dignity restorers

eighthletterbannera while back i had heard about the eighth letter gathering up in canada, where 25 people will be sharing their letter to the north american church.  yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers, rachel held evans, announced an open synchroblog this week where anyone was welcome to share their own letter.  after a particularly wild-week-in-the-trenches around here i had this post on the tip of my tongue so i thought i’d just turn it into a quick-off-the-top-of-my-head letter instead.  here goes:

dear north american church,

you have developed a bad reputation.  you didn’t mean to.  i believe your heart is good & you have been so sincere in your dedication to Christ, of that i have no doubt.  the problem is that somehow you’ve become more committed to teaching the truth than actually living the truth.  to building successful businesses that are self-sustaining rather than living by faith & giving your resources away. by creating walls instead of bridges.

and the world’s started to smell out your contradictions.  you see, they are in need of hope and peace, not anger and control.  they are hungry for love and cups of cold water, not hate and picket signs.  they are desperate, dying, divorcing, and deconstructing, and you are spending energy on trying to prove your “this is what the Bible says” point.

and you’ve forgotten one of the most important things that Jesus did, that he modeled for us so beautifully–he restored dignity to people who had lost it. the sick, the lame, the broken, the desperate, the outcasts, the marginalized, the least, the last.  over and over, he healed them, lifted their head, and touched them with hope.  hope that the kingdom of God was available now and it wasn’t only for the learned, the put-together, the well, the powerful.  it was available for all those who were humble enough to admit their spiritual poverty & need for God.

the world does not need any more dignity-strippers.  they’ve got enough of that going on without the church’s help.

what the world needs are dignity-restorers.

  • people who are willing to call out God’s image in those that don’t know it’s there.
  • people who are willing to sacrifice their own jobs, time, heart, and money to change systems that keep others oppressed.
  • people who use their own power & privilege to make space for those without it.
  • people who are willing to give a rip about that one person who everyone else has given up on.
  • people who see beyond gender, politics, religion, socioeconomics, and all of the other things that divide and segregate us and engage in deep & meaningful relationships anyway.
  • people willing to go the long haul and offer compassion & love to the hurting instead of trite advice & easy spiritual answers.
  • people who will stand between the stone throwers & the one about to be stoned and advocate on their behalf.
  • people who touch the untouchable.
  • people who see the best in others instead of the worst.

it’s not going to be easy to make this change for you.

a cool website won’t do it.

all the right answers won’t do it.

going to the next great conference won’t do it.

putting the word “missional” on the tip of everyone’s tongues won’t do it.

to really become known as dignity restorers, you’re going to have to give up all kinds of things you rely on to keep you safe, strong, and protected:

being right.

systems that perpetuate money & power & control

hanging with people who are just like you

making sure you’re the “us” and they’re the “them.”

but first, your own dignity must be restored. you must get in touch with who you really are.  who you were meant to be.  not what you think you had to become to feel better about yourself.  yeah, Jesus can heal you, too.  humble yourself and touch his garment, seek his ways, and surrender to love.

and here’s the wildest part–if you won’t do it, can’t do it, refuse to do it, you need to know that others will.  right now, others are.  they are actually being “the church” instead of wasting time hashing over who can teach & who can’t, who’s right & who’s wrong, who’s giving money & who’s not.   they are just getting down to Jesus’ business without the trappings of “the church” and doing just fine.

oh but i have no doubt if all your resource, all your hands & hearts & eyes & ears & buildings & power & influence & hope could really be channeled to restoring dignity in person after person after person after person, the image of God uncovered in his people, shining brighter and brighter, would dim the darkness of this world like never before.

please, step into who you were meant to be.  it’s beautiful.  it’s better.  and the world really, really needs it.

so i got out what i wanted to say this week.  i really believe the world doesn’t need another sandwich board church sign on the corner announcing really good coffee & fun for families.  the world needs people willing to restore dignity where it’s been lost.

what would you like to say to the north american church? let it rip.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Kathy- you said eloquently what I’ve been feeling in my heart about the church for years! Thank you!

  • Excellent…….may we each learn to extend our hand & heart, doing our part to restore the dignity of others. Love that!

  • Holy cow! I gotta start a blog just so I can write one of these… but I don’t think I can write it as succinctly as you just did…. Go Kathy! That is kick-ass girl!

  • Working/living in the addiction/recovery community there is a wonderful thought. Communities of safety are a place where “the observation and participation of dignity occurs”. In these places of sanctuary the broken are allowed to observe. And what they observe allows the story of recovery to seep in. The untouchables are welcome with the enduring grace of acceptance. Participation begins when dignity is observed, accepted and then…trusted. At that point I may be able to say “Hello, my name is marty and I’m….”

    I worked as a pastor for 14 years. 2 of those years was in a mini-mega church. I would never, ever sit through the indignity of a staff meeting again, where attendance, cash and vision dominated the ethos of the conversation. A chair in the back of a dingy room in AA still astonishes me.

  • Dear North American Church,
    I love you and I forgive you for hurting me. I forgive you even though your words, assumptions, actions…or no actions made me feel judged, abandoned, rejected and not worthy of grace and forgiveness. I forgive you for SAYING you loved me and cared in front of the crowds/on-stage/from the pulpit, but “behind the scenes”/when no one was around you attacked me, threatened me and used me. To the crowds…you made yourself appear “innocent” and representative of the same God we both serve.
    I forgive you for assuming that I was faking my pain and for saying that my prayer requests were nothing more than a public out cry for attention. I forgive you and I ask that God would bless you abundantly and take you to the cross of Jesus. There, may you look into His eyes and see His heart for you. And, may He give you His eyes for others; those that you believe are different from you and are “below” you.
    I pray that you would be restored by His overwhelming grace, love and forgiveness. I pray that His love would change you!
    At the same time, I pray He would restore and change me! I pray for His eyes to see YOUR wounds, pain and anger. May His Holy Spirit brood over both of us and may Jesus’ blood saturate our entire being. We NEED Him to do His work in our hearts! I pray SOMEHOW, we both can be part of His redeeming work to reconcile believers and rebuild you so that others would “know us by our LOVE”! So together, we can reach those that Jesus called us to!
    May God have mercy on us ALL!
    Pastor Kathy…yes, this letter is much like my work/process of releasing and forgiving…but, it’s what I have to do for my heart and, an honest prayer/letter for the church…all of us! And, well, I took liberty with the “let it rip”!!! Thank you…it felt good!

    • Tammy — I am late to the party as you wrote this in 2010 … but if you see this, thank you! I was spiritually abused, accused, shunned, and slandered … and your words of “I forgive you” will encourage me in what that might look like.

  • Great post again. I think this is the word for the whole Body of Christ globally, at least also for the believers in Finland/Europe. I will re-post this!!

    Love to your autumn,


  • Hmm… very well stated…. and, from my heart tight now, a little raw or blunt for wome, maybe, but…

    Tto the North American Church (NOT just catholics!):
    If you want credibility among those seeking answers and genuine help, then… quit. protecting. pedophiles and sexual predators.

  • Martin—
    Makes ya wonder if Jesus would come in and turn tables on those cchurch staff meetings, huh?? Thank God for AA… He’d totally support those meetings. He’d probably even put in his buck.

  • So freaking beautiful, and I seriously got the chills. There were portions of this letter that really resonated with my spirit, and helped remind me of our own efforts in this hokey-pokey faith community… “that’s what its all a-bout 🙂

    This line spoke to me today: “people who see the best in others instead of the worst…….Thanks for being a lifter so many heads (including my own) and for helping & encouraging so many of us do the same.

  • To change this world we need to become so much more then a building based church. We were called to go and help the world, not the other way around.

    Very Powerful blog Kathy, it gives me a LOT to think about.

  • Kathy,

    I think we are definitely in sync on the topic of the day. I am not sure of how much of an influence you have on me and our little church, but if the distillery could have had a sponsor church — a planting church — I would have wanted it to be the refuge.

    Let us always be about living in the truth, living by faith and creating and facilitating bridges by cultivating community from below.

    Thanks for your letter and for what you do for the thousands of people who are affected by the few who read your blog.

  • jeff – thanks for reading & for sharing on facebook, too, i’d love to hear how some of those conversations went, what got stirred up for people.

    – it was kind of fun to write it, i admit. i’d love to see yours!

    hugh – you are a dignity restorer, and i am so glad i know you.

    jonathan – i missed you guys, too. wish i could have pulled it off but that’s how it goes sometimes. i am really looking forward to reading. we really do think alike. i’m glad you are my brother on the journey & i so appreciate your voice & heart. see you soon, i hope.

    liz – thanks for reading. i am so behind on blogs but did you write one?

    oralia – thanks for reading, i am looking forward to seeing you all in october at emdes & voca femina.

    – i love the way you restore dignity & dim the darkness…it’s really pretty.

    – thanks for reading & taking time to share.

    – i am glad that you liked it & i really appreciate taking time to comment…

    tami – i can’t wait to read yours. i know it will rock.

    martin – oh i could go back to that time and place and recall the conversations & how dignity stripping they were. yeah, once we’ve tasted this other thing, there’s no going back. we’re ruined. in a lovely & good way. i was just talking to a friend today about the power of 12 step meetings & the simplicity & power & beauty of it all. thank you so much for sharing, i’d love to hear more about where you are at & what it is like.

    – thank you for sharing your heart and letting it flow. i love it when stuff gets stirred up in such a beautiful and tangible way. i am so glad you’re here.

    – great to hear from you. thanks for reading from afar & being part from across the miles. i love the thought that it’s beyond just the north american church. peace & hope to you & thanks for using your voice.

    – yeah, sometimes i can be a bit blunt, ha ha. i did just let it flow. thank you for your powerful words. wow.

    tami & martin
    – oh i am almost positive that’s where Jesus would be. i’m not so sure he’s too keen on some of the other meetings happening in his name. his take would be really interesting to hear.

    – so glad you’re part of dignity restoring here. your heart and passion and who you are is so beautiful & i am grateful.

    minnow – feel free to pass on whatever anytime. i am so glad you are here & i’m telling you, one of these days we need to somehow have a real conversation. way way too much to talk about.

    linda – i am in a place where i don’t have good internet but will have to take a look. thanks for taking time to share!

    jacob – thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. i really appreciate your words & i am with you all the way. something’s gotta change.

    – oh we are so glad that somehow our little nutty communities are connected & any way we can support and love you, we are in. you encourage us more than you know. we need you. it reminds us we’re not alone & we’re not crazy. i am glad we share the same heart. some day we’re going to figure out a way to get out there!

  • Hey Kath, love this one! Haven’t been to church since moving to WA a year ago, quite frankly I’m afraid to go. It’s way too easy to just show up every Sunday morning, maybe join a bible study during the week, and feel like I’m on the right path to “growing my relationship with God.” What does that mean anyway? I’m just as confused, lost, and have way more questions than ever since becoming a regular church go-er five years ago. I do know though, that I’d like to show my children who Jesus is and how to SHOW Him to others, not preach from our pulpit. Sharing your blog with others who have hearts as big as yours and knowing they will appreciate your words of truth and wisdom. Love you guys! Kathleen
    PS Kirsten just had a beautiful, healthy baby girl last week – so exciting!

  • Hey, Kathy.
    First, sorry for all the typos…

    Second, I was actually referring to myself about to be blunt. 🙂

    Your letter may be too blunt for some, but I do not think it was too blunt. It was very to the point and needs saying. The question is, are they listening?

    I do not hold out much hope in that direction.

  • Tears in my eyes. This is perfect. Exactly what I would have said if I could’ve figured out how the heck how. Thank you.

  • you are so good at dignity restoring, Kathy. thank you for breathing truth and life and so so so much grace into those around you. i adore you.

  • I am late to this party, but just found the post today… I so much want to be a dignity restorer for others. This resonates with me and convicts me, because I think I do so little of this. I long for a community of people I could do it “alongside” because that would be wind in my sails.

    Instead, I have gone from Bible study teacher to shunned/slandered/accused due to an “inner-church” conflict. Not in my dreams/nightmares did I expect to be in this spiritually abused position, with name and reputation trashed.

    BUT it has put me in a position to grow far more merciful, as i know am one of the disenfranchised and one whose dignity was assaulted. I see this as useful in my Potter’s hand … but what a journey!

    • mar – thanks so much for taking time to comment & glad you are resonating with some of the thoughts here on the carnival. welcome! you are not alone.


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