“Christians kind of suck sometimes,” I said, holding her hand.
“Oh, I know this.”
“I know you know, because you haven’t been loved well. But here’s what I want you to know: there are many of us who are mean and judging and hurtful. But those are just Christians behaving badly. That’s not God. That’s not his heart for you, or what he wants for you – and it’s not what he wants from us.”
Her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh, my friend,” I whispered. “He just loves you. He is not the author of shame, confusion, or fear. When you feel those, you can know they are not from God, and they are not what he wants for you. Someone else gave that to you, handed it to you, placed it on you. But not God.”
“Why do Christians suck so much?” I ask loudly when I can finally speak, because the moment of striking loneliness always brings me back here. To church. To the places where I am most wounded. I look at Miles, angry, my breath a mix of alcohol and dark roast.
“I don’t know,” Miles sighs. “They just sometimes do.”
I put my coffee down and put my head in my hands.
“I know what you’re going through,” he says quietly. “I mean, I’ve been there.”
“Why did you go back?” I mumble into my hands. I mean to the faith. To Church People. To the college on Snelling with the required biblical studies major and the ridiculous visiting hours and the rule about not dancing. To the people who look at you suspiciously, who wait for you to fail.
Miles thinks about it for a moment. “Because some of them don’t suck. Some of them understand what Jesus is all about. Some of them will love you without a thought.”
~ Addie Zierman, When We Were On Fire:
A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over*
*I am in love with this memoir. Addie writes about her journey of growing up in an evangelical environment, of cliches and guidelines that carry great meaning but are often divorced from the Scripture that they were originally derived from. She comes of age and realizes that all of these words, cliches, rules, and contracts are not actually directives from God. And it revolutionizes her thinking.
I would like to send a mass email to everyone from my youth group, summer camp, and college community. I would say, Please read this and then let’s all meet at a giant Starbucks so we can talk about it. I totally want to hear your thoughts. And maybe we can each drop a line to the influencers in our lives who taught us how to think, not what to think.
If you grew up in the evangelical subculture, and you’ve ever questioned if any or all of it is legit, please read this book. Stat.