Dear Beloved Community,
“I never knew that God could actually love me. Like — truly me, not just the idealized version of me I think I need to clean up for God.”
“I only ever heard from my church that I would never measure up.”
“My youth minister told me I was going straight to hell because I’m gay.”
“I suffered abuse by church leaders who said they were acting in God’s name.”
“I have been scared of God my whole life because of what my pastor preached.”
“I can’t even imagine coming to church and not immediately feeling shame.”
These are but a handful of the countless stories I’ve heard in my years of ministry about the trauma that has afflicted far too many Christians — some even within their churches. Each grieves the heart of God, and reflects a distorted theology that has harmed far more than it has liberated. Traumatizing theology doesn’t just come at the hands of harassment or abuse, but can represent the stories we hear about God — who God is, and how God works, all with a heavy narrative of shame, judgment, and condemnation.
I know that there are a number of you who have some ingrained traumatizing theology in your life that sits atop your faith like a cloud, blocking the way to the Light. And I can say without a doubt, it is the prayer of my life to pastor in such a way that I dare not inflict such trauma on another. If this describes your experience, or if this topic affects someone you love, or if you’re simply curious to learn more, I encourage you to join the Topics in Faith Sunday School class tomorrow morning at 9:30am in the Baraca Room for a session called “Healing from Theological Trauma,” under the leadership of my friend, colleague, minister and scholar, Dr. Carol Harston. Dr. Harston is the founder of Eden Hill Initiative, a space for conversations among those affected by traumatizing theology that lead toward healing and wholeness. I trust you will be enriched by time under her thoughtful, wise, hopeful leadership, and encouraged for the road ahead.
Together in God’s work of Love,
P.S. Twenty-one of our church’s children, youth, pastors, and leaders (self included!) just returned from an incredible week of Passport Camp. Look for some reflections on my time with our youth in next week’s newsletter, and plan to join us for worship next Sunday to hear from our children and youth themselves!