Love Letter to Mainline Christianity
I’m having a hard time writing this because inevitably it’ll fluff some feathers — even my own if I’m willing to admit it. I know you’ve existed in so many forms throughout time and I hope you can receive both the content and intent here for a more wholesome future. Together, I hope.
Caveats aside, I have some strong words from a tired somebody who currently inhabits the role of hospital chaplain resident. That means right now my hands are full of balancing the tender care of exhausted hospital care workers with the other tender care of holding warm hands as they become cold.
Maybe I just need a place to express all these things. Maybe I just need to pretend that you’ll receive them. Most of all, I want the Church to know where I am.
What Is It?
I write to you today because I am hurt, disappointed, saddened, shocked, not shocked, and perplexed by you. I want authenticity, integrity, and transparency. What I see is avoidant, unwilling, shaming, prescribing kinds of behaviors.
If I’m honest, this was beginning to bubble prior to the global pandemic. I think the pandemic just exploded new fragments into the mix. So today I’m just going to address the fragments on the surface. If you’ll entertain the rest, we’ll get to that at another point.
I need you to see me, we, us, for more than just bodies in your pews. I need you to stop holding up systems of oppression that marginalize anyone who doesn’t look, sound, appear, or behave in line with good little church mice.
I need you to stop holding your faith as a battering ram to bully and shame people into your communities. I can’t go into a church that uses Jesus Christ’s atonement as an excuse not to take social responsibility. I can’t go into another sanctuary and see mask-less faces who don’t understand the gravity of compromised immune systems.
I need you to care beyond the politics you subscribe to.
I need you to care beyond simply that which directly affects you.
I need you to see the trauma you’ve inflicted, make amends, and do better.
Is It Me?
Probably. It’s probably a combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell (that means a both/and). I am willing to admit my part in this. I’ve used church as an escape from problems – personal and societal. I’ve used church as a place to skirt social responsibility (that’s what we call an excuse folks). I’ve ignored and pretended that you exist outside of all that happens in society.
But, that’s not a holistic look.
It’s me, but it’s also you. It’s both of us. I know I’m not alone in these things – I mean, look at the changes in church demographics, changes in church attendance, changes in folks leaving.
I Want to Be with You
I think I need a break with you right now. I want to be with you, but I’m squirming and freeing myself from the expectation of holding you so close to my chest.
I need to step back, look at my wounds, and tenderly care for them. Not just for me – which is also needed – but for others too. It’s time for us to listen to Lizzo, “Got to take a deep breath, time to focus on you.”
It’s time to molt, shed, or whatever you call it. It’s time to understand myself and you with more clarity.
I’ve held you so close for my entire life because I’ve been afraid of what releasing you would mean. I looked to others for inspiration and motivation, when my truths were within. I looked elsewhere when what I needed was to see the spark in my own heart as well as others.
I am struggling to be with you right now and I know I am not alone. Don’t mistake this as leaving or leaving forever. I just need to breathe. It’s time for us to reassess, reevaluate, and seek connection in new ways that recognize where we’ve been, where we are, and still continue to find something beyond us. That’s the holiness I see in the world.
Relax Into Your Beauty
I see the holiness of hand holding as someone breathes their final breath. I see the holiness of sleeping in after long nights of deconstructing trauma with folks.
I know you know how to ritualize the sacred moments. Our entire ritual of breaking bread and body is exactly that.
Now I need you to notice and share the beauty of exploring the quietness of our souls as well as the screaming of our hearts. This is an enfleshed faith that is way more real and honest. I need all parts of the enfleshed body, even those weird elbows and shriveled toes.
I love you and I want you to come along for the journey. I’m shedding some skin and I know you can too. It’s ugly right now, like a bird with some plucky feathers.
But I know we both can grow – together and separately. I know God’s grace continues to shine in you and me and I’ve chosen to continue to pursue you even when it’d be much easier to move on.
I just need to breathe and try on this new skin.
Heather Moore (she/her) is a native Appalachian, millennial, nerd/gamer, and serial hobbyist who specializes in thinking and writing outside of the institutional box, calling out injustices, and coming alongside people in the messy beauty and quagmire of life.
Featured image by Pixabay on Pexels.com