Peace and Anger in a Time of Christian Betrayal

I’ve probably been spending too much time on Twitter recently, it’s not the best for mental health. It’s hard to feel peace when you are constantly faced with misogyny and other kinds of prejudice users of the internet feel free to rationalise and verbalise as they troll threads on issues important to minorities. Two things in particular in this week’s news really affected me emotionally: 1. was a heartfelt tweet by American Christian Feminist author Rachel Held-Evans as she discovered yet another Christian male leader refusing to believe young women sharing their stories of harassment in the recent #metoo movement;  and 2. was the news report that the Sydney Anglican diocese spent $1 million of church money in support of the ‘No’ campaign for Marriage Equality in Australia — and only $5000 on investigating a widespread problem of domestic violence (including marriage rape) amongst clergy in that church.

Of course these kinds of news tweets bring out all the people who have something to say that has been said many times before — the Australian thread quickly and predictably turned into a ‘tax the churches’ thread; Rachel Held-Evans faced the usual ‘you lump all evangelicals together’ accusation as she wondered if anything she had been taught as a Christian child was true. I felt angry, and indeed, embarassed to see these Christians more concerned for a particular brand of conservative politics than women’s safety from sexual violence. It is sometimes too shameful to be a Christian in these times, when the so-called leaders in the church consistently and intentionally seem to miss the point, using their positions to hurt and discriminate and justify violence against women ?

Yet trolls were not the only ones present in the conversations that ensued on social media. What also came through was an immense solidarity — by the time I got to Held-Evans’ tweet some 346 people had already replied, and the tweets in solidarity continued to grow as I watched. What struck me in the in these two examples was this: the struggles of women for recognition and belief in circumstances of abuse of power are not separate from the struggles of the LGBTQI community. Why? Because LGBT people in particular are consistently painted as sexually deviant and immoral by these Christian leaders while at the same time the leaders support men in acts of sexual violence and even paedophilia against women and girls. This is what makes me angry, embarassed, sad, and actually — frightened.

I am a big believer in contemplative prayer and meditation. I think taking the time to connect with the Christ-presence dwelling within is essential in maintaining some semblance of peace in the stress of my work and life. Yet in this case, I think peace is not yet where I can go. I think there is also value in sitting with the anger, the embarassment, the sadness, the fear and contemplating those things.

When I sit with these for a while I think of Psalm 62:

How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.

Where, of course, in my mind the persons of prominence are women and LGBTQI people struggling to be seen and heard in their pain. The verses that follow can then be read in the light of my anger at this, especially…

Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your heart before God; God is a refuge for us.

Despite the verses where the author ‘waits on God in silence’, this isn’t a quiet sending of thoughts and prayers. This a heart-wrenching pouring out of anger, fear, sadness, love, respect, desire for change. ‘Trust’ here isn’t a platitude for doing nothing, for waiting and hoping for some older white straight man to change his mind about his years of patriarchal privilege. For me the ‘trust’ here is related to the pouring out and the refuge.

Can I trust in God at all times even as I speak out against Christian betrayal and wrongdoing and misguidedness? Can I trust enough to put myself in the firing line, like Held-Evans and others? Can I take my refuge in God alone, knowing that I will be reviled and trolled and sermonised to by those who think they have the sole truth? Can I then return to a place of stillness and silence to recover, to wait for results, to gather myself for the next incident?

I think the answer is getting closer to “Yes, Lord”. What about you?

Kelly Dombroski is an academic and writer who also blogs at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com

Disorientation Psalm

There is a building
I have watched from my fourth floor window
The walls were removed
The steel structures strengthened
As it stood
For two years
Naked.

When will we be finished?

 

 

Kelly Dombroski writes, a lot. Some of it is on www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com .  This psalm was written during a psalm-writing activity in an all-age activity-filled church service at Ilam Baptist.

On Friendship

We have moved around a lot in the last ten years. We have lived in three different countries, five different cities, eight different houses. I’ve birthed children in three different places. I’ve had jobs and/or studied at six different universities. We have been part of nine different churches. I’ve also been in four different homegroups, four different mum’s groups, been involved in two different schools, three different childcare providers, four different gyms, a swimming club, a dance group, four different bands. I have 550 friends on facebook, from all of these different lives. But if reading this list exhausts you, it will come as no surprise that for some years now I have struggled with deep, heartfelt loneliness, especially when it comes to sharing my spiritual journey in a more meaningful way.

I desire a small committed community where I can authentically cultivate and maintain deep, lifelong friendships. I need people to be there, to brush up against them regularly, to see Jesus in them and to be Jesus to them, but to also see the brokenness and even ugliness in me and I in them and still push deeper into friendship. What to do, then, when our life circumstances have demanded movement, demanded the breaking of connection, demanded the constant reshuffling of playdates, new mates, moving crates and end dates? How do we do that deep work of cultivating connection with others, of growing in faith together, of getting beyond the superficial?

I’m afraid I don’t really have any answers here. But what I do have are a few verses that pierce my soul and spirit deeply, psalms that contain truth, challenge, and comfort me. Sometimes people read these as expressions of subjective feeling, what the psalmist actually felt in the moment of composition. They feel oppressed reading these declarations of faith and love for God, because they might not be feeling them right now. But I invite you to read these verses again, with an open heart, considering them not as declarations of feeling you may not be able to muster, but as declarations of deeper truthes of your innermost soul and spirit – as always-already-happening.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth
that I desire besides you.
(Psalm 73)

Reflection:  This verse does not so much describe for me what I currently feel: I want a lot of other stuff, from new clothes to a running pal and Iprobably couldn’t honestly say there is nothing on earth I desire except for God. But I do long to see God in others, in deep friendship and community. The verse reminds me of a deep truth: my deepest desires are God-given, reflecting deeper needs that are holy. These desires are a call to relationship and holy self-awareness, and in fact lead back to the source of desire, God. Those things I deeply desire are God. Notice the shift in the verse from heaven to earth, from the ‘out-there’ to the ‘right-here’.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires
of your heart.
(Psalm 37)

Reflection: Just like any deep desire, it does not usually come when you are looking for it. If I focus on delighting myself in the moment, the everyday, the gifts God has given to me now, the desires of my heart will be satisfied. Perhaps not in the way I thought they would.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
(Psalm 63)

Reflection: While I am very rarely actually waiting in silence, a deeper part of me still holds this wisdom and waits for God alone. I should meditate on this verse more frequently, as I wait for and pay attention to the moments God is always-already providing me, moments where relationships can go a bit deeper, or moments where I can go a bit deeper into myself and contemplate the One who created and will fulfill all my deepest needs.

Kelly Dombroski is a writer, mother, lecturer and avid reader, among other things. She blogs at https://throwntogetherness.wordpress.com. Tweets as @DombroskiKelly.