“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”- Carl Jung
When I was ten years old, I sat in my Sunday school class and was told by my Sunday school teacher that someday I was going to be murdered by the anti-Christ (an interpretation that he made out of the book Revelation). An intuition arose in me and I spoke out loud with these words, “I have a problem that God wants to bring the world to peace by sending a man to kill others.” To which he replied, “Don’t question the Bible. Don’t question the Church.” I remember these words vividly to this day. It meant a lot to me, because, although I couldn’t tell you who I was, I began a journey in telling myself who I didn’t want to be.
Much abuse has happened under the banner of Christianity. And, much of it is has a response similar to my Sunday school teacher‘s, “Don’t question the Church. Don’t question the Bible. Don’t question God.” Still, it has not stopped a few brave people, a few courageous prophets from saying, “This doesn’t work for me. This can’t be all that there is.” Along the way, these brave, courageous souls are met with much resistance and much hostility. They’re met with a certain kind of violence, a violence to the soul. They’re met with a spiritual abuse.
What drives people to commit these violent acts against the souls of others? Parker Palmer said it best when he said, “People become violent when they no longer know what to do with their suffering.” The presence of those who want to be liberated is met with oppression because their presence causes other people to feel fear, to experience anxiety, to bring about a kind of suffering. Sadly, these people are adding more and more pain to people who long for freedom. The person asking questions, seeking greater awareness, longing for higher consciousness, is already in pain. They need answers, solutions, direction, because their life is telling them that this is no longer working for them. The black and white answers don’t bring peace to their soul. The awareness of the Church as an institution causes them to grow frustrated. The way they see the world and how God or the Church is engaged in it causes them great disappointment. Their souls are not satisfied, and instead of being met with generosity and encouragement, they’re met with violent spiritual abuse by people who cannot bear the pain of change.
For years, I have been frustrated, jaded, and cynical towards Christianity. And, after all these years, I still feel the disappointment. But, maybe after some of the initial anger or frustration towards them are gone, I now have begun to feel compassion. I see that there are people who do not know how to handle their depravity (read emptiness, brokenness) and so they rely on contempt towards themselves and others for not seeing things the way they do. I feel sympathy towards them because they get stuck, lost, or complacent, and they lose out on the freedom and peace that comes with a greater understanding of the presence and conscious awareness of God. As with every violent act committed against someone, there is anger, frustration, and grief, but it is my hope that we can find peace, wholeness, and restoration that comes from the abusive side of Christianity. If we cannot, then the world will not know Jesus because we have failed to learn how to love one another.