Certain words and phrases can trigger it. I have several mixed emotions. I want to participate, but then I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I read certain stories in the news and it makes me irritated and even snarky. The way that people interact on social media can be so discouraging…
I have “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome”.
I have heard this term used recently, and I think it fits me well. The very thing that I have spent my whole life being a part of, the very thing that is supposed to be a place of community and spiritual support has brought me harm. I feel that I am adrift in an ocean of uncertainty; I am lost in a wide open, barren desert. I struggle to pray. I struggle to read the Bible. I struggle to know God’s grace for myself. Sometimes I feel like they are right — I am an apostate, a heretic. At times, certain scriptures come back again to clobber me…the ones that I thought I had worked through.
I am being completely vulnerable with my feelings because I suspect I am not alone. I KNOW that I’m not alone. I have met and spoken with many spiritual nomads who have voiced some of these same symptoms. They have been hurt tremendously — cut deeply by the very thing that is supposed to be the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. Many of us love and cherish certain aspects about our past traditions, and we still love our central figure who we still believe to be our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We just have a hard time with some of his followers. He has shown us mercy, but they oftentimes have not.
I have stepped away from formal Church services about nine months ago. I have used this time to reprocess, to take everything out of my spiritual backpack and go through each item one-by-one, keeping some, tossing others, and loosely holding on to a few more. I am now attempting to view the scriptures through the life and teachings of Christ…the one who ate with sinners, the one who valued women and included the foreigner in what was a patriarchal and separatist culture and religion, the one who put the spirit of the Law above the letter of the Law in favor of mercy, the one who touched the unclean even at the risk of appearing contaminated to the religious, the one who humbled himself and took on flesh in order to show the heart of God to humanity, the one who came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, the one who when all of humanity’s hatred and wrath was poured out upon him, still pleaded for forgiveness for those who did not know just what they were doing. The one who chose twelve, even though one would betray him.
I have met so many wonderful sojourners in this environment. These are a strong people of grace and humility. All is not as it seems on the outside — all is not lost, all is not barren. I picture us coming together in a great banquet. There is a long and solid table and we have come from far and wide to join in a meal together. We break bread and everyone is included, regardless of hurts, hang-ups, questions, and doubts. We laugh together, pray together, mourn together, praise together. No one is turned away and no one leaves hungry. This is the way that the Church was supposed to be, not a grand institution, but a meal…a meal shared by a diverse people who are somehow one.
I will not remain adrift forever; I will push through this Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. About five miles down the street from me, there is a loving pastor and congregation who have chosen to step out in support of the LGBT within the Church and welcome us into their community. This community is called New Heart Community Church of La Mirada, CA with Danilo Cortez serving as Senior Pastor. Danny went back and studied the verses that have been used to condemn and marginalize the LGBT community — the historical and cultural context, original language, and their placement within the surrounding text which led him to a much different conclusion than many of the other churches within his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. He also took the time to listen to and empathize with our stories and weigh them against what he learned through his study of the scriptures. His son came out right after Danny announced to him about his change of mind and heart over this issue. Thank God that his heart had been prepared to fully embrace and accept his son as he is so that his son could know that he was unconditionally loved by God, his family, and his church. You can watch his full Youtube video here:
I believe that God is in the process of bringing reformation, awakening, and revival to His Church. I believe that it is happening through people like us…a broken people who are willing to live in the tension with all of the mystery in life. He is taking a people who have been through hell to shake the very gates of hell. He is taking a people who have been broken, to bind them up that they may reach out to the broken. How I long for the Church to be the beautiful Body that it was meant to be! I long for a Church who is known by Her love and not by Her judgements. I believe that we can be that Church! I believe that my generation wants to be that Church!
I may have Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome, but I don’t believe it will set me back. I will move on, I will heal, and I will know God’s love and grace to a greater degree because of the Christian man that it has challenged and molded me to be.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NIV)
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7 NIV)
ROBERT LOFGREN is a gay Christian who wrestled with his faith and his sexuality and found peace. He strives to love Christ and to show His love for all people. Robert is an advocate for LGBT rights and building bridges between the two communities to which he belongs and is so passionate about — the LGBT community and the Church.
He lives in Orange County, CA with his boyfriend of seven years and two Boston Terriers. Robert blogs at The Gay Post-Evangelical.