I've been sitting on the base of these thoughts for a while; it is something Isaac and I talk about a lot. But some recent events have really helped me expand my original thinking.
Isaac and I started watching a report on bullying actually it was a whole show devoted to it. There has been so much out there on this topic recently. The thing they were focusing on was getting other kids to intervene, stand up for those being bullied. I was bullied a lot growing up, to the point of harassment by some. When others were being bullied I very rarely stood up for them. Why? Because I was not a strong enough person, not just me on the inside, but among my peers. If I were to stand up for another person I would become the target of the harassment and then who would be there for me? No one. I couldn't watch the show. Its a tough subject for me.
I have a friend who will voice his opinion about everything and he is not often found without an opinion. I wish I had half the confidence in myself that he does, I admire him. Although people don't always see eye to eye with him, he does make valid points and there is always something in a conversation we can agree on, even if it is to disagree. He doesn't mind that people don't always see eye to eye with him, he doesn't care. I wish I could be as carefree as he is. To me, people like that are not always but often listened too. But there are still times when people don't listen to him.
There is one place I believe that everyone should have a voice and that is the Church. I don't care how social justice oriented you are or aren't there are some things that the Church needs to accept and that is people. Yes, churches themselves are filled with like-minded people, and sometimes that thinking can be very narrow minded, but there should be some form of respect for people. If I am being bullied and the Church is standing by I don't think it is too much to ask the Church to step in and defend me. If my friend has something to say I don't think the Church should poo-poo him and move on. It infuriates me that when people are in trouble they don't run to the Church. Why is this? 'Sanctuary' isn't just some thing you claim when you are running from the law. It is defined as "refuge: a shelter from danger or hardship" WHY then can people not go to the Church? When people are having financial problems a prayer, a pat on the back, and a "good luck" are not helpful. Now the prayer is, I believe strongly in the power of prayer. Its the other two things after the prayer I have a problem with.When people are struggling with depression asking them to leave because it isn't something they are prepared to handle isn't 'sanctuary'. Asking someone to step down from a position because you don't agree with them isn't right. When someone stands up for these people driving them from the Church isn't bringing the Kingdom. These things aren't Christ-like. They aren't Christian. But time and time again these are the things people see and are forced to decide to leave a church, the Church, or God altogether. What is wrong with this picture? And more importantly what are YOU going to do about it?
Like against bullying, we need to stand together. Stand with people like my friend when he stands up for someone else who is being attacked, whether we agree with him or not. Because the agreement is: not allowing the Church to drive people from it because they don't agree with them. I am tired of people feeling like they have no voice in the Church. If the Church has so much power to stomp on the weak why can't they channel that energy and give strength to the weak? Where have I heard something like that before...
I am working at feeling more confident in myself. Part of what is helping with that is I will NEVER stand back and watch this happen to someone, especially in the Church. Isaac and I choose churches who will welcome these people. I want to know these people and tell them they can find sanctuary at our church, and they can. The biggest problem I run into, partly because we live in good 'ol New England, is they have given up on the Church. No matter how much I try to convince them this will be different they don't want to join us. You, most people of the Church have done this.
Isaac and I are proud members of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Now, unfortunately all churches are different and full of fallen people, however I can tell you that the church where both our children were baptized, Second Congregational Church of Beverly is amazing. Our first real experience in the UCC and we were very sad to leave there after 3.5 years. In fact, they were a large part of our decision to stay in the UCC and why Isaac choose them to be the denomination he will hopefully be ordained in. While we have only been attending the Townsend Congregational Church for 3 months we have had a similar experience. I am impressed with the pastor's ability to sense problems. There have been people to say they haven't had a good experience and the people of the church are bothered by this, it makes me happy people care. But when I hear this I can't believe it, I wonder if we are talking about the same church. I know people's experiences are different, but I have been to bad churches once that have done what I mentioned above. Another thing I have seen is going to a church for a month and no one says hello and this isn't one of them.
One of my favorite movies is Saved! This is what the Church is to people. If you think it is offensive to Christianity take a look at yourself. At your church. The people around you. What is your reaction to people who are different? To those who have "problems". People who don't agree with you. But also remember, just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? Probably. But what really matters is it fell.
The Woodward Family