An Open Letter to the Georgia Commission on Ministry for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
"Let your 'yes' mean 'yes' and your 'no' mean 'no,' anything else is from the evil one."
Dear Commission on Ministry,
You have requested an official letter making my intentions, and the intentions of Fig Tree clear.
I've left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Fig Tree Christian left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
There. Now it can't get any clearer. You wanted to give me an opportunity to change my mind, but authenticity means that opportunity never existed. I've spent a month telling people to let go. I've used myself as a living example. If I, all of a sudden, take it all back, what have I become? My words no longer mean what I say they mean. To change my mind now, would let everyone know I don't speak the truth. My yes would mean yes as long as certain factors are not in play. No one, in that situation, could trust that! No one, in that situation, should trust me!
Therefore, if you think I have value don't want me. Don't wish me back on the inside. No one was supportive while I was on the inside anyway. Only pretty words that built imaginary castles. I'm not going to play pretend like platitudes could build real foundations. We shouldn't rewrite history to paint it any other way. If you want to be supportive now that I'm on the outside, more power to you, but I don't hold any of you accountable to me. You are as free of me, as I am of the Denomination.
Rev Melissa Fain
PS- This is a post written on Fig Tree Christian and shared to Facebook. This is not a Facebook post, and neither are any of the others. I specifically bring this up because I think you're missing why all this has happened. I'm not leaving you. I'm finally going to them. I only word it that way above because the action of going somewhere has an obvious counter action of leaving somewhere else, and you have specifically asked me to be that blunt with the counter action. In reality it doesn't matter whether my personal standing in the CC(DOC) lasts until next year or February 28th. Either way, I have to work for them. I have to speak for them. I have to build for them. You have your buildings. You have your voice. You have your work. There is nothing I can do for you.
PPS- I gained some clarity over the week. You're also worried about me. You think it's dangerous to leave a denomination. You think it's foolish without that structure and accountability. You're right. It's like I'm going out into a storm with a dinghy, and without the support of the coast guard. I'm glad we are both aware that I'm not doing something safe or comfortable. Stop asking what I'm doing, and start asking why I'm doing it. You'll discover it's not about me. It's them. Yes it's dangerous. Yes I'm still going. I'm going because God is calling me out.
DO NOT READ THIS POST!!!
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This post is not meant to be read first! Please, please please! Read these before you continue:
Zombie Jesus: God is not Undead
Zombie Church Apocalypse
To all those killed by zombies: Canceling
To all those who are ghosted by the church
DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!
Reading anyway? Well, I've read enough "Monster at the end of this book" to know you would. Well, here we go...
When I was a kid, my dad, sister and I were enjoying some chips and salsa. My sister and I made an off hand comment that we should make our own. Dad, being the creative man he is, asked if we wanted to actually do that, and we both reaffirmed our desire to make our own salsa. The next thing we knew, we were clearing a plot of land to grow our own ingredients. Dad made sure we understood, everything on the land had to go, or it would grow up with the crops.
Now, we were elementary school kids. Honestly, we thought we got everything out of that plot. I’m absolutely positive if I (Adult Melissa) was able to look at my own work clearing the ground, I’d give a “really” look to my younger self, and point her back into the mini-field. We didn’t get everything, and that was made clear as grass and weeds began to grow up with the tomatoes and peppers. Every day I’d spend some time in the garden pulling what didn’t belong.
The salsa ended up being the best salta I had ever eaten. Dad had successfully taught us value. A lesson I still consider today as I am a creative woman.
That’s really beside the point. The point is the land. If you haven’t been reading Fig Tree posts since the new year, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER! What do you think I’ve been doing?! I do not take pleasure in spending weeks talking about death and dying. Who do you think I am? Ask a Mortician? I was clearing the ground. I was making the land ready for something new. If you haven’t done the same, leave. It’s not that I don’t want you here, it’s that you don’t want you here. I get it now, but to continue, so should you.
Summer is coming (my butt!)
Oh God! Sweet merciful God that has infinite patience for my impatience! I get it now!
Years ago I attempted to launch Fig Tree Christian in the dining area of a Cajun Restaurant. I passed out thousands of flyers. Yes, thousands! On the flyer was a daisy with the words, “Are you ready for something new?” It’s the banner image today. I posted online numerous times, and leading up to the launch I had this feeling, “What is about to happen is what is supposed to happen.”
Seriously, nothing happened. No one showed up. It was an epic failure, and I was left to contemplate what it all meant. I had this deep yearning to do God’s work, and I deeply felt that work was as the minister of Fig Tree. Why would it all start by not a single person feeling called to be part of it all? My initial gut reaction was realizing it wasn’t ready yet. I’ve come to realize it was more personal than that. I wasn’t ready yet. If Fig Tree had launched back when I first made the attempt it would have naturally reverted to everything that already existed. I had traditional church built into every fiber of my being. By “traditional” I’m not making a comparison of guitar or organ. I’m saying the skeleton of modern worship, which whether you have praise or hymnal music is pretty much the same. The congregants sit as a group of people lead songs and prayers. They request money and one person gives a message that connects to the Bible in some way. There’s also communion, sometimes weekly and sometimes quarterly or bi-annually. Then there’s this cadence to it all. There are ways people pray that have a rhythm to it. Implicit and explicit body language- all of it so much a part of my worshiping body.
I had to kill it, or more aptly, I had to sacrifice it to God.
Not clear enough? Up to this point, my job as a minister of Fig Tree has been to till and pull up a plot of space in my heart. Consider that for a moment. While there were those who had their “soul-ground” destroyed by others, I had to destroy what was left of my own before I could continue. And I fought! I did not go easy into that good night! I attempted negotiation. “God, just give me a space, and I’ll give you my call.” LOL! I attempted to put the church on credit, as in, “God, just give me a team now, and we’ll pull those weeds as they arise. No point clearing the ground first. People are lost.” ROFL!
Now I’m ready to start planting, and I’m ready for people to join me, but I don’t want you here if you’re coming with all your weeds. More than that, if you’re in love with your weeds, why are you even here? There’s numerous churches all over the United States that love your weeds. You don’t even have to work to keep them! Stay away from this, and it’s years of set-up. You don’t belong.
If you are ready for this, but you haven’t accepted something can’t survive first, go back and do the work. I want you here. God wants you here, but you need to mourn. I don’t know, have yourself a little funeral for the traditional church. Write yourself a eulogy. Remember her like your beloved great aunt Ruth. Laugh about the good times, cry over the bad, and cremate what remains.
Then come join me! I’m ready to plant some hope, and it’s gonna be messy, and it’s gonna be fun, and it’s almost time for Spring.
BUT DO NOT FOLLOW IF YOU ARE NOT READY!
A Reflection On 10 Years Ordained
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This morning marks one of those milestones one has to mark when they reached them. Milestones can either be earned through determination or hard work, or they can just happen whether you want them to or not. Ordination is the later. I can't undo it. It is a moment in history that will continue to grow farther away. How a minister spends their time after being ordained, tints how these big milestones feel. Let me begin by saying: I thought I'd be somewhere else.
I thought I'd be somewhere else...
You have no idea how passionate I was about Church 10 years ago. I was ready to jump in and get started. I even had a plan! I was going to start in a small church that felt called to take on new ministers. They would help me as I would help them. Then, when it was time, I would take a bigger church job. My kids would grow up in the church. They would be blessed and baptized. The congregants would celebrate as my kids would reach their own milestones. It was a beautiful picture. Very Thomas Kincad-esk.
Reality is a bitch. (Honestly I've wanted to write "bitch" for Thursday's meditation, and "All part of God's plan" was better than "Destiny's a bitch." Now we're here, and you've been caught up. Reality's a bitch.) If you notice my pretty view above all of it was taking place IN the church. I've yelled about churches being really good at using evangelism to only put out pretty welcome mats. Well, I used to be all about those stupid mats. I was the maker of mats. Oh yes, just put out a nice enough sign in front of the building and they'll come flocking in. I even made a few pretty signs in my day! Really. I was such a glorified idiot.
The worst part is in recalling back, that it didn't really matter. It was empty work that gained nothing, that did nothing, that wasted resources for nothing. Don't coddle me on this one. I have 20/20 vision. (Crap, Of course the 10 year anniversary would fall on 2020. I didn't mean it as a pun, but now I guess it is one. Moving on.) I needed to be broken, because I had built myself into the very fabric of those chairs the church bought to replace the pews because they thought they could be moved around. Now they just sit were the pews were because no one considered what a pain it would be to move the chairs around all the time. Those chairs, like my time and resources, are empty. Are worthless. They have gained nothing.
God broke me out...
Yes, I do mean that as a pun. God broke me out of church.
Well, here's where things are a little messy. I don't believe it's helpful to throw around "It was all part of God's plan," all willy-nilly whenever someone gets hurt or loses someone. Let's get this clear before I continue: God did not hurt you, people hurt you. God's not closing doors to open windows. What kind of joke is that? Sometimes God opens doors really wide to have someone else think it's their door, go through it and close it in your face. No, we don't give ourselves enough credit in our ability to mess up God's creative force.
This is me. I am only talking about my story when I write this. I personally felt I was called to walk into brokenness. I wish I was able to see things as a spectator, but I was created to need to live pain in order to understand pain. I also knew the secret to ministry. If I had played my cards right, and didn't talk about what happened; I'd just be ushered into a new congregation where I would start again. Ah, such a beautiful scenario that never came to be because I had this feeling I was never meant to really walk back into church ministry. Oh, I made a couple of failed attempts. I would let them know I was still doing the "Fig Tree thing," like that was only a side project, even though I knew it wasn't. When it all came to a head, and the choice was Fig Tree (ministry to the broken outside the church) or Church ministry, I finally made the right choice.
A minister in the wrong ministry are chains that hold us captive from God's call.
You might have no idea how freeing it is to just do what God calls you to do! It's not about the paycheck. It's not about the time. It's about the call. If I do something ministry related I don't think, "Are they going to fire me because I just did this?" "They" won't, because they don't own me with a salary. Wow, that's a lot of power for one 39 year old girl to wield. Let this statement sink in just a bit:
While you find your comfort in your paycheck, I find my power in my calling.
Did the people pictured above know what they were helping ordain?
I'm gonna say no. My sister, pictured directly to my right had no idea, and I (the person being ordained) really had no idea. How would anyone else have any clue? I've learned a few things over the past 10 years: I'm dangerous because I can't be bought, and I've already walked through the fire and survived. I'm scary for the same reasons, and I've proven that I'm not after a job, but a call. Now I'm also free.
Watch out. These next ten years are going to be crazy.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Today marks the conclusion to part one. I’m going to sum up everything leading up to this and include the links as I go:
Why I’m always doomed to failure
I wish I could translate my inflections into my words. I wish you could read my persistence, and know my desire. I know it’s a struggle to break past the antiseptic words to see the messy truth. I’m not setting up some “What-if” scenario. I’m in this terrible space. I could write academically; use the correct verbage, and somewhat hit those in their ivory towers. It wouldn’t change anything. To be accepted by the echelons of higher learning. I’m already using words that are too dense for the average reader, and I feel dirty even wearing them.
I could also write down to earth, and keep it real. I could throw around, “Girl!” and play the audience. Then I must dumb it down to the point of stupidity. A feel good blog is satiation only. In other words, it’s not meant to change you really. It’s only meant to make you feel good about the choices you’ve already made.
Which leaves me here. I have this desperate yearning to get the truth out in a world where no one wants to hear the truth. On one hand I will not write in a language others would have to translate to get to the masses just to be considered valid to those with higher education degrees. That’s the modern day Vulgate. There’s a disconnect between the knowledge and the church because the average person can’t read these dense tomes. On the other hand, if I’m not as empty and sweet as cotton candy, I’d better pack it up and go home. I can’t say things that require more than one reading; things that require meditation. I should pander to a side, get my views up, and get published for only saying things my readers want to hear.
My husband asked me, why am I still doing this? Because I see it, and in just seeing it one is forced to make the choice to ignore or act. Every time I encounter a broken individual I’m encountering Jesus, and I’m being asked to accept Christ into my life. Ignorance is my damnation.
Ghosting: Nothing has happened but everything is happening
Many who find themselves canceled by the church, ultimately also find themselves ghosted. First, what is ghosting?
Ghosting is a newish term with an old action. It is a way to avoid confrontation. Instead of one party engaging conflict in a healthy way, they completely cut off and ignore. No action, positive or negative is taken.
It leaves the person who was ghosted with nothing. They are left wondering why everything happened, and they don’t even get a proper closure to move on. The one(s) who did the ghosting are just fine. They avoided their healthy conflict to give negative conflict to the one(s) being ghosted. That’s why ghosting, the act of doing absolutely nothing, is actually everything.
Reasons the church ghosts
You almost always cannot change a system until you understand why something is happening. Anyone who can is suffering by unbelievable dumb luck. There are multiple reasons churches ghost. None of them are healthy, but we must understand them to be able to change their perspective.
To all the ghosts out there
More than likely if you’re reading this, I didn’t personally cause your woundedness. I wasn’t the one who withheld their vote, or refused to speak up. I wasn’t the one who back stabbed you, and I’m not the person who ghosted you. But I’m part of the problem. I’m a minister within this broken tradition. My hands are covered in your blood, and I refuse to wash it off. I want everyone to see it.
I’m sorry you were wounded by a system that was supposed to protect you.
I’m sorry you were spiritually killed in the process. They won’t say it, but I will.
Either they are a zombie church or their comfort is fattening them up for their eventual slaughter. Do not wish to be them. It is better to be spiritually dead. God can work with death. God can take our dry bones and make something new. We have become like new canvas’, ready for God’s masterpiece. When death has been reached, hope can be reborn.
I pulled some articles that might be helpful about ghosting:
Also, Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination- always.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
Last week I explained how the congregants’s ignorance is a symptom of being a Zombie Church. For the victims, there are multiple ways a Zombie church can spiritually kill a congregant; and two big ones: canceling and ghosting. Both of them happen in the church and both are toxic. This week I’m going to discuss canceling.
These posts are important together, so please consider reading the previous ones before you continue:
Zombie Jesus: God is not Undead
Zombie Church Apocalypse
Canceling: Taking away power by shunning the support
Cancel Culture is a dangerous phenomenon. To “cancel” someone is to openly call them out on an indiscretion, remove support from the products they endorse or own, and shun the people who still remain behind. Logan Paul was famously cancelled when he thought it would be appropriate to make a film in Japan’s Suicide Forest. What Paul did was stupid. He discovered how stupid it was, and his stupidity completely destroyed his social media profile. He became a social pariah. Saying you supported him said you supported what he did in Japan. No one wanted to touch that.
Here’s where we get to the rub. People get canceled all the time online, and many of those cancelations are not because of obvious and immediate actions. In 2018 James Gunn was cancelled when someone decided to search through years of his Tweets to find an old viewpoint. Now, to be clear, the tweet they found was sexist, but it was sexist in an age where society endorsed that kind of language, and laughed at it. It wasn’t like there was a trail to present actions or behaviors. While Disney first behaved reactionary and took away Guardians of the Galaxy 3 from Gunn, the counter cancel was strong, and he ultimately got it back.
Power has that perk. So many cancelled are mid-tier YouTubers squeaking by with an okay paycheck. When they get cancelled they end up with nothing. Some commit suicide. The problem with cancelling is simple: It’s the modern day scapegoat. The system is what’s broken, and the people are reacting within that system. Socially destroying specific people who get out of line doesn’t fix anything. All it is, is a nice little dumpster fire that further separates and ultimately makes things worse.
How does it make things worse? When someone has been marked #cancelled the discussion has been closed. That’s a problem. Cutting off discussion, and halting differing points of views, creates a negative version of conflict that keeps healthy conflict from taking hold. You don’t change people’s minds by telling them you don’t want to hear their opinion. I completely and totally believe we can’t have a Mr. Rogers in this day in age. He loved everyone, and it would have led to him being cancelled. That’s not healthy.
Canceling: The only thing the church did before it was a social norm
The church does not use the language, but they do cancel. They’ve done it for decades, and it comes in two flavors:
Canceling entire groups:
Harry Potter is low hanging fruit. We all know the evangelical church canceled it, and I want to go to something a little more current.
50 Shades of Grey: When this book series was first released the only thing I knew about it was that gray tie on the cover of the first book. I had no desire or want to read it. Then the Facebook posts and Tweets started rolling in, “Boycott 50 Shades of Grey.” At that time, I was actually writing on the stupidity of boycotting Harry Potter and how we should boycott Wizard of Oz and Narnia books if we’re going to boycott something that contains sorcery. (Sarcastically, of course. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my Wizard of Oz.) This ancient version of canceling (I say ancient because we all know anything older than a year seems to turn into the long-long-ago in internet years) lit a fire under me, and I began counter-protesting. You can’t understand why something is bad if you don’t give people the chance to find out for themselves. I will forever be grateful to Dominic Noble who reviewed all three books. He talks about healthy sexual ethics, and explains how the books are unhealthy. I also discovered these books started out as Twilight fanfiction. That alone is enough to turn me off. I listened to Dominic because his point was reasoned, and researched. I’m not going to proclaim him #canceled because he took the time to talk about something others were telling me to avoid.
Being Gay: This issue, on both sides, canceled people. Just writing the word is enough for some readers to get ready to cancel me. What am I going to say? I better say something! I better not say that specific something! Here me out.
I want you to imagine with me there was a Bible verse that read, “It is a sin to wake up in the morning and immediately stretch.” Don’t think about context. That’s all we’re working with here. Maybe stretching is involuntary for you. You can’t help it. Your body naturally wants to flex and move those muscles the very moment your eyes open. At first, you decide not to share this fact. As others proudly pronounce they can wake and lie still, the omission is getting to you. Finally, you blurt in Sunday class, “I have to stretch! It’s part of my morning. I can’t help it.” People are taken aback. Of course you can keep from stretching! Why would it be in the Bible if it was something you couldn’t help. Hearing their counter protests, you take it back. You say you’ll try harder not to stretch. People begin comparing your stretching to other things like smoking and alcoholism. Meanwhile, let’s pretend there’s this other Bible verse that reads, “It’s an abomination to wear pink.” While you’re struggling just to stay still in the mornings, you notice this pink rule is being completely disregarded. To you, it appears haphazard that this “pink rule” is being glossed over while the stretching rule gets all the focus.
You speak out again. You’re no longer sleeping well, and you’re weary during the day. This time some others speak out with you. Some are like you, and some are just supportive.
This time the punishment is extreme. They kick you, and everyone who stood with you, out of the church. Your family disowns you, and your friends ghost you. You’ve been canceled by the church.
It’s not to say stretching or sexual preference doesn’t have a context beyond its proof text. It does. That no longer matters, because the conversation is anathema, or in secular lingo- canceled.
This is all wrong. If the action in question, be it stretching, sexual practice, or something else, is something that separates a person from God, canceling them would only further that separation, and therefore be wrong. If that action does no damage to their relationship to God, canceling is a negative action towards a benign behavior, and therefore the canceling is wrong. Either way, Church canceling is wrong, and outside of God.
Here’s the worst part about this subject: Discussing it in either fashion is like announcing you have joined a “side.” You become despised and canceled by one side, while you are further loved by the other. Yes, there are people who boldly announce their feelings for this because they don’t want unification. They would rather remain divided. Nothing is solved with this type of canceling. No one really wins.
I realize those words are putting some on edge, so I will say one more thing before I move on. I will never look at a person and tell them they are going to hell for their personal choices. More than that, I will never have that conversation in private with others. You do not have to fear a hidden trap here. May God destroy everything that has been built if one exists.
Canceling ideas or groups are bad enough, but sometimes individuals are selected and sent to die in the wilderness. “It’s God who will go out and find them again,” they say. “If they’re meant to be part of the community of Christ, God will bring them back.”
In 2016 I briefly went into the history of the scapegoat. The term is rooted in Israelite Wilderness history. They would pick two goats. One of those goats would be sacrificed to God. The other would go through a ceremony where all of the people would symbolically put all of their sin on this one goat. Then they would send the goat out into the wilderness for Azazel to devour their sin. Azazel is an interesting character. Tradition says he’s a fallen angel. This specific character is where we get most of our imagery for what we collectively call the “devil.” I bring up the scapegoat because it’s once again the church creating something to take away their blame. Churches put their communal sin on one person, send them out to be devoured by the devil, and then lament that the devil made them do it. God asks for the sacrifice, not the scapegoat. We only feed evil by scapegoating.
Canceling individuals carries a heavy burden. Those who were canceled, or scapegoated at first believe they're carrying the sins of the entire community. It’s when they find no Azazel out in the wilderness, that they can begin realizing they’re carrying nothing. Meanwhile, just as the Zombie Church makes up the fourth friend to avoid God, they've ignored sin and pretended it walked out with the scapegoat. The sin remained because it wasn’t sacrificed to God.
At this point, anyone within these churches should be horrified, but they can’t see or hear, or even comprehend what they are reading. They are the zombie church. They don’t know I’m talking about them. But the ghosts, the victims of these churches do. To be a ghost of the church is so much better than being turned. You're the lucky ones. You have a path to new life. Next week, I’ll tell you why.
Many of my reading partners were online sources this time:
New York Times: Everyone is Canceled
The Bottom Line: "Cancel Culture" Should Be Cancelled
Society 19: What is Cancel Culture and Why Should We Stop It
the odyssey: Is 'Cancel Culture' Really Necessary
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
– Luke 15:3-7
In 2012, I was in my early 30s, living in a new state, starting a new job, and raising two young daughters who were just getting old enough to ask questions about God. Although I’d severed ties with Christianity in my teens, I wanted to answer their questions responsibly, without exposing them to my own cynicism. They had the right to make up their own minds.
I bought a couple of books and a Bible, just to give myself a little refresher. Around that time, someone added me to an online Bible discussion group on Facebook. When I joined the group, I made it clear that I had a lot of issues with Christianity. I was assured by the group that they wanted me there.
A few months later, we got into a discussion about ministries that reach out to the unchurched. As I was the only person in the group who was “unchurched” at that time, I felt I had a lot to offer in that conversation. If Christians wanted to know how to reach people like me, they’d want to talk to people like me.
Instead, the discussion devolved into many of the group members complaining about new people coming into their churches and not following all the “rules”—both written and unwritten. They didn’t want to change anything about their worship services to make it easier for new people to join in. They didn’t want to do outreach to “those people” who might cuss or have tattoos. They wanted to sit in their clean sanctuary, sing the songs they liked best, and hear the pastor tell them what good Christian folk they were for following all the rules.
I pointed out that not loving the unchurched enough to be uncomfortable wasn’t following the rules of Christianity. I brought up the Parable of the Good Shepherd. Shouldn’t every one of them want to bring that lost sheep home?
No, they said. They wouldn’t leave the safety of the herd to go after one lost sheep. More than that, they didn’t want their pastor to go out there and find that lost sheep either. It was unacceptable for any church resources—including time—to be used on the lost. All the church’s resources should be spent on people who were already in the church.
It’s important to point out that this group was mostly made up of fundamentalist evangelicals who believe you must be saved to get into Heaven. What they were effectively telling me is their own comfort was more important than my immortal soul. They didn’t want the likes of me in their churches. Sure, it was fine for me to be in some online group with them, but they didn’t want me in their church.
I used to be in a church. I grew up in the Mennonite and Mennonite-Brethren denominations. I went to church every Sunday. I attended youth group every week. I led Bible studies both at church and at my high school. I came up with the plan to start a bi-weekend youth service as an outreach program to our town, which we did. I went on short-term mission trips. I saw my friends at the pole. I signed a purity pledge. I followed every single rule, and then some.
When I was eighteen, a middle-aged man from my church began stalking and threatening me. It got so bad, I had to stop attending my church in order to avoid him. My church council refused to ask that man to attend somewhere else, so I had no other option.
My beloved Christian brothers, sisters, and mentors cast me out in favor of a predator.
It didn’t matter that I had been everything they wanted me to be. I had more than fulfilled every expectation. The hard truth was that my situation made them uncomfortable, and they didn’t want to face that discomfort. If I just quietly stopped attending, the whole problem could be swept under the rug. No need to change anything. They could go about business as usual.
That damaged me more than the trauma of having my life threatened. We all know evil is in the world. I could have coped with knowing one man wanted to do evil to me easier than dealing with the cognitive dissonance of knowing the same people who claimed to love me, who had witnessed my baptism and welcomed me as a full member, who I knew to be “good Christians” threw me under the bus so they wouldn’t have to do something that made them uncomfortable.
I’ve repeatedly gotten the same message from Christians: We don’t want you. You have no value to us beyond an attendance number.
Not only do they not want me, they don’t want to listen to me. They all want to believe they’re the type of Christians who would have stood up to my stalker, but if they’re the type of Christians who aren’t willing to face some uncomfortable truths about the church, how could they have?
People who are still inside the church want to know why attendance has declined. They ask, “How can we reach the unchurched?” But as soon as one of us speaks up, they put their hands over their ears. I’m literally right here, telling you how to fix this, but you don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to hear it because it requires you to change and act.
A couple of years after that Facebook group dismissed people like me, I met Rev. Melissa Fain in a different online community. I read some of her posts on Fig Tree, and she struck me as someone who might understand.
Then she did something that blew my little unchurched socks off. She asked me to contribute to an Advent devotional.
Here was an actual pastor, and she wasn’t just saying, “Hey, I want your body to take up space in the church so we can show we’re growing.”
She wasn’t even asking me to join anything.
She wanted to hear what I had to say. She valued what I had to say.
As I wrote in my memoir about my traumatic experiences within the church, that was the first time since I’d been forced to leave my childhood church that I’d felt wanted by Christians. Not tolerated. Wanted. Valued, not as a number, but as a person who had an important perspective the church should hear about.
We like to look at people outside the church as projects. We’re going to bring them into the church and save them from all their misery.
You’re not going to save people like me. You don’t even actually want us, evidenced by how little you’re willing to flex to reach us.
But we could save you, if you let us.