It started with a blog post entitled ‘Ringing Hollow’, which in a moment of sheer brazenness, I not only tweeted the link to but also tagged the Pope himself. The tweet lead to a response from some who saw it. The response lead to a conversation. And then in that one conversation, a nun told me she was seeking new ways to engage the unchurched and unbelievers. It was worded, to my sensitive eyes, as though they were one and the same. I replied with the tweet that started some incredible new connections:
Many unchurched strongly believe in God but not in the churches. Churches have become more about moral codes than love & mercy.
Since that made it’s way around the Twitterverse, I’ve found myself in some amazing conversations with Catholic priests, sisters, deacons and lay ministers and some of other Christian denominations as well. And I keep thinking to myself, these are the ones who should be running the churches. These are the ones who don’t dismiss what they don’t understand. They ask. They listen. I mean they really listen. And while we may not always agree in the end, we have found much common ground. I walk away feeling heard. They walk away understanding some of the issues facing those abandoning the pews. I can’t tell you how much it has eased my pain just to know someone cares enough to even make the effort to try to understand.
But sadly they’re not all like that and I have a few words for those who have only harsh admonitions for ones like me. For just five minutes, for the love of God, please just hear me. After that, go ahead and argue. Call me what you will. Disregard me if you dare. But make sure you’ve actually heard me. Not because I alone matter much, but because I am the voice of many who will never dare to speak up. They will drift quietly away and leave you wondering why your churches are empty.
An Open Letter To The Church:
You speak much but listen little. How can hear me if you don’t listen?
You say we have enough commonality in Jesus. On that I agree.
But if you really believe that, why must I be a cookie cutter of you?
His house is quite big enough for all of us.
I say I feel frustrated by the inconsistency between the total acceptance and love that Jesus taught and what has been cherry-picked to be crafted into strongly enforced laws.
You tell me I don’t see the big picture.
I say divorced people need to be openly welcomed, that not all marriages are sacramental and some needed to end. To find honest sacramental love after a divorce would be an incredible blessing but it shouldn’t be a choice between church and spouse.
You tell me you storm heaven to protect the institution of marriage.
I wonder if you know Jesus unlocked the gates of heaven 2000 years ago and hears my whispers just as much as He hears your racket.
I wonder too if you have forgotten that marriage is more than an institution. It is about very real human beings, and some of them happen to be gay.
I say as a woman I feel sidelined and rejected.
You tell me to go read books written by men that explain my place.
I say women should be ordained, not to be equals to men but to bring balance to them.
You call me a heretic before I can finish my sentence.
I say I feel hurt.
You say go elsewhere.
I say I’ll go elsewhere.
You say I’m sulking.
You say things are changing.
But I no longer listen to what you say.
Did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn’t want to go? That more than anything I only wanted to be accepted, loved and heard.
So now I’ll say this, and hope that you hear me:
I no longer feel safe or nurtured in that which was home. My wounds are too deep. I need time alone with the only One who can heal them. What lays beyond that, I don’t know. Please don’t say I’ve lost my way because I didn’t take your road home. My Shepherd knows the path He’s asked me to walk. You may not recognize it. You don’t have to. I do and little by little He shows me. Truly, it’s a blessing that He shows me so little. If I saw the whole road, I’d likely run screaming back into my assigned pew, duck my head and beg Him to choose someone else.
And if you don’t care what a nobody troublemaker like me has to say, that’s okay. But maybe listen to Fr. Mark who so wisely said,
‘People get lost when love gets trumped.’