To You, Who Were Raped by the Church
(and then I tried to make you be my friend)
I expend a lot of energy trying to earn forgiveness for the church from the world.
I want desperately to differentiate myself from the acts of violence, the crimes against humanity, the sickening hypocrisy:
Look! My congregation is not mean, I swear it. We are gentle and gracious. We do, in fact, use our intellect, even in the church. We allow for questions; we embrace those who are different. We are safe, we are different, we are a breath of fresh air.
Look! I am a pastor who will not manipulate, lie, or belittle, I swear it. I do not molest children or mishandle funds or sleep with my secretary while cramming abstinence down the throat of our teens. I respect the personhood of each individual. I am safe, I am different, I am a breath of fresh air.
Only all this effort to earn forgiveness from You, the Wounded, the Raped, the Lied To, and the Used . . . all this effort to prove I am different . . . it is about my ego. My need for You to approve me, accept me, and see that I am special. I am sorry. I won’t ask for Your forgiveness again.
Instead I say to You: You have every right to be angry.
If the Church raped You, I am not sorry. Sorry is the wrong word. As if I could make amends for such evil.
Instead I am devastated, and I get out of Your way. It makes perfect sense if You hate us. I can understand if You are suspicious of all clergy, even me. I hereby give up my need for You to like me.
I give up my anxiety that You come to like God again. If God is good, like I believe, then God can handle herself and soothe Your wounds in time. If God is evil (or not even there), like it must seem to you, then I am sorry for interfering in Your journey with my pompous opinions.
You have every right to be angry, and the only way to heal is through Your anger and not around it (at least, that’s how it works for me), so I apologize for trying to force a rushed reconciliation that would require You to stuff the anger. I’m bad at timing.
Somewhere (it was in church, I think) I got this idea that salvation was in my hands, and I had better dispense it quick or all of You would die. God, I was presumptuous.
I see You now, and You are so alive, and Your job is so hard. What obstacles You are up against: so much hurt to overcome just to survive, just to heal, just to find peace, and there’s hardly a church-goer alive who will let You be.
Even the kindest among us try to smother You with love, as if You were a wayward child we could win back with kisses rather than a victim of atrocity who needs Your space to heal. I wish we had not inserted ourselves where we did not belong.
Just to be clear, I’d still like to be friends with You. Not to satiate my insecurity, but because I think You are cool. I am fascinated by Your story, and I wish I could hear the whole thing. I think You are incredibly brave, and that You have something to teach me. I have this sneaking suspicion we could actually connect, more than either of us would have thought possible.
But I just wanted You to know, You are free to decline the invitation because I can see bad things have happened to You, and I promise to quit play-acting like they didn’t happen. I won’t trivialize Your hurt by pretending there’s no rift between us.
So goodbye, You beautiful person. I hope You find Your healing.
I hope one day, in Your own time, You say to me, “Hello.”