Dear Old Friend,
I miss you. I miss your certainty, your surety, your unwavering, relentless faith. I miss how close you felt to God every day of your existence since you were a teenager. I miss how you spent silence in the car praying, in a never-ending conversation with your Creator. I miss how you could dive head-first into any worship song and not brace yourself for some of the shame embedded in the lyrics. I miss the 20-something old you, the you who glided effortlessly through life. I miss your naïveté. I miss not knowing about corrupt systems of oppression that were sanctioned by the Church. I miss not knowing about the ways our faith has been colonized and wielded into a sharp tool for hundreds of years, ready to slice for political and profitable gain. I miss only knowing the good, because there is so, so much good.
You don’t know yet what a machine American Evangelical Christianity is. You don’t know that it’s been this way for decades. You don’t know that the subculture you’ve been a part of focuses the overwhelming majority of its teaching on the book ends of Jesus’ life—His death and resurrection—at the expense of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. At the expense of the rest of Jesus’ life. At His inclusivity. You don’t know yet that your subculture isn’t very concerned with this world, other than saving souls, because we got involved with an evacuation plan for the next world. You don’t know that for the majority of the people in your circles, in your nation’s understanding of evangelicalism, they believe most of the world’s problems can be solved by exerting around 10 pounds of pressure with a trigger finger. You don’t know yet what a fight it was for those in your faith to make sure you and your future daughter don’t receive equal pay and equal opportunity. You don’t know yet how much they tried (and continue to try) to make sure your sole purpose is, whether you want to or not, to make babies and stay home. You don’t know yet that they view you as dangerous. By now, you already know they view you as inferior, but dangerous will be new. You don’t know yet that your degree, your expertise, and your life experience will never compensate for being a woman. You don’t know yet that even among Christian women, you’ll still be viewed as inferior; your voice intrinsically carries less authority, less significance. You don’t know that they’ll be some of the loudest culprits of sexism in your life.
You don’t know that for the majority of the people in your circles, in your nation’s understanding of evangelicalism, they believe most of the world’s problems can be solved by exerting around 10 pounds of pressure with a trigger finger.
Old friend, you don’t know yet that since Christianity hit American soil, it’s been used to justify and rationalize horrific atrocities for anyone who isn’t a white, straight male. Old friend, you’re still walking around your college campus seeing people wear t-shirts that say “Would it bother us more if they used guns” and deciding it would be much safer if you kept it to yourself that you’re not so sure being a republican is the only viable choice. Old friend, you don’t know yet that for all the people saying, “The Bible clearly says,” what they actually mean is “My preferred version of Christianity is.” Old friend, you’ve begun to realize that you’re in the minority for thinking women could and should be pastors—even lead pastors. Old friend, for this reason, you already changed course with your second major and decided you couldn’t stomach the constant, incessant questioning and insistence from your male classmates that you didn’t belong in the Pastoral program and certainly didn’t have a future afterward. Old friend, you don’t know that some of your classmates and friends you lived amongst in the dorm will later come out and publicly share they’re gay, they’re transgender, and they’ve been suffering in silence all along. Old friend, you don’t know that the theological LGBTQ “issues” you discussed in class and around the lunch tables in the cafeteria were daggers in your friends’ hearts. Old friend, they were so very alone. Old friend, you just didn’t realize how unsafe these places are for them. Old friend, you didn’t know that you, your friends, and some of your professors engaged these “issues” like they were a theoretical exercise that affected nobody in the room. Old friend, you didn’t know, but now you do.
Old friend, you didn’t know, but now you do.
You don’t know yet how much you’re going to wrestle, really wrestle with your faith. You don’t know that the catalyst will be less about your own doctrine, but rather the way the majority of your white evangelical subculture lives out the predominant doctrines. You don’t know yet that the people in your faith with go on to incite an insurrection because they couldn’t understand that a pretty horrible candidate didn’t win a second term, deny the reality of a global pandemic that’s killed over 2.8 million people—and counting—and then put your sister’s literal life at risk by not wanting to wear a mask in her presence. You don’t know yet she’ll be diagnosed with cancer just weeks after delivering her second baby in the midst of a pandemic. You don’t know yet that she’ll be a young mom with a baby and a toddler and a port-a-cath, and have her world turned upside down. You don’t know that you’ll never get to hug her throughout her entire cancer journey. You don’t know that you’ll never hold her baby the entire first year of her life. You don’t know that she and her college-sweetheart-turned-husband will serve in ministry, and hundreds and hundreds of people would be utterly heartbroken and shattered if she died, but your people are more concerned with their personal freedom to do what they want and not wear a mask than keep her safe. You don’t know that for so many of your people who talk about laying down their lives for their brother or sister like Jesus did, when put to the test, it’s just lip service: they won’t even lay down their preference.
You don’t know that for so many of your people who talk about laying down their lives for their brother or sister like Jesus did, when put to the test, it’s just lip service: they won’t even lay down their preference.
Old friend, you don’t know how much I miss you. There’s a responsibility that comes from learning and growing, even when the weight of what you know and have seen feels at times like it just might crush you. Old friend, you don’t know how much it feels like your faith you’ve grown up in feels like it’s putting you in an illegal hold and you’re gasping for air.
You don’t know how hard you’ll fight to stay in the match. You don’t know just how much you’re going to fight when the referee is seconds away from blowing the whistle.
Lucky for you, you’ve still got your old wrestling shoes.
Lucky for you, you still have a team.
Lucky for you, you know some moves.