except make themselves sleep better at night. Doesn’t really help you though. [Looks at camera.] That is how it ends. Not with answers. Not with justice. With reactions. The world dies with upvotes, because upvotes, loves, sads, and angrys are comfortable. They give us a chance to feel we did something when we did nothing at all. A family is buried under this NDA and we are doing nothing. Well, I am doing something, but I’m nobody.
[Cut to black]
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Do you remember Friday, March 13th, 2020? Depending on your school system, the day was different for everyone. For Paulding County Schools, this was the last in person day for the 2019-2020 school year. Yep, Friday the 13th.
I still remember everything with crystal clear clarity. I was/am a substitute teacher. The county had announced that there would be school on Friday, but it wouldn’t count against attendance. Then we would be out for at least a week, to play it safe. Most of the advanced kids came into school, and most of the on level skipped. Throughout the day, kids were texting their parents to check them out. We ended up with about 6 per class, when the actual records showed there should be 30.
The stress was real. The teachers were already pushed to the edge. They were behind on their grading, and used the low attendance like a teacher workday. Other smaller classes were jammed into my smaller class, and the teachers caught up while I gave them busy work related to their class.
One student had joked, “I hope Covid is real, so we’re not back next week.” I replied, “You better hope this is an over-reaction, because if this is all real, you won’t like the consequences. (I had just watched a YouTube special on the 1918 flu pandemic. Call Caitlin Daughty prophetic, or just wise, but it was completely on point.) Then everything just froze.
Not literally, it was a nice Georgia March day. Just, everything that was real about Thursday, March 12th, froze in place on Friday, March 13th.
Covid didn’t cause anything, it only amplified what was already there.
Everyone was already extremely close to their breaking point on March 12th. You can’t take a system created during the Industrial Revolution and paste inclusivity and student specific ideas on top of it. The school system was created to be a machine, and machines don’t work that way. There were stress fractures already showing up in the cogs and pulleys. The system was being held up by neglecting the smartest, and overworking the servant leaders.
By neglecting the smartest, I mean allocating resources to the ones who needed remediation, and overpacking the advanced classes. This was considered a small sacrifice to the advanced education in favor of bringing the lower level back up to equilibrium. Advanced parents were not told this, but they knew they were “taking one for the team.”
Once Covid hit, it was the advanced parents who found opportunities for their kids. Maybe it was becoming a homeschool parent. Maybe it was private school options. Before Covid, parents across the country were over “taking one for the team.” What started as overpacking the classrooms began to take on bigger sacrifices: Putting high learners with low learners so the high student began remediating the lower student. This sounds great on paper, but the chasm was too wide. The lower learners were not being raised by those who just naturally knew the material, and those who knew the material were not pushed further into their education. It took away the joy of learning, and the advanced parents saw it. Once they had a way to take them out, they didn’t need to sacrifice their child for the sake of all children.
By overworking the servant leaders, I mean fleecing them of their time, energy and spirit. When was the last time you saw a Teacher of the Year, who was being raised for keeping healthy boundaries, while educating his or her children? The question was redundant. You haven’t. We use Teacher of the Year as a form of abuse. These school systems tell teachers what their job description is, and then bully them into sacrificing beyond them. The whole education system is being held up through these continual sacrifices. I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue to say it: When sacrifice is required it’s not sacrifice- it’s abuse.
Our nation tells teachers they will pay them 30-50 thousand dollars a year to work 9 months at a school. What they don’t tell them is during those nine months, they are not doing well unless it’s a 60 hour work week. Then they are not doing well unless they also pre-plan during the time off. Then they are doing well unless they can get the kid’s test numbers up. Then they are not doing well unless they try their hardest to communicate with the parents of underperforming kids. Then they are not doing well unless they can make the education jazzy and energized. Then they are not doing well unless…
It just keeps going. There is never a magic moment where it is enough. The three months are held like a carrot, but once it comes, it’s never a reward, it’s a necessity.
If that wasn’t enough, that break is used to guilt any corrective measures that could be done to work towards fixing the system. “I don’t get week-long/month-long breaks at my work!”
Yes, but do you get potty breaks? You read that right. Can you step away from your desk and go to the bathroom to pee? Can you take a moment away from your job to catch your breath? When you do get a moment to catch your breath, is that all it is, or are you suddenly pulled to a meeting? Does your “work” yell at you in the face, and flat out refuse to do what it’s supposed to do? Do you go home and weep, because you know you can’t do it all, but all is expected of you?
The machine marches on.
Meanwhile, the machine keeps moving the kids along. Only now, instead of pushing them along the conveyor belt at the right time, now there are cracks and missing pieces. It’s like Lucy trying to stay ahead of the chocolate, only she can’t. It’s coming whether she wants it or not. It’s hilarious to watch, but devastating to consider. Kids who need to go slower, and do it again, are being pushed forward and moved along.
The worst part is the machine has been frozen for a year and a half. Things cannot be defrosted and work the same way after they thaw. For machines, parts that naturally function without much work, suddenly choke up. That’s because the parts dry out and start to crumble. Add the already cracked pieces that were frozen on March 13, 2020, we find ourselves in a very dangerous and unstoppable place right now.
It can’t be stopped.
I like to brainstorm solutions. I see the problem, and then I play out different options in my head. It’s what I do, because the idea of anything else breaks my heart. You must know what it means for me to say this:
The education system in the United States is close to imminent failure, and we can no longer stop it.
For that matter, everything is close to imminent failure right now. Everything I’m about to write can be transferred to the restaurant industry, retail, housing, and even the Church. I can see it, and we all need to brace for impact. (Which does not mean go buy out the grocery store. Sit still and read.)
Everything that I see being done is a bandage to a bigger problem.
Before the pandemic, subs were already overworked, and underappreciated. They were disposable. Subs go in, get beaten and chewed up, quits, and new ones take their place. Nothing needed to be fixed, because there was always going to be a new group following the jaded and broken crew. Only, before the pandemic, there wasn’t. We were just beginning to deal with an epic sub shortage. A parent wants to be a part of his or her child’s life. They want to personally know their child’s teachers, and feel good about it. The school system chose to keep pay low, and have absolutely no benefits, because they knew most of this supply was coming from their very parents.Only, no parent is signing up to be yelled at and ignored by someone else’s kid. Their system was already failing. Raising sub pay is not a permanent option, and it’s the only change being raised at this moment.
Before the pandemic, bus splits and sub buses were a natural part of school. It was pretty normal to hear one bus was going to be another bus. Bus drivers have it worse than substitute teachers. The kids have absolutely no respect or care for the adult driving. Many of these adults were retired adults, taking on a few extra hours for a little more pay. You tell them they must be with kids who will not mask or contact trace once on the bus, and many were out. One county went virtual because three bus workers died of Covid. Making each high school virtual one day a week is not going to fix the problem. Who wants to spend their retirement years on a bus overpacked with kids who are doing things that put themselves or others in danger?
Before the pandemic, the teachers were at their breaking point. I could feel it emanating off of them. They had to spend so much time just jumping through hoops, crossing “t’s and dotting “i”s. Their classes were so bloated it made it too difficult to maintain order in order to teach. Once the pandemic hit, the teachers had two simultaneous feelings. First, they could get a breath. They knew everything was hitting a breaking point, and to just freeze it was needed for their mental health. Second, they saw they were abused. They saw parents completely ignoring them in the equation regarding getting their kid back to school. These parents wanted their baby to get the education every kid had been getting for generations. Only, as the parents scream to get the machine running again at full power, teachers are just leaving. New teachers are not even going into education. Adding all the caveats has made it too difficult to do what these educators love: teach. Not caring for your servant leaders and only praising them when they bleed themselves out, just dries out the pool of educators.
Complete and total failure
All this to say- yes it’s going to fail. Many things are on the edge of complete failure. If you can’t see it, maybe you feel it. It’s our communal brokenness. We can’t see our neighbor, much less love them. We “nothing” them, which is the opposite of love.
We don’t need to be buying things up. We need to open our eyes. We need to listen. When it fails, and it will, we will need each other more than we’ll need things. As people frantically try to get that last something, (a normal education for their kid, a Christmas gift, or a gallon of milk), we are not getting the thing we desperately need the most once these machines fail: each other.
I seriously thought I’d be going in another direction this week, but Wednesday morning I’m driving to work and hear this on the radio:
Transcript: Redefining Retirement: Bryant Wright- Right From the Heart Ministries
Have you ever noticed how God chose men in their senior years to take part in huge moments for His kingdom? Noah finished building the ark when he was 600! Abraham left is home at 75 to move to an unknown land where God would lead him. Moses was 80 when he stood up to the most powerful man in the world and led a nation to freedom. No retirement for them! In fact, God's word doesn't mention anything about retirement for anyone but the Levites. For everyone else? It's just not there. Stepping back from certain vocational pressures and responsibilities can be necessary, but our lives are ultimately meant to serve Christ for all of our days. The wisdom that comes with age is valuable in living out the faith, and we're called to use it, and share it. Are you entering the retirement years? Ask God how He wants to use you. This next season may be your greatest adventure yet. This is Bryant Wright, speaking Right From My Heart.
Here’s the absolute truth: Many of you probably have no earthly idea why I turned it off about 3/4s of the way through, and yelled at my car. I agree with the point of the message. God calls people in all stages of life. It’s this “older men” idea that has me up in arms.
Then there are others who know exactly why I reacted the way I did, but don’t want to tell me to my face why they actually agree with Bryant Wright. You love me, and you’ll support me in areas not related to ministry, but Melissa- you’re not a guy, so back down.
[Quietly walks away, finds an empty corner, screams into the void. Quietly returns back.]
I used to think I could just be what God called me, and the fruit of my faith would turn people around. I was wrong.
Then I used to think, I could lay out the many women God had called, including prophets and ministers, and it would turn people around. I was wrong.
Then I used to think, if I created one solid argument that I could easily keep pinned to a page, I could focus on other things, and that would turn people around. Dead. Wrong.
Fighting Misogyny in the Church is Renovating a House Infected with Black Mold.
It’s like buying a beautiful house, peeling back the wallpaper and finding the whole thing is infected with black mold. There’s an ease to not knowing, and a truth that is not going to go away. It is easier to live in ignorance. And you think, “Okay, that’s their choice,” but the house is lived in by a huge family. It’s not practical to just kick out anyone who’s uncomfortable living in danger. (Though there is an exodus.) It’s easier to just allow them to leave rather than dealing with the truth.The truth is, this beautiful house you invested a lifetime in will have to be gutted to it’s bones. Everything you loved will be destroyed.
That’s why the Church punishes those who want to fix the problem. If you could snap your finger and just get rid of the mold, they’d let the fixers in to do it, but it’s going to destroy almost everything. I feel anxious just contemplating their loss. Knowing that the theology, rite, and ritual are all infected is heartbreaking.
Bryant Wright sees the beautiful house, not the life-killing-mold
Have you ever noticed how God chose women in their early years to take part in huge moments for God’s Kingdom? Mary was probably only 12 years old when she was called to carry Christ in her womb. Ruth was probably a teenager- old enough to get married and not yet have children, when her call to Naomi began. The Woman at the Well was probably in her 20s when she became an evangelist. The Bible is filled with women called to do God’s will in a world blind to their call. Deborah was a Prophet and Judge. Mary, sister to Martha, was called to learn at the feet of Jesus Christ. Martha was allowed to openly critique God in Lamentation. Allowed to say something loud enough to teach generations for two thousand years. Women were given the very first sermon: “He lives.” God can call anyone to speak the Word. Anyone.
Like, isn't it interesting that women don’t need age to find wisdom to do God’s call? Maybe it’s all the trauma lived early on? Being forced from a young age to be other-centered at the sacrifice of the self then, punishing women who want to care for their own body and soul.
Being a woman in ministry is enlightening. Once you are a woman called by God, that’s when you see the mold. Simply existing means you are beginning the demolition process that will lead to restoration. It will destroy everything. It’s actually our other-centered training that causes us to speak up. When we try to get rid of the mold, we’re punished for trying to destroy the beauty of God’s house. Most women end up fired or leave because once the yoke is worn, the world becomes terribly oppressive. (No- it’s not equal or fair to male pastors. Don’t pull that women are the weaker sex bull. Not until you walk a mile in my shoes. I’ve walked a mile in yours.)
So many of us just walk away, because the Christian world is content in their ignorance. So many in the Church don’t even know the infection and it’s extent. It makes the restorationists look evil, when really it’s the ones who know but maintain ignorance the real evil.
I think what frustrates me most about this radio spot is how easily the “old male minister” can shut it all down; turn it all off.
Wisdom is often earned with age, but not because of getting older. Wisdom comes with experiences. Some people remain naïve their entire life, because they never live through anything that tests them. Some younger individuals earn their wisdom early on, because life throws some tough balls, and a few of them hit. Many of those people take those experiences, and turn it into wisdom. Older people are generally wiser because they had a higher probability to experience something that would later become wisdom. That doesn’t naturally mean older people are wiser. I’ve met some very ignorant older adults. I’ve also met some very wise younger adults.
I am nothing.
Here’s the real rub. I am nothing. I have no power. Do you really think I have any ability to take down anything that is fortified and guarded the way these issues are guarded? No! These people are not afraid. They are arrogant in their ivory towers. They have never put themselves in a position where they could even hear the echo of a critique. All pulpits are one sided. Their thoughts get out, and no other thoughts get in. This was never about wisdom! It’s always been about trust! Can we trust God enough to hear and act in Truth. No- not the dime store truth that has left millions in stagnant waters. Not the self-help guru truth that is warping the sanctity of faith. Truth. Truth that can’t be heard because the microphones are too well guarded. Truth that cannot be seen because to admit there is a problem will tear down the façade.
But truth that can be felt.
I am nothing. I have always been nothing.
We are something, but that requires more than just you agreeing with me. That requires you being part of this voice. It’s my dinky little blog vs church’s multi-billion dollar ministries. Do you see? Put your faith in something that is going to fix the problem. Make yourself uncomfortable now, and stop this death march!
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I’ve been spending a few weeks delving into Brian Wright’s Right from the Heart ministry. I’ve done this, because I want to separate the men from their theology. We are focused too much on the monsters this theology creates, and not the theology itself being the problem. Some great guys have peddled horrible theologies.
I’ve talked about hollow hope, and stagnant peace. Today I want to talk about fear that destroys love.
The shadows we cast
The best day to take photographs are overcast days. Why? Because there are no shadows. You don’t have people squinting to keep their eyes open. You don’t have harsh contrasts aging everyone and everything a decade. You just have equalized lighting diffused by the clouds in front of the sun.
The point is, oftentimes when we see those crisp shadows it’s because the sun is fully out, shining on the world. It is not darkness that creates shadows; it’s light.
There was a time I was forcefully put in the darkness. There is no hiding in it, because everything is darkness. Your eyes adjust, and you see it all. Sure- you can’t see everything well, but you can see everything. Then light shines. The people and things that were comfortable being out in the open scatter. Once there is light, they scurry to those shadows.
Fig Tree’s box lights
A good studio will only make you consider the lighting when the lighting is basically a character.
Like during Fig Tree’s livecast, you are supposed to see that the candles are lit. You are not, however, supposed to consider how the space itself is lit. I have two box lights hitting me from opposite 45° angles. I actually do this, to destroy any shadow that might show up on camera. This should leave you with no feeling at all regarding the lighting.
That’s not how life works. I’m removing how the lighting is done from your thoughts, while really lighting the space. In reality, you only think about lighting when those deep shadows show up.
Casting a shadow
At face value, nothing is wrong with this video. It’s the focus, not the message of the focus. Sure- if we have control over our shadows, we should always consider what we have chosen to shadow. Are we giving shade to a parched and overworked prophet? That’s a good shadow to give. Are we attempting to hide or dismiss someone’s point of view that could be helpful? Are we avoiding something that doesn’t need to be avoided anymore? Are we seeing that Ravi Zacharias was a bad guy and instead of looking at the theology that put him there, we are burying the issue and looking away? That would be a misuse of a shadow.
In reality, God’s light will create shadows, and if we stand before it, our shadow will be big and long. This video accidentally causes those who stand in the light to feel anxious about their shadows, to accidentally hide things in them because one wouldn’t want to be someone shadowing the good things. When you are too afraid to not keep a light on the good things, you become overzealous shadowing the bad things.
The bad things want the shadows.
Instead of being fearful where your personal shadows fall, maybe instead be active about fighting the things that hide in them. Shadow casters can be bad people, but, since every single one of us cast shadows, weaponizing shadows seems superfluous.
Yes, at face value nothing is wrong with this video, until you realize this theology is one of the key reasons why abuse remains in a church. Have you actually stopped and considered why the Southern Baptist Convention is attempting to hide and dismiss abuse when it’s so blatantly obvious? It’s because they don’t want to be actively caught having sheltered these predators in a shadow! The entire system has weaponized the shadows of congregants so successfully, they must react in the same way they’ve taught their sheep to react. They spend countless resources and money adding light to the good. They refuse to talk about the darkness. In doing so, it becomes easier for the evil things to hide in it.
This is all a focus and perspective game. This is all about widening the lens and pointing the finger where it needs to be pointed.
In the same way I used to be uncomfortable listening to Sunday Sermons in Paulding County, Georgia, there is a reason why there are a growing number who are finding my statements uncomfortable. I’m actively naming the brokenness of a large swath of theologians and believers. I also know there are millions of Christians who don’t want what I’m serving. I am the masked magician of theological writers because sleight of hand doesn’t belong in the Church.
This is the image of real love. Instead of demonizing those who had cast the shadow, destroying the things hiding in it.
This is the image of real love. This is what it means to walk to the cross. You must trust God enough to walk towards death, and accept that death, so new life can rise without this damaging theology.
This is what real love looks like. Accepting the wilderness, because the “city” is too damaged to survive. This is the image of real love.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This month is a 10 year anniversary. Some anniversaries are good and worth celebrating. This one is not. These are the anniversaries ministers attempt to bury whether they were in the right or wrong. This is when a church lets a minister go.
Here are the ground rules:
What I expected, vs what I got.
When the church and myself were in the middle of search and call, I had three requirements. Below are my three questions, how they answered them, and what they gave me.
I walked into deep brokenness, from recent and past trauma. No new minister should have that job. Period. If they had been completely honest, I wouldn’t have taken the job. Instead, they lied, and after I was already there, it got worse.
How this church deals with her trauma.
Back in the 1970’s this church became broken when a minister split the church over traditional versus praise worship. The minister took the praise group and started a new church. Before this event, ministers would serve at the church for many years. After this event, almost all only lasted a couple of years. Always, when the minister would introduce change, they would suddenly resign only a few months later.
This information was buried. I had to dig for it when I was trying to understand what happened and why it happened.
It turns out, there were two churches meeting in the same building. There were the congregants, who were often good and supportive of many of these clergy. Then there were the Elders, the power that maintained the church to keep change from taking root. I can still remember congregants talking fondly about former ministers, and then being puzzled because they suddenly left. The elders would quietly vote to dismiss the minister and ask for their resignation. The minister would comply, because in the church it’s harder to be hired if you are fired. (You’d probably be surprised to hear there are far more ministers who just chose to say they were resigning to avoid being fired. Forcing resignation is a very effective method to force a minister out.)
What happened to me
They wanted my resignation pretty early on. I know this, because the key players all reacted in certain ways. There was one in particular that couldn’t hide her feelings even if she tried.
In late February/early March I announced I was pregnant with my, now, daughter. The look on her face was not joy, but devastation. When we tried out a television during VBS week, so the congregation could see how non-threatening it all was, she stood up in church and yelled, “This is the worst thing to ever happen!” When I said I was dropping the television idea, the Elders actually looked disappointed. (Not because they wanted it, but because that was what they were going to use to bury me.)
When my dad totaled his bike, and I didn’t know if he was okay or not, certain elders once again looked put out, instead of worried on my behalf.
It wasn’t difficult to read.
Finally, I had taken two weeks after my daughter was born, and announced I was ready to come back. Was I really ready to come back? No, but I felt extremely uncomfortable taking any more time. One of the elders asked if I needed more time, if I were sure. I said I was, and that night he invited me to his house to tell me they wanted my resignation.
They knew what they were doing, and they made sure they did it right. They already had a meeting telling me certain members didn’t get along with me; that they had problems. I asked them not to be the intermediaries for these people, but to ask them to talk to me directly. I didn’t realize this meeting wasn’t to help me, but to have "that meeting" before they asked for my resignation. They needed to check it off the list, so they could say they did it.
I had chosen to have my daughter at the rural, lower income hospital, because it was closer to the church. (By the way, it was really eye opening to have my first child in a hospital that gave a damn, because they had money, and my second child in a rural hospital that just didn’t have the same level of resources. As a minister I appreciate what I learned from that experience.) When my daughter was born, the Elders dropped the phone tree chain, so only my secretary came to visit.
When one of the Elders went into the hospital because his appendix ruptured, they tried to keep me out of the loop. I found out and visited. They tried to use it against me, but (once again) the secretary came to my side, and asked this elder point blank if I had visited him in the hospital. He sheepishly said, “yes.”
I chose to fight the resignation, not because I thought I could keep my job, but because I wanted everything exposed. If I were wrong, I wanted to be brought forward in my failure. If they were wrong, I wanted the region to see it and act accordingly. Unlike many ministers, I’m willing to utterly destroy myself for what is right, and I did.
I have not had a full time church job since that job. I refuse. I’m not going to play into a broken system. And point blank. It sucks. I have enormous student loan debt from a graduate level theology program that I can’t pay off. I've been a waitress, a retail worker, a sub... because we need money.
What I have been doing, and haven’t stopped doing, is following my call. I have been a minister since my ordination day, and I haven’t stopped. I have to live with the truth that people want to be cheerleaders for that call, but not join it. I need physical help. The most disheartening truth is that I have to realize I’m one of the few who are willing to do what I do for no pay.
So every October my daughter’s birthday rolls around, and so does that anniversary.
Every year I’m reminded of what one of the Elders said to me at his house, asking for my resignation two weeks after having a baby, “After all you’ve been through, you’ll bounce back.” For 9 years those words haunted me. I thought: Either I will bounce back, and they will be justified in everything that happened. Or, I won’t bounce back and he won’t care because he said it to make himself feel better.
I failed to realize what those words were actually saying: “I know you were broken in your past, and we are about to break you again. Now I’m going to make a suggestion that you’ll be okay because you’ve been broken before, and it will help me sleep at night.”
They knew they were in the wrong, and I’ll leave you with two stories as proof.
At the elder’s house he told a story. I wanted to keep preaching, until I left, and he said no. Years ago, they had asked for a minister’s resignation. (I discovered he wanted to go through redevelopment with the congregation. An immediate death for any minister at this church) The elder told this story of the minister going up to him during his sermon and publicly forgiving him for what he had done. No, they didn’t want me doing that. That wasn’t good at all. That suggested the elder was wrong.
Later, after I decided to bring this all out in the open, this elder’s wife called. I answered and she lit into me. “How dare you fight this! You’re just supposed to resign and move on! This has upset my husband, and you should be ashamed!" I hung up on her. My husband, who was within 6ft of me at the time, couldn’t believe what he had just overheard. That rant was clearly not part of the plan, because she called back and left a voicemail. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I was out of line. My husband told me not to tell you that.”
Simply put- we shouldn't have been together. If the church was just honest in the interview process I wouldn't have taken the job. All that pain and suffering could have been avoided. But, what's done is done.
I will continue to fight to fix the Church. I have nothing to lose, because I lost it a decade ago. Since that experience, I’ve heard so many other stories about Church brokenness. I am not an anomaly, and that’s a problem. I need physical help. That’s now what makes October so difficult for me. All those cheerleaders, and no real players around.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
(Before I begin. With the help this week of Bruggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, this is my theology. If you discuss it somewhere else, just remember to cite this post with links.)
This is a series where I take apart an unhealthy theology to show it for what it is. I’m working through Bryant Wright’s “Right From the Heart” ministry. I’m doing this because it’s not these bad people picking up God’s mantle. It's bad theology.
Last week I talked about hollow hope.
This week I want to jump into peace.
Dismissing Ravi Zacharias before I delve into Right From The Heart.
It really made my brain hurt reading Zacharias. First, because he gave commentary for scriptures he wouldn’t even cite in the text. (His commentary was absolutely trash, by the way.) Secondly, he built this idea of one Truth on one scripture: John 14:6
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 CEB
There’s a lot to unpack here, so bear with me as I get it all out and piece it together.
Zacharias is probably one of the main reasons we have so many evangelicals not trusting science. He walked this very fine line in his books. He went right to the edge of suggesting science was false truth because it came from atheists, but wouldn’t say it directly.
As science was pushing against Genesis and hitting against the Biblical literalists, the Biblical literalists desired a way to ignore the scientists and keep their faith.
This is where Zacharias made all his money. They didn’t have to think about the authenticity of his words, only that it allowed them space to keep their own beliefs. He cemented faith that was always called to movement. Nothing good can come from that.
What if… peace only in Jesus?
First, the video.
This is clearly something pulled together to capitalize on the “What if…” Marvel show on Disney+. I actually appreciate drawing from modern and secular forms of media for sermon analogies, but I’m not sure this was the right way. This was something I went into over a year ago with a church parody of Hamilton’s I’ll Be Back. I don’t want to delve too much on whether this video gets the source material. I do want to talk about real and fake peace.
For over a year now, I have ended almost every single worship with, “Go in Peace.” Oftentimes I explain that peace. Always, I say that peace is work. I’ve called it “active peace.”
We think peace is some kind of break, or stop. When we see Godly peace in this way, it can weaponize peace. See, seeking peace can be very uncomfortable and chaotic. It will not feel very peaceful. A few years back, I compared it to building a road. The finished product should lead to a peaceful drive, but the work to that finished road is a chaotic mess. Sometimes, churches are confronted with brokenness and trauma. The only way back to peace is to deal with the chaos. Peace is weaponized when it is used to not deal with chaos. It shuts down healthy change by forcing those who are broken to shut up.
In this brief little video I see a few things that bother me:
Play the commercial game with me
I’m a master at ignoring commercials. They come on, and I tune out. This means sometimes people ask me if I’ve seen a commercial, and more than likely the answer is, “yes,” but I say, “no” because I don’t remember any of them.
Then there’s the commercial game that draws me back in.
I purposefully watch the commercials to answer two questions:
These two questions are almost always different.
Like alcohol commercials are almost always trying to sell the promise of relationship, while really selling alcohol.
Like household cleaners are often trying to sell the promise of family love, while really just selling something that cleans.
What you discover is that many commercials are promising an illusion, while selling a product.
Are you feeling uncomfortable knowing where I’m going next? Good.
For centuries faith traditions have been sharpened by other faith traditions. We have books from the early Church, because the early Church believed Christianity was important enough to get right.
Today, I physically feel others' anxiety just typing all this out. I can mentally imagine the words, “Hey! I’m comfortable in my faith. Leave it alone!” “My faith is the only place where I can find peace and joy!”
That brings me to the real problem with this 30 second spot:
These churches are “maintaining temporary utopias beyond their tenuous shelf life.” The promise is ease and existence. Meanwhile, Churches must cut themselves off from the world to maintain these false utopias. Warning: Perfection is not compatible within a community. If your church is perfect, something is wrong.
This spot screams “fake utopian bubble.” While not saying it directly, it alludes to Christ being in the church, not of the world. In reality, Christ did all the important stuff in the mess of the outside world. Sat right outside the temple as the widow gave her last bit of money to the temple! Know God, know peace? My God has left the building.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Last week someone tweeted how upset they were with the Southern Baptist Convention, and they were done. Not with their Church, but with the SBC.
I pretended to write, “But how can you be done and still stay in the church?”
I got to the point where I was just about to click, “Reply” before I backed out and away.
Last week there were multiple people out for Mark Driscoll. He has abused systems and women. He needs to go.
As I write about all these leaders right now. It’s the theology, not the people leading it. You get rid of the person and the same voice takes his place with a different face.
Therefore, I’m choosing a new target: the theology. Sometimes it’s difficult to disassociate the people from their words. I have no such problem. I’ve chosen a rather easy target for the next few weeks.
Right From the Heart is a ministry started by Pastor Bryant Wright. He is the founding pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, located outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I’m sure Wright is a great guy who I would personally enjoy spending an hour talking over coffee. His theology, on the other hand, is very dangerous. I hope, over the next few weeks, you hear me out as I take some of their meditations and show you what I mean
The Incredible Hope
Take a moment and watch this video.
It is important to realize, all of this sounds really good at face value. Even the thought of attacking this video can immediately paint me as the “bad guy.” That’s by design. This theology only works on a personal level, and to the person’s immediate community. Anything beyond that frays and falls apart.
Finding Our Base
[Everything I’m saying is coming from me. Just know- I’ve been very guarded sharing this information because I’ve gone viral and saw it amount to nothing. I’ve had ideas stolen and sold for money. Please cite me with a link if you are going to write any of what is written below.]
Here’s the dealio. Everything you believe builds itself up. You have a base belief. Let’s call it, “Your greatest want.” This “want” is not going to be anything fleshed out. It’s going to be primal. Simple.
For most of the United States I believe our greatest want is to exist. Therefore, if you want to exist, you need to eat, have a safe place to reside, and be healthy. There will be things that will keep us from reaching those needs. It doesn’t take long to see it’s impossible to be sure about any of those things. (Especially after Covid.)
WARNING! I’m about to go into DEEP waters. I want you to read, but here’s your life raft if you are not used to deep faith: “I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I proclaim him Lord and Savior of my life.” I believe this. I also believe everything I’m about to write. You can have faith in something bigger than what our senses pick up and believe what I believe.
When we cannot fulfill our needs to meet our greatest want, we either change our greatest want, or change our needs. It will always be easier to change our needs. As adults, our greatest want, our base, is cemented down. When life is a horrible reality, it’s easier to throw our greatest want ahead to beyond life. A greatest want becomes, “I hope for an existence beyond this world.” When the needs fill in, the person is doing things to secure life.
That’s not to say everyone’s greatest want is to exist. There are many out there that just want to be comfortable. Anything that questions that comfort is dangerous. There are still others who just want it to be easy. For others the word is “power.”
No matter what your greatest want is, if you are unaware of its name, you can be taken advantage of. This is even more true if someone else can figure out your greatest want before you know it yourself. I knew someone who’s greatest want was comfort. She was manipulated into doing something she later regretted, because others knew what she really wanted. I can’t be angry at her even though that action directly hurt me. I can be angry at the people who knew what they were doing, and chose to do it anyway.
Once you know what you're looking for, it’s pretty darn easy to find other’s greatest wants.
The Chicken and an Egg story of Faith and Works.
Faith is when we trust a system/person/religion enough to act without personal knowledge.
True faith will replace our greatest want, whatever it is, with God.
Fake faith will suggest belief will get you your greatest want.
This is the real problem with Bryant Wright’s hope.
Replacing your greatest want with God is one of the biggest leaps of faith you can take. It has far reaching ramifications to how you act and interact with the world. Hope is always an indicator of where you are headed. Hope that is only headed towards existence or comfort is empty. Where can you possibly go? It is a sign of stagnation. Stagnation is something that happens in a bog. The water can’t move, or it’s moving way too slowly, and everything gets mucky.
Consider this: “God will give me comfort,” is saying what you really want is comfort, and your belief in God is based on that want.
Going back to a previous topic, this is really where Ravi Zacharias is truly seen as the emperor without any clothes. His whole systematic theology (meaning how his religion connects together) is built on an idea that everyone’s base is a desire for comfort and existence. Which I believe whole-heartedly that was his base; his greatest want. He then packaged it up as Truth™ and sold it to us at the discounted price of $9.99.
I believe a group of individuals used his words to hijack a faith tradition and have been at it for about 40 years. Wright’s view on hope is that theology continued.
What does it mean to make God your greatest want?
There have been moments when I’ve had a choice. Sometimes that choice is easy, and sometimes it’s not so easy, but it always pits a base want against the truth. Zacharias’ truth was that everything that brings us comfort is of God. The real truth is that the path of God is often filled with uncomfortable, and unforgiving moments. Oftentimes, we are pushed out of our comfort zone by God, because comfort can lead to stagnation, and then we have that bog again.
Wright’s hope is underpants gnomes. I’m going to share the link, but it’s very crude and from South Park, so feel free to ignore it, and read my basic description. The boys follow gnomes under the city of South Park, and discover they are stealing everyone’s underpants. The boys ask what they are doing, and they say they are stealing underpants to make a profit. Only, they have no idea what they are going to do to turn underpants into profit. Step 1: Steal underpants. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit.
Wright’s hope is Step 1: Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Step 2: Works. What works? ??? Step 3: Salvation! In Wright’s hope do you really even need a step 2? No, no you don’t. That’s what makes his hope so hollow. It’s underpants gnomes.
God’s hope has action now. When you choose God as your base want, your greatest want, you are stating that you are willing to put in the work towards that Hope even at the cost of your own comfort or existence. It’s a Hope building towards God’s Kingdom and Kindom on earth. That’s where works are the fruit of faith. It’s a sacrifice, and it’s real. And it isn’t hollow.
Which came first: Faith or works. I believe it is faith, and with faith where God is our greatest want, we find we what we need is for communal connection. Healing. Active peace. That's real Hope.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I think my biggest frustration today is our inability to see no one is looking. We have mastered the art of talking to ourselves, and believing we are somehow reaching out. We can get people who already think the same way as we do to smash that like button. We can gather thousands of like minded individuals into one space, and confuse that with success.
In reality, we are at the point where the illusion of change is just about the only thing actually happening anymore.
Just imagine this with me.
You and so many others are packed into a giant amphitheater. There are twenty stages circling the base, and all of them are speaking at the same time. There are also some around you vying for spots on those stages, so they are all speaking too. It’s loud! Too loud! You can hear everything, which means you can actually hear nothing. (This is the internet.)
Then a friend hands you noise cancelling headphones. “Hey, I’m listening to that stage right over there. If you put them on, you’ll hear what they are saying.”
So you put on the headphones, and the first thought you have is that you appreciate the relief from all the noise. You don’t even care what the person on stage is saying, because it’s just nice to have enough peace to be able to think again!
You also notice that with these headphones there are nearby voices that are allowed to break though. You think that’s great. The people on stage have too much power, and allowing some of the small voices equal attention is more than fair.
Then, you discover your headphones can pick the voices you want to hear! You start messing with your frequencies. You scroll through all the stages, and find 2-3 you really like. You also start adding people in the auditorium and begin listening to them. There’s a gal, on the other side of the amphitheater you accidentally found, but she is amazing, and you agree with everything she says!
All of this sounds wonderful, until you realize it didn’t help people hear. It cuts people off. Because the world was too loud to listen to all of it, it forced you to only listen to what you already agreed with. And if you kept diverse people around you, it didn't matter. You were going to unfriend/unfollow/ignore those who didn’t agree with you, or they were going to do it to you.
The Church is in control of nothing.
First and foremost, the Church’s powerlessness should always be true. We are not God, nor should we wield power in such a Godly way. The church should be on a mission to empower others, not oneself.That being said, we all know that hasn’t been the case. The Church has done some horrible things in the name of God. Much of it was done to maintain power.
It’s the echo chamber. We've put ourselves into it making it easy to delude oneself into believing everyone who is right and just thinks the exact same way as oneself. So while those broken by the Church are yelling out to the world to do something, no one hears them.
The Church doesn’t hear them because they unfollowed the broken.
Those outside the Church don't hear them, because they haven’t subscribed to the “right” channels.
Only the broken can truly hear the broken, and the growing number within this group has become alarming.
Here’s the blunt truth for all you broken people out there: The Church (the entire Church) believes they are not the problem. It’s the Church down the street that’s the problem. And the Church down the street? The exact same. So, even when they hear your stories they are self-congratulating themselves for not being the church that broke you. Their solution is for you to join their church. Their solution is to enter their echo chamber, which is no solution at all. They are not listening to you, they are concerned about themselves. What about the stories that belong to these churches? The backfire effect causes them to somehow believe it was a misunderstanding, a fluke… [insert something that keeps accountability at bay here.]
Here’s an even blunter truth: No one is listening to you, at least not in a real and substantive way. On one side, your truth dismantles their truth. Your truth destroys their faith. They’d rather let you fade into obscurity than evaluate their faith. On the other side they tuned you out before you even talked. They not only are without a church, they are actively avoiding the building, the people, and the words. They have no sympathy for you because they don’t see the point in fighting for an institution like that.
Why am I being this blunt?
This problem must be dealt with first, before we can fix the systemic issues within the Church. I am not trying to be mean. I am not just poo-pooing good and healthy change. I’m telling the world where to start. We must fix the tool used to fix the problem, before we have any hope of fixing the problem.