10 ways churches jack people up

kathyescobar church stuff, faith shifts, healing, injustice 50 Comments

10 ways churches jack people upi do not think church systems wake up in the morning and think “i’m going to hurt a lot of people today.”  intentions are often good.  stirrings from God seem clear.  visions and strategies make total sense.  the desire to make a difference “for the kingdom” is strong.

for all kinds of reasons, though, many church systems are really unhealthy.  often our basic insecurity as christians is a flaw that crops up all over the place in the way we interact with the world.   our blindedness to our own dysfunctions and the fear of counseling & recovery (for ourselves & within the church) makes us even more unsafe.  sprinkle in power and a structure that has thrived with one charismatic leader on top, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

churches hurt people when they:

1. abuse power

2. put programs over people

3. perpetuate inequality 

4. demand certainty

5. expect conformity 

6. dismiss pain 

7. ignore giftedness

8. pull the God/here’s-what-the-Bible says trump card

9. create scapegoats

10. shame, and then shame some more

i’m sure there are many more. these are just a few off the top of my head.  what would you add?

i often wonder what Jesus would think of today’s contemporary church.  what we’ve created seems so similar to what he was railing against during his time on earth.  his call to a life centered on the beatitudes has been hijacked by many systems built on his name, and something far different has been promoted & modeled.  there’s a lot of carnage out here because of it.  beautiful, sincere, dear people who really believed in “church” and ended up on the outs for all kinds of reasons.

some days it just makes me cry.

i have a deep passion for those that we call “the walking wounded”–followers of Jesus hurt by the systems they have given their life, heart, time, passions to in all kinds of ways.  i know if i hadn’t had a safe place to process after my painful church experience a chunk of years ago, i am not sure where my faith would have ended up.  we crawled our way to healing together.

i don’t think the church is aware of how much hurt it has inflicted.  the wheels keep spinning.  self-preservation continues to be top priority.  very little confession & change appears to be happening. and those who are still “in” get mad at the people who are “out” and think they should just get over it, quit being so angry & hurt, and start playing again.

this ignoring of the reality of wounding is even more painful for those already hurt.

almost every day i hear new stories of people who have lost what they most held dear and now don’t know where to turn.  our brothers & sisters are on the side of the road, bleeding, bruised, and with no ability to find safe shelter since the one place they should be able to find comfort & spiritual care is the very place that jacked them up in the first place.

i wish there were safer spaces for healing from church woundedness, other than expensive therapy and blogs and people-left-to-figure-it-out-all-on-their-own.  but the truth is there aren’t a bunch of them.  i think these wounds scare people.  i understand why.  it’s tricky stuff because it’s often the deepest pain–damage to our souls.

but we’re trying to be brave and play our small part in creating one, a safe pocket of love and healing for those who have been hurt by church. 

a place to tell stories & garner strength & find hope.

we hosted a live event in denver in october & just wrapped up our first online class–walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church.    it was really healing for those who participated, so we decided to offer it again, starting april 9th (registration details here).   online isn’t our first choice; we wish we could all be together in the same room, but this is the next best thing.  it’s our little contribution to the underground railroad.

meanwhile, my deepest desire is to not need a place for wounds to be healed because we’d begin to shift what’s creating the wounding in the first place.

that people who plant new trees would take a good, hard look at these 10 things and do everything possible to not re-create them.

that current systems would repent & change & embody a better way.

that the beatitudes would be infused in our hearts & our practices and we’d find ways to be people who heal & restore instead of jack up & hurt.

it’s so possible, it’s just a lot harder to do.

God, help us participate in healing & change in the church; we’re tired of seeing so many people hurt.