An apology

I was blessed to be raised in a very healthy, supportive, loving Christian environment. Many have not been so fortunate. I have long been aware of the damage done by Christians (mis)using the name of Christ and the cover of the church. Recently, however, I have been reading more and more about the scars left by spiritual abuse, by excommunication, exclusion, slut shaming, sin shaming, church sanctioned homophobia, sexual abuse and more. I’m kind of overwhelmed by it. It makes my heart-sick to read so very many accounts of pain and suffering caused by those who call themselves “Christians” (or Jesus followers or whatever was trendy that month). It pains me beyond words that so many Christian leaders are more interested in personal power and glory than in spreading Christ’s love to the world. So many stumbling blocks have been placed in the way of God’s people by individuals and institutions. So many have been hurt.

I just want to say, as a born and raised Christian, and a leader in the ELCA, I’m sorry.

I may not be the right person to say it. I am just one person, and I’m not the person who hurt you (or, rather I hope I’m not). But I am all too often driven to apology by the acts of other Christians in the name of God/Jesus/Church. I apologize to friends, to God, to the air around me. But I want to put it out to a wider audience, if possible.

I am sorry.

I am sorry that you were taught that you must be quiet, obedient and submissive in order to be a good female child of God, in order for God to love you, in order to be a good wife, mother, daughter, and woman. I am sorry that you were taught that men’s desires, thoughts and needs were and are more important than yours. God has called so many strong women into ministry in life and in the church (Deborah, Priscilla, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, the woman at the well, Phoebe). You are not called to silence. Your desires are no less important in marriage, church or life than those of men.

I am sorry that message of submissiveness has told you to stay in abusive relationships and has led confused children to be stuck in abusive situations out of a misplaced and damaging call to respect authority. This is wrong. God does not call anyone to be abused or to be a victim of violence. God offers shelter and love to the outcast, the forgotten, the imprisoned. Christians should too.

I am sorry that Christian leaders use their power, influence, charisma, position and perceived relationship with God to prey on you. I am sorry that you have been sexually abused/assaulted by Christian leaders. This is completely unacceptable, and violates quite a few commandments (as well as modern-day laws that are there for a reason).

I am sorry that you have been kicked out of their homes, families, faith communities, schools, circles of friends and other relationships because of their sexual orientation and/or gender. I am sorry that we have failed you, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, in times of crisis and need as well as joy and celebration. Love and sexuality are gifts from God, and when love exists in an environment of mutual love, respect and power, God rejoices. Those quotes people have thrown at you from Leviticus are part of purity codes we long ago stopped living, Sodom and Gomorrah is about lack of hospitality/ welcome to strangers, and Paul’s writings use a word for homosexual that can’t be found anywhere else in ancient Greek texts — so we don’t know what he is referring to (for sure). What we do know is that Jesus never said anything about it, and certainly never excluded anyone from his ministry (find some great resources on homosexuality and the Bible/Church/Christianity here).

I am sorry you have been made to feel like God doesn’t love you because of who you are, who you love, what you look like, what you believe. I am sorry you have been made to feel like a failure at faith because you have questions or doubts.  God created you, God knew you before you were born and God wants to be in relationship with you. Every relationship has questions and doubts (especially with an entity that is invisible and is represented by broken people). Doubt is the seed of faith.

I’m sorry for all of the times Christians have used the Bible to back up their prejudices, for every time you have been the victim of verbal, physical, spiritual or sexual violence because of your race, nationality or religion. Jesus called everyone to the table, preached a gospel of love and never violence. Christians are called to do the same. We fail a lot. I’m sorry.

I am sorry for the times you have been called out for your sin in ways that were judgmental, inappropriate, unhelpful, and painful (or just plain wrong). We are all broken, we all mess up, make bad decisions, hurt others and ourselves. When the people were about to stone a woman for her sins, Jesus had her back and convicted those who wanted to stone her at the same time. Someone should have done that for you.

I am sorry you have been threatened with hell and damnation. No one has the right to do that to you. I really wish everyone would realize that threatening people with hell is not a conversion tactic. Nobody likes it. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been told I’m going to hell many, many times, so at least we’ll have each other. Fortunately, I believe in a God of grace who asks for faith, not works, so I feel pretty good about my access to the kingdom of God.

I am sorry for any and all of the ways you have been injured by the church. God does not call Christians to judge people, God calls Christians to love radically and sacrificially (part of that sacrifice is suspending judgement, I think). While many of us have succeeded, many of us have failed.

And for that, I am so, so, so very sorry.

Lots of Christians are sorry for the injury done in the name of Christ. Missiongathering Christian church in San Diego put up this billboard in Cali in response to prop 8 and in NC in response to prop 1.

Lots of Christians are sorry for the injury done in the name of Christ. Missiongathering Christian church in San Diego put up this billboard in Cali in response to prop 8 and in NC in response to prop 1.


About Elizabeth Rawlings

Lutheran. Feminist. Child of God. Thinking about how to be a leader in a church that is trying to rediscover itself and what it means to live simply so that others may simply live in tandem with what exactly is the fast God asks of us. Chronic alliterator. Generally silly person. View all posts by Elizabeth Rawlings

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