I don't when it was that it started happening. Maybe it's been happening for a while now. But when I realized it yesterday, it felt like an actual slap. I started, jumping up in my worn pink recliner. No, wait, I'm- that can't be right.
I'd just read another article, like all those ones you read if you become attuned to the microworld of Christian blogging for long enough. It talked about some Christian behaving badly, a Christian in a place of power who'd been taken down not just one or two pegs, but to the bottom. They deserved it, to be sure - they'd been ridiculously stupid. If you break the law, you ought to pay the consequences, popular Christian or no.
But it wasn't the news that upset me. My reaction to it was what disturbed me. Instead of, I don't know, thinking how sad it was that this person had fallen so far, I was just -
I was happy. And I can't begin to tell you how ashamed that makes me.
I'm not saying that it's not okay to rejoice when a corrupt leader gets removed from power and punished, or that it's not okay to be happy when an abuser has to face the consequences of their actions. I know of more than a few megapastors and church leaders that, should they step down, I would be very happy because of the fact that their abusive teachings would cease being blasted out to thousands. I think being glad, on that occasion, would be called for and good.
But I didn't know any context in this case. I had no idea who this person was, what they stood for, what church they worked for. I was shocked to recognize that I was happy upon seeing someone else's humiliation, when I had absolutely no reason to be. I was forced to admit to myself that the reason was not one I could really stand behind.
The only reason I was happy to see the news of another Christian leader's downfall was because it was another Christian Leader's downfall. Don't get it? I didn't either, at first.
Because of what I've been through in my life, because of the abusive church environment I escaped, because I lived in abusive home all while my parents were in church leadership and even pastors - I bear a great weight of resentment against the church. And that's not wrong - that's normal. It's healthy to be angry towards the institution who's backward teachings and oppressive ideals suffocated your development and contributed to crippling you from leading a healthy adult life. I'm angry when I think of that church, and I don't think that's wrong. I also don't think it's wrong to be angry towards the persons and church institutions who perpetuate the same abusive theology that I was raised under, because I don't believe it's my duty to remain mute in the face of what was done to me being done to thousands of others. I resent the church that raised me, and I resent the portion of the church that holds sway in conservative circles, that tells girls they can't grow up to be whoever they want to be, that hurts and wounds more than it ever helps.
But...I didn't think I resented the church as a whole. The Church, you know? I thought I was still hoping for goodness, for restoration, for a healthy body. I didn't know I was storing up hope for more corruption being revealed, for more decay being exposed. And don't get me wrong - if there's abuse or impropriety occurring, it absolutely should come to light. But I don't want to be actively hoping that somewhere out there, another pastor's getting arrested or another affair's coming to light or someone else has a drug problem. I don't want to be hoping for more pain and suffering to be inflicted on the church, by the church. I didn't know I was, and to discover that ugly secret inside me left me feeling so sad, both for me and for the church.
I didn't want it to be true. But it was, and I had to face it. Why am I sitting in wait for the next leader to topple? It didn't matter to me who it was or what they were doing. I just wanted to see Christians acting crazy, saying ridiculously hurtful things - and why? Why did I want that? Isn't that sick and backwards, coming from a person who says she believes in the Church and wants it to be a safer place for everyone?
The only conclusion I could draw was that I wanted it for that age-old reason: validation. When I first started emerging from an abusive life, I looked high and low for others like me. Anyone, anyone at all - had anyone been through what I'd been through? And it turned out there were a lot of them, and I reached out to them and they reached out to me, and we told our stories, and we became an us, united in pain and suffering and hope for restoration.
But somewhere along the line, that got twisted for me. Instead of looking to other's experiences to tell me I wasn't alone in this dark upbringing, that I wasn't the only one - I started looking for incidents that I'd find validating.
See, another crackhead pastor. I'm not wrong when I say the church has issues!
Oh look, another prominent theologian saying something racist and offensive. I'm not wrong when I say the church has issues.
Hey, look, this famous Christian got arrested! I'm not wrong when I say the church has issues.
But maybe more than that, it became about revenge.
If I were a saint, I'd tell you that I only want the best for those who hurt me. But I'm not a saint, and I don't. I'm not saying I want everyone who participated in the culture of abuse I was raised in to get ousted for having affairs or a secret lovechild.
But I think somewhere inside me, it felt like righteous retribution every time I saw a person or institution that espoused those same harmful things I grew up under falling into public shame or punishment. It wasn't the people who hurt me being punished, but it was close enough.
I'm so sad to say that about myself. Oh, that hurting heart I've had. I'm not making excuses for myself, nor am I shaming anyone else for having this same reaction. I'm no different from anyone else - I'm fumbling through the healing process and making mistakes all along the way. And now that I know, now that I'm aware of this sad, small, not-the-heart-I-want-to-have thing inside me, I will watch out for it. I'll coax my heart out of hiding and into compassion, into hope for good things again.
It might take me a while. But I'm sure as hell going to try.