an open letter to those who have been burned by church

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Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

an open letter to those who have been burned by church

thanks to a tweet from @emergentvillage, i came across a great blog post from curtis honeycutt (@curtishoneycutt) today speaking to—as the title suggests—those who have been burned by church. it’s a beautiful, vulnerable, honest conversation with an ever-growing group of people. so, if you’ve ever felt put off, not by jesus, but by the church, take a minute to read this. curtis, no doubt, shares many of my feelings.
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To All the Wounded:

Just the mention of the word “church” leaves a bad taste in your mouth and may cause you to throw up in your mouth a little. You recall old scars that you’ve been trying to cover up for years. I get that.

At some point (or maybe for much of your life) someone or a group of Christians have blatantly mis-represented Christianity to you. Maybe you got turned off by a televangelist or street preacher. Perhaps you received a million dollar bill tract as a tip at a restaurant where you were working the dreaded Sunday lunch shift, full of high maintenance, crabby Christians who are fresh out of a church service. To you, “church” has become a four-letter word.

Someone has turned the Bible into a blunt weapon against you.

Someone has told you that the “good news” is that you’d go to hell if you died tonight.

Someone has emotionally torn you down and left you in a heap of tears.

Someone’s arrogance/ignorance made you cringe and want to disappear.

Someone has caused you to never want anything to do with Christians, church, or God ever again.

Those people are condescending assholes. There is no excuse in the universe for these kinds of attitudes and actions. My heart breaks for you and what you have experienced. I don’t think therapists are qualified to deal with the kind of hurt and pain that has been inflicted on you and continues to weigh you down at just the glimpse of a lame saying on a church marquee.

I am no better. Sometimes I cuss (see above). I have looked down on people who I perceived as “big sinners”. I’ve had hateful attitudes towards those who I deemed “unrighteous”. I don’t want you to follow my example.

Thankfully, though, I have caught a brief glimpse of the church living up to its full potential. I think God wants Christians to wage war not against Democrats or hippies or homosexuals, but on poverty, HIV/AIDS, and injustice. I think that God loves when we ask lots of questions and when we honestly struggle with life.

I believe that God loves you just the way you are; God made you very specifically with all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. Unfortunately, people aren’t perfect and often warp the idea of what God is like.

What I ask is that, if any of this stuff strikes a chord with you, you will let some of these words sink in and you’ll take some time to process what this means to you. I totally understand if it takes quite a while before you trust Christians, church, or anything that has to do with God.

My hope for you is that at some point you are re-introduced to God in a new way–whether you see God in the eyes of a homeless man, in a gorgeous sunset, through a friend who cares about you, or even on a Sunday morning, inside a big room with stained-glass windows.

You’ve been burned, but you don’t have to stay burned…

With All Respect,

Curtis Honeycutt

2 Comments

  1. Cara Beth says:

    good stuff. hit home.

  2. Morgon77 says:

    I think that the most important thing to be careful about when we start dealing with how the church has hurt people is that, we do not remain focused on the church, but then move on to Jesus, and how He is good news, and has been good news in our lives, and how new life has come to us because of Him.

    Far too often, the conversation remains on the church. If the focus remains there, it cannot live and grow and change. Only as we recenter, refocus on Christ, can we truly be freed of the hurts of our past.

    When I say this, I don't mean "Hey, he didn't end that with a salvation message, the jerk!" Salvation is an event that happened about 2000 years ago, and that we're called to believe in, but Christ initiated an entire way of Kingdom Living that is frighteningly absent from many of the conversations about what is wrong with the church.

    Yes, Christ certainly would want an address to disease, poverty, alienation, etc., and this is addressed repeatedly throughout the bible. But that address must come out of a recognition of Jesus as the Primary Physician, who is the only holistic expert who can tell us how to truly be whole and healthy, not only for ourselves, but relationally with one another.

    Christ changed my life. He expanded my awareness, He cured me of decades of bitterness and tight focus cynicism, he allowed me to be part of a marriage and keep growing to the point where I could change my being from "what does this do for me" to "how am I being a benefit to these people, how are these kids/this wife seeing Christ because I live with them?"

    When our focus becomes an active, responsible, long sighted love, everything changes. And that change can only happen through our grasping, tenuous, growing relationship with the Christ. Amen.

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