I was born and raised in the Christian church. My family has attended the same non-denominational church for my entire 30-year life. I, myself, have been one of the worship leaders of this church for 10 years now and I was also a youth leader for 4 years. I undoubtedly and unquestionably bought into what we were doing as a church on Sunday mornings and everything in-between. I was living a life I thought exemplified Jesus Christ.
Then 2020 hit and this shift began. The controversy over masks and the frustrations with quarantines caused by Covid-19 brought out the worst in humanity. I started seeing ugliness all around me and what shocked me the most was that it wasn’t coming from my non-Christian friends. It was coming from Christians. Through my social media accounts, I saw post after post of hate spewed out towards anyone who didn’t side with their worldview. Every day I sank deeper into despair, wondering how the Christian community I had loved all my life had turned into a monster I didn’t recognize.
Every day I sank deeper into despair, wondering how the Christian community I had loved all my life had turned into a monster I didn’t recognize.
As we moved into June and George Floyd was horrifically murdered, the Christian community as a whole continued to spiral out of control. The lack of empathy and complete disregard for human life shocked me to my core. How could my fellow Christ-followers watch what had happened and stand idly by or worse-yet, argue that maybe it was somehow justified? When did human life stop mattering to the Christian Church?
I suppose I was naïve. I’ve always had a Pollyanna-type outlook on life; looking for the good in people. But I’ve seen atrocities in the church before: our exiling of the LGBTQ+ community through the years; the shame we impart on unwed mothers or worse yet, women who experienced abortions. I shouldn’t have been completely blindsided by the way the white Christian community responded to George Floyd’s death or the events of a global pandemic, but I genuinely expected more. I expected white Christians to feel a burning, righteous anger just like I was.
I began researching. I read books, articles and participated in local and national Zoom events as often as I could. I joined a church group in pursuit of justice within our community. I thought the majority of people would have the same concerns that I did. Instead, people warned me that I needed to be careful and tread lightly, as if pursuing justice for humanity isn’t God’s calling for His people. What began to unfold in my heart was a complete disillusionment of what the White American Evangelical Christian Church stands for. Money, greed, and power seemed to be among the top motivating factors for the Church’s actions.
Instead, people warned me that I needed to be careful and tread lightly, as if pursuing justice for humanity isn’t God’s calling for His people.
This left me thinking, where is God in all of this? How can we, as a people claiming to love Jesus and attempting to live our lives in accordance with His teachings and purposes, choose hate over love and prosperity over other’s needs? The truth is, I don’t have any answers. In fact, I feel more lost than ever. Caught between this love I have for the Jesus I know and the intense frustration and disappointment I have in His Church. I don’t see the church aligning with Jesus’ teachings anymore. In fact, I see quite the opposite. I keep wondering how many churches Jesus would throw tables in if He were here today.
So here I stand, with the broken pieces of my Christian culture scattered all around me. I still love Jesus. I still wholeheartedly believe what Jesus stands for, but I don’t know if I believe in the Church. Or at least not American church culture. Perhaps the practice of church on Sunday mornings isn’t what Jesus meant when He called His people to follow Him. I don’t know where this leaves me, other than a Christian who doesn’t align with the current teachings of the American Church.
I feel a bit like a fish out of water, but then again, Jesus always found ways to use the outcasts so maybe I’m on the right path after all.
I want more from the church. The White American Evangelical Church needs to stand up and take ownership for its complicity in racism and white supremacy, both historically and presently. I want the Church to corporately repent and ask forgiveness for its wrongdoings. There needs to be a great outpouring of lament and grief with BIPOC communities who have been crying out for hundreds of years. I want to see the church become a place that really embodies the characteristics of Jesus; where the marginalized and outcasts are the primary focus. Where full acceptance is freely given to all people no matter their gender or sexual identity. I want a church whose priorities are not to fill seats on Sunday mornings or meet annual budgetary goals. We are too used to the idea that church and Christianity are solely tied to Sunday mornings and weekly gatherings. I want to see the church actively pursuing justice in Jesus’ name; no longer stagnant in a stuffy building, going through the same motions we’ve done for decades.
I want to see the church become a place that really embodies the characteristics of Jesus; where the marginalized and outcasts are the primary focus.
It’s time to move beyond our walls and the confines we have built in our minds of what church is. It’s time for an awakening to the fact that we are the literal hands and feet of Jesus. So how are we showing the world who Jesus really is?
Part 2 of Can We Gather? In this article, Genevieve addresses shame.
Genevieve take's a pilgrimage of churches and tackles the question, can we gather without harming one another?