With all the love I can hold in my heart, I say unto you: my early church experience was fraught with misdirection. Even the paintings of Jesus were more reflective of the neighborhood my grandparents inhabited than the real Jesus. Jesus was not Scandinavian! He didn’t have dirty blond hair! His skin was not milky white. We can forgive our narcissistic tendencies to turn everyone into reflections of our own mirrors, but what is much more difficult for me is to deal with the wounding of what I was taught.
I was taught that God was a lot like Santa. He only loved you if you were good. I have never been particularly skilled at goodness. From my earliest years my own self-image was one of a little girl who wanted to be good but kept getting put in tough situations where she had to speak up and out against corrupt authority figures (I know – grandiose! But I’m trying to present my child’s perspective.). Or, as my brothers say: “She is so bossy.” But no one ever told me I was good.
Can you see the problem?
When we teach people that in order to belong we must believe and that if we believe properly we will be good (as defined by the behavioral constructs of the culture and church we belong to), the inevitable outcome is that even the most sincere among us will regularly doubt whether or not we belong. Or believe “correctly.” This discourages honesty. It creates a vacuum for teaching real life skill sets and I believe decreases our capacity to embrace and support transformation.
What were you taught (or not taught) about belief and belonging?