Today seems to be the day where I am bombarded by conversation, readings and experiences of those who follow hiding their heartbreaks to their fellow christ followers. Why? Because they know they will be judged.
Miscarraiges, debt, death of children, suicide, marital struggles all neatly hidden away beneath a neat facade, or perhaps not so neat, but a facade nonetheless. Because I wasn’t raised in the church I didn’t know that that “judge unto others because they will judge unto you” was an unspoken understanding of being in most fellowship. I genuinely believed that if one engaged deeply in a faith community-in service, in generosity, in loyalty, supporting others, than one would in kind receive support. As a singleton I didn’t factor the need of this as much as when I grew a family of my own.
A beloved friend lost twin daughters within weeks after their birth due to a genetically caused enzyme disfunction. This sack cloth and ashes loss, this unthinkable grief, he mentioned to me, was met by some within the fellowship with the comment that it may be because their is sin in his life. Leave it to the fellowship of christ to bestow the death knell of faith.
My own instance was the loss of a son by suicide, the depth of which was compounded by grieving details. I can only shake my head at the response his sister received, that it was part of God’s perfect plan… a response not only insufficient but ineffably and pit of eternity inappropriate. I can forgive the 14-year olds more easily than I could forgive others.
There are so many of these stories I can only imagine that these pains we inflict in places where we have sought comfort, healing and support would compose an endless litany that looked like those who are fairly content to practice their faith away from the judging eyes of others in fellowship.
There is a book I have not read. It is called “They like Jesus, but not the church”. I haven’t read it, but I feel like I already know what is inside of it.
More forward to the point is: why? why are our churches suffering from this? why are those within the church not taking more seriously the bearing of each others burdens? Why has the response to pain become judgement? Why are people hiding their heartaches in the one place that should be where they can lay down their burdens?
I am aware I am painting with broad strokes. I am aware that as soon as making this grand proclamation I have painted every church everywhere with the same color, and the truth is never so monochromatic. So let’s be more specific. I only know about churches in America. I only know about Protestant churches. I only know about Evangelical churches (though I am not sure I have ever fully signed up for evangelicalism). In the interest of nuance, I am not talking about any faith community outside of American Evangelical Protestantism.
Perhaps as surely as the dying off of species in natural selection it will become clear that this species of Christian has these particular characteristics: tendencies toward pious, unintended duplicitousness, sincerity, honoring of select populations, group think and a haven for those who want more than anything to either display or attain moral advancement.
Ouch! did I just write those rapier words of judgement? yes, and it felt rather gratifying, thank you.
So as far as the question of why, it is not hard to imagine why in the place where the burdens are meant to be laid to rest, instead, they are heaped with the complexity of judgement and distance. I explain to my children that we always can feel a little taller when we stand on someone else’s head or heart, and that is why it is very common to find judginess. It operates, I suspect, in the unconscious. In the need for people to feel better about themselves because many of us deal with a voice inside that speaks self-condemnation. Oh what a relief to dispense that condemnation with a few inches of moral one upping.
The Wittenburg door, in some ways was a protest against an analogous transpiring in the church which at the time was selling pardons of sins.
Some may have stopped reading because of the lack of new information here, but there may be no shortage of incredulity on the part of those who seek recompense within the doors of the church and walk away feeling the weight of an added burden–distance, judgement.
A friend told me the isolation she felt the of learning about the heart – rending death that changed her life. In the weeks after the death, the school kept calling because she was having a hard time getting her daughter to school punctually. She did not want to have to bear the burden of going in to tell them that she was struggling with a painful loss. Her husband wasn’t in a place to offer much more than keeping his nose to the grindstone. On a math focus night at the school which happened the same day as the news of the death, she met a woman with children the same ages as her own from within her fellowship. As she tried to keep herself together, it was hard to keep the eyes from spilling over. The other woman was even keel and somehow managed to not notice that she was falling apart. My friend said she understood that not everyone was made to walk next to others in their hardest moments, but brief encounter felt very similar to what she had experienced at every level within her congregation. These stories elicit grief and a potent of “what is going on here?”
What is going on here
But even if not for self-loathing, a more austere term to refer to the self-condemnation (or one might consider it shame),