Everybody who knows me knows why I often claim that all forms of dairy are terrible. As a young teenager, I developed lactose intolerance. No longer could I start my day drinking chocolate milk, have cheesy stuffed crust pizza for lunch, enjoy strawberry yogurt for a snack, drink chocolate shakes, and end my day with a big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. My worst nightmare would be a church pizza party or an ice cream social … I’d starve. It really wasn’t fun having people look at me like I was weird for scraping off the cheese from the pizza – but it was better than the alternative … the consequences of actually eating any form of dairy. So yeah, all forms dairy is terrible because they taste so amazing and I can’t eat it ever again.
Which brings me to today’s subject – it’s human for those of us who have had a bad experience with something be resentful with everything associated with that thing for as long as we live. So those of us who have been to a dying or dividing church, had a bad experience with a terrible Christian, were dis-invited or kicked out of the fellowship of believers, were told to shave, dress more formally, were stared at, gossiped about, brought before the pastor, elders, and/or deacons to answer for our beliefs or behaviors … or in other words, were burned by the church are understandably unwilling to trust a church ever again. When we’re singled out and judged by the people that are supposed to love us – we can’t help but wonder if all churches are as terrible as this one. I’ve heard far too many stories – my Grandmother had visited a church that told her to wear more formal clothing when she showed up in sweatpants not long after having a surgery, my cousin visited her friend’s church for the first time as a teenager and was told to wear more modest clothing though her apparel was typical for this region when it’s nearly a hundred degrees out, a lady who was at my last church said that in her search for a church she came across one that clearly did not welcome her biracial daughter. These are the stories from people I know directly … the stories from people I don’t know are usually similar, and sometimes much worse.
If your church experience has been perfect, consider yourself lucky! More and more churches are ending up in the news because of crimes committed by it’s leadership and it’s members, sometimes no amount of money, no number of apologies can heal the wound – as Frodo says, some hurts go too deep. I know what you’d say, Jesus Christ’s love can fix all that! Jesus Christ’s love does fix it – it’s His Christian followers than can cause the wounds. Sometimes it’s unintentional, they might think that if they fix a person’s appearance, they’ll be right by God … but it’s not for them to fix how somebody else dresses, looks, or acts.
So as one who has had (minor) bad experiences with the church, I’ll do my best to try not to paint all Christians with the same brush – but I’ll be 110% understanding of the people who have had extremely bad experiences not being able to trust me or the church I represent ever again. I’ll also do my best to be aware of my church – if it leaves a trail of fiery destruction in the lives of anyone I know … I won’t remain there and support them financially through tithes. I won’t let anybody stand alone up against bad Christians. When bad Christians happen to good people … terrible things result. When good people turn into bad Christians, that’s even worse.