things that make me stand on tables & go a little crazy

sometimes there are things that make us want to cry and swear updated

A few days ago I had a really interesting & unexpected thing happen to me that stirred up a lot of big feelings.  It’s too complicated to go into all of the details, but the essence is this–I criss-crossed with the realities of what happens when conservative Christian power intersects with the work of standing alongside the marginalized and oppressed in more than just words. This wasn’t something related to The Refuge or even me personally but as I heard the story of what happens when some passionate Christians decide to become allies and advocates to those on the underside of power and the subsequent fallout for their simple choices, I began to cry and found that I just couldn’t stop. I even almost threw up in the parking lot. I think I just felt truly sickened by hearing yet another story of power & privilege attempting to thwart justice & mercy in the church that’s in such desperate & dire need of change.

I started thinking of my own story of how so much of my downfall in big church wasn’t about gender equality (even though that was the last straw), but about my advocating for the underrepresented, for the poor, for the marginalized & oppressed, for the least, for the last.

In the end, it was about power.  The powerful didn’t want to be uncomfortable. And the powerful paid the bills.

I was perceived as a little crazy. Honestly, I don’t think even one of my ideas for the church are crazy when I look at the gospels and the early church.

What’s actually crazy is our current system of church and power and how it’s just-so-freaking-contrary-to-the-ways-of-Jesus-that-sometimes-it’s-like-a-dark-comedy-or-a-bad-dream.

No wonder people are leaving it.

Anyway, I’ve been really raw and wacked out these past few days. It’s stirred up some interesting feelings about how tiring it is to bump up against the same old same old over and over and over again when it comes to equality and dignity and mercy and justice in the place where it’s supposed to be the most freely-given.

I started thinking about these things that turn me into a crazy woman who wants to stand on tables and rant & rave & cry & swear & eat a lot of chocolate.

Yeah, I admit, I go a little nuts when people say things like:

  • “I’m not as broken as they are”
  • “We let women lead.” 
  • “But remember, the church is made up of imperfect people.”
  • “Well you know, there are biblical roles for women and men.”  
  • “I’m not like those people.” 

Or leaders trying to maintain the status quo out of economic fear say:

  • It’s just not the right time yet…”  (yeah, it will never feel like the “right time” when it comes to changing deep grooves of patriarchy and oppression because there will always be push back)
  • They won’t come if they feel uncomfortable.”

White people of privilege who say things like:

  • “Well, now I am discriminated against.”
  • “I don’t know what they’re so angry about anyway.” 
  • “There are two sides to the story” (on certain issues like Native Americans & slavery) 
  • There’s no such thing as white privilege.” (My son told me about the Daily Show segment with Bill O’Reilly and I made the mistake of watching it).

Men and women who aren’t in relationship with someone in poverty or pain who say things like:

  • “Well, They just need to ________…” (like people who are in deeply embedded grooves of poverty and cycles of abuse are just one-sentence-away from radical change)
  • I worked hard to get where I am today; why can’t they?” 

I also go a little nuts when I think of:

  • Mark Driscoll probably getting a new church or ministry within the next year and making 6 figures at it.
  • Little boys and girls being taught total depravity and that they are miserable wretches with nothing good in them in so many Christian schools and grownup men & women being taught the same thing in so many churches.
  • People who go to churches week after week after week after week because they love the teaching & the music & the kids program but are lonely and have no one in their life who knows what’s really going on with them.
  • Yet another church splitting or ministry dividing over the issue of homosexuality.
  • Yet another church being planted that’s fully funded and resourced and filled with white, suburban families that all look exactly the same.
  • All the money that’s floating around out there in “the church” to keep so many people safe and comfortable when so many women, men, and children here and abroad are sick & dying & desperate & in-so-much-need-of-hope-and-help.

Yeah, I guess a lot of things get me riled up, and I think that’s okay. These are things I deeply care about for a reason.

One thing that I did these past two days was not try to just buck up and push my crazy feelings aside. I let myself cry & swear & talk & share & process the anger and sadness inside of me. It really helped.

I’d love to hear yours. What are your makes-you-crazy-when-people-say-or-do-that things related to faith & church?

//

ps: Something that does give me hope this week is the ongoing work of Christians for Biblical Equality; they work tirelessly on behalf of gender equality around the world. They asked me to write a piece for Arise and here’s what emerged–What I Keep Learning About Gender Equality and the Church. Keep on keeping on…

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

31 Comments

  • I live in North Carolina. Prime bible belt area. I felt this way the morning after our mid term elections. I had watched as hundreds of thousands of people voted to elect people that will only oppress them more.

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  • I feel this way any time someone declares their points of view as the “biblical” way, the only possible way God could see an issue and anybody that disagrees is either “rebelling against God”, “being convicted of their sin”, or “sending people to Hell.”

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  • The statement I hear that makes me crazy is, “We’re just volunteers so we can’t really do anything.” I heard this over & over at my former church concerning my special needs son. While they were usually sincere, people would excuse not including him by saying they weren’t trained & didn’t know what to do. And that was it. They washed their hands of us and wounded our entire family in the process.

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    • so sorry for that painful reality and yes, so not okay on all kinds of levels. it reminds me that the word “just” is always a dangerous one. sometimes when i ask people-not-in-formal-church-roles to introduce themselves at conferences i tell them not to use the word “just” because so many start with that..”i’m just a….”

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  • Too many to note over the past eight years or so, but the primary trigger for me is, “…But are you preaching Jesus?” in every counseling/advocacy session where people come for conversations of sexuality, pregnancy and/or parenting. UGHHHHHHHH. I can feel my heart beating faster now – and not in a good way! I keep trying to help people to consider thinking differently, FB updates (where my adult children say to me: “Mom, are you trying to sabotage your job?” (No, actually, just trying to preserve what little sanity I have left.), blog post here and there, taking more risks to expose my increasingly more out the box faith practices and understandings. There are so many triggers for me – another common one I hear is “Are you sure that every volunteer is qualified to serve?”, meaning, that they meet all the ‘saved’ criteria according to someone’s box. Even typing that makes me crazy… I’m so grateful for the companion of others who get the crazy.

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    • And forgive my sloppy punctuation and grammar – usually I proof and edit, but I’m going with an expectation of grace today. 😉

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    • yes, you are in a particular calling that has some strong bias’ and i so respect what you are doing! i can hear those phrases like they are ringing in my own ears from the past…you, you have to deal with it all the time in the present. peace and hope, sister.

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  • What drives me crazy is when christians see their brothers and sisters being wounded and damaged and shunned by ‘the church’, and they won’t lift a finger to help. “We’re all sinners”, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, “He [the abuser] is hurting, too”, “Judge not…”, “You just have to forgive and move on”. Abuse is just fine as long as it’s in the name of their god.

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  • Amen, sister. As to mine, none are front-of-mind right now. One category though: as a guy very into understanding the Bible on all levels: historical, social, psychological, spiritual… people just taking whatever meaning hits them right or has been fed them. And being unwilling to step back and look at the Bible in the literary forms it represents, in the historical context in which it was written. (Granted it takes a bit of study, but many put that into reading of the texts themselves, going to “pool your ignorance” kinds of Bible studies and such!)

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  • What makes me most crazy 1) when others say that they are just sinners and dismiss their discovering the true self, an authentic path of forming an interior life of beauty, mystery and wonder wiithin themselves. 2) when church is defined as a building or meeting you go to 3) the words worship, prayer, godly, the people of God, the term saved, evangelism, read the Bible, believer, on fire, quiet time, devotions, secular, worldly, service, mission all have conotations of colonialism through the Western mind, dualities of the sacred/secular, us-them mentality, judgment, arrogance, and an attitude I know what you need (I have the answers). 4) vocal prayer that is hyper-happy with no sense of reality, honesty, pain, grief, sadness, angst, profanity, and carrying a spirit of deep repentance for the damage the church has done to the world. 5) singing stupid songs we call worship 6) serving or giving money to help the poor without wanting to be in relationship with them 7) getting excited about the Seahawks 8) saying that the enneagram is new age or not biblical or it boxes us up because people don’t want to become self-aware, live healthy lives and commit to their own growth. 9) using the idea of going to hell as a way to shame, manipulate or control someone in the name of God 10) talking about Jesus using four point gospel presentations 11) franchise church plants with no awareness of context 12) arrogant white middle class male pastors who lead the church promoting the status quo gospel of a plastic American Jesus 13) patriarchy 14) the sinners prayer 15) hearing about Mark Driscoll ( I don’t care). I could go on and on and on and on, but I am trying to get in my rebuilding phase and not let my negative emotions to get the best of me. Kathy, this brings up a lot for me as I am very comfortable with negative emotions and have tried to remain sane as the church rejects any negative emotions whatsoever. It is a way for the church to not ever look at itself and hide behind cliches in the Bible instead, most men are the masters of this and they are the ones leading. Pretty ridiculous and sad. The church seems to no longer care about humility and love, they prefer the Bible over that.

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    • thanks for your honest, mark. i so appreciate it and i am with you on all of them (except number 7 but i couldn’t care less about any football teams. the hiding behind the Bible thought is such an important one to process more…

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  • You just vocalized just about everything I’ve been feeling for the past decade–not much to add except that I agree. The one thing I’d like to see is more work around a united effort–that a support organization for those wanting to do more or less independent ministry (similar to the home church movement). I envision it being an open and evolving entity–definitely Christian but for lack of a better description now, appreciative of other perspectives and organic. On the other hand, I know working together can seem a bit scary, like “selling out” because getting organized is reminiscent of what we left–but I think it’s necessary for the movement to be effective. This vision I have wouldn’t be the same old system with a cooler venue and louder music. And it wouldn’t just be new to be new–in many ways it would a revisiting of the early church. And maybe such a thing already exists so it might just be a matter of joining that group and recruiting like-minded others. Hmm?

    I think the time is ripe for an organized movement–not only to change but to project an accurate vision of Jesus. Alone, it’s easy to label people as “crazy” and “rebellious” and for people to continue to be damaged because, for a while at least, they believed the labels. I’ve just found so many people like me feeling totally alone and disconnected–the image that comes to mind is a single person sitting on an iceberg. Haven’t worked it all out in my mind–would love to join with others to collaborate.

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    • thanks donna, i do think networks and collaborative relationships are somehow so important in all of this. i am not sure how it all looks but i do know that friendships with kindred spirits and support for some of the new dreams that begin to emerge is so important!

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  • Ya’ gotta get out of that system completely. You’re out of it far enough to see how nuts it is. Now might be a good time to file your final divorce papers with that system. It has nothing to offer you, but still has enough power over you to cause you grief.

    You talk about how messy life is. We all want something, someone to make our lives not messy. Church presents itself as the answer. Go to church. Everyone there has it all together. The right clothes, the right answers to life’s problems. Someone is there to tell us how to fix our lives, our marriages, our kids. Someone to marry us, get us signed up for paradise forever and ever, tell us how to live between here and paradise, then send us off to paradise in a casket covered with flowers, followed by a nice covered dish dinner for friends and family.

    Of course all this costs. Lots. We’re must look alike, think alike and all pretend everything is good. And give lots of $$$ to pay for pretty chairs in pretty buildings with pretty people standing up front telling us nice stuff. And weird stuff. Like God appointed them to tell us who’s in and who’s out. That we have to agree with everything they do and say. That queers, prostitutes, addicts, homeless, rapists, murderers, and whoever else is on their list don’t qualify. Only those who look like them, pay their salaries, agree with them and let them say and do as they like, qualify.

    Most of our friends are poor, homeless, addicts, thieves, prostitutes, queers, murderers, rapists and people who don’t “go to church”. They are our church. We are their church.

    Just an hour ago I was sorting a couple dozen children’s shoes that need washed and repaired. That takes lots of time. We have no one who will help. “The” church is busy singing pretty songs. Occasionally they give us a bag of things they no longer want for us to give our friends, but they’re afraid of our friends. Our friends probably have diseases. They probably have poop on their hands. They’re probably dangerous.

    We need nice, neat, tidy lives. Avoid people with poop on their hands and poopy lives. They might remind us of how close we all are to being just like them. Let’s pretend that will never happen, that we’ll never get a terrible disease, that we’ll die peacefully and be buried in a rose-covered coffin surrounded by friends sending us off to meet Jesus in a rose garden where we’ll sit with Jesus and smile forever and ever.

    Don’t touch my hands. I can guarantee you they’re poopy. I touch the unclean. I hold their hands. I hug them. I sit with them. I let them touch me. I am one of them. So are you Kathy.

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    • i love poop 🙂 yeah, fortunately my world doesn’t cross over too often but sometimes it does and this one took me by surprise. but then i’m like “oh yeah, why would i be surprised?” i’m not naive but it is true that in the world i live in these days on the whole i don’t hit on this kind of particular BS anymore.

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  • I just got your book Faith Shifts, and it’s like you opened up my head and took out my thoughts.
    What I “get crazy” about, is after sharing with my small group some of my faith doubts and struggles, and my more liberal views on what I think God would be doing….I was given a CD with 4 sermons on Strongholds….

    I said to one of my friends the other day….I want to find the love for Jesus I used to have..before I became “Churched”

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    • oh nancy, when i hear stories like getting a CD with 4 sermons on strongholds i want to go a little nutty. peace and hope to you as you find your way…you are definitely not alone!

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  • What drives me crazy is catch phrases taught by sociopathic pastors, which are in turn used by his supporters on wounded individuals for the purpose of bringing shame and condemnation. These phrases, although sounding so biblical are actually quite the opposite and only drive a further wedge between the hurt and the rest of the body. Also the frustration that is felt with trying to explain to blinded leaders how they are ripping apart the souls of the people they are meant to protect…STUPID catch phrases I have heard…”onward and upward”, “Take it for the team”, ” God is using this to teach you a lesson”, “Suck it up”, “it’s not about you”, ” You need to forgive and let go”, ” for the sake of the church you need to…”, etc, etc..All these things cause me to feel very upset and could put me in bed for a few days..So I try to stay away from such ignorance.

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  • I had a dream last night that I confronted a former leader because of his manipulation and control. It was the first time I’ve dreamt and felt so right about anger. I am TIRED of leaders who are insecure using fear and control to keep the people ‘shepherded’. Thank you for this post…it confirms my dream and brings excitement for the future of the church! Praying GRACE wins!!!

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  • Oh wow… there is SO much I could say about this. My husband and I have both worked in the church and we left for a time. The reason we left, in a nutshell, is while we were “in ministry” we went through years of underemployment/unemployment, living in moldy old trailers with newborn children, loss of children and we really never received the tangible and emotional support we needed from a true community. We are just now starting to go back to church in the midst of our faith shift… it is still a very raw, difficult thing for us. Thank you for all you do to help people you’ve never even met to heal and find the community we need. Like I said, SO MUCH more I could say, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.

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