First, I want to congratulate you on your success. I’ve watched your growth over the years, and I’ve seen how far you’ve come through many personal battles. Congratulations on making it this far.
Second, you’re right. I’ve heard your repeated statements against the culture of the Christian church, pointing out a culture steeped in misogyny, rooted in racism, and filled to the brim with less-than-helpful theories the church has falsely labeled “theology.” You’re right; the principles of purity culture, among other theories, have had more harmful repercussions than I believe we’ll ever truly know, and I want to apologize on behalf of Christian leaders around the world. We have a lot to own up to. We taught things with good intentions, not understanding how detrimental it would be to so many, and now we are losing people on those grounds. We’ve tacked to our faith white supremacy and the subjugation of women while proclaiming “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.” It’s hypocritical to say the least, and these tacked-on additives must be removed from Christianity if we are to continue pressing on toward the goal.
That brings me to the point of contention. What is the goal?
I’ve seen two camps of people growing more and more as I’ve investigated these issues.
The first sees these additives and associates Jesus with them. If the church holds to racist beliefs, so must Christ. If the church promotes the subjugation of women, so must Christ. If the church is homophobic, so must be Christ. If the church teaches that divorce sentences you to hell, then Christ must teach that, too. In their perception of Jesus, they’ve missed Him altogether, and they leave Him behind in disgust.
The second sees the additives for what they are- unbiblical, unnecessary, and extremely harmful- and make it their mission to “deconstruct” theology and toss aside the additives. The trouble is that in their effort, they idolize the deconstruction process, and again, they miss Jesus.
Either we accept the notion that Christianity plus white supremacy plus misogyny plus purity culture plus all these other additions is just Christianity, somehow, and we ignore what the Bible actually says about these things; or we get so fixated on shaking these harmful add-ons that we idolize them. Either way, we’ve lost Jesus.
There is a beautiful tension that exists within Christ, who was fully human and fully God, who extended complete mercy while dealing with our sin with absolute justice. This tension is difficult to understand, maybe impossible. But it’s a tension we must hold, understanding that Jesus is fully loving and accepting of who we are and the baggage we bring, but He is also absolutely holy and requires holiness of us. If in the process of deconstructing these additives we turn Christ into a friend who accepts us as we are with no accountability and no plan for transforming us into His image, then we have lost Him. If in the process of recognizing the ugliness the Christian church has been known for, we associate Christ with impossible demands and hatred for anyone imperfect, we may have never truly known Him.
To know Christ is to love Him, be loved by Him, be transformed into His image, and to share this transformative love with those around us. To be loved by Him is to be fully accepted as we are with everything we bring, with our every mistaken theory, with our every poor decision, with our every uncertainty. To be transformed into His image is to grow from where we were into His holiness: loving, grace-filled accountability for who He made us to be and what He called us to do.
And of course, when you know Christ, are loved by Him, and are being transformed into Him image, you can’t help but share that transformative love with the world. This is the part the church has not done well. We could dig into a tangled web of “why” or we could just own that we haven’t loved our neighbor well. I haven’t loved my neighbor well. We’ve held you to impossible standards, taught harmful theories as gospel truth, and lost Jesus more times than we ever could count.
We can’t give you back the years that it took you to recover from that hurt, and that deserves more than a simple apology. You deserve the full truth spoken over you and our commitment to sharing only the full truth from this point forward:
Christ is the Son of God. Fully human, fully God, He lived on the earth and died a criminal’s death so that you and I don’t have to. In doing so, He extended to us complete mercy while fulfilling complete justice for the sins we have. Yes, we are sinful. We hurt each other, physically, verbally, and even in our heart’s unseen, unspoken motives. We are sinful, but because of Christ’s justice and mercy completely given, we can have a relationship with God, walking in redemption and purpose and living lives with meaning. We get to live in freedom as our true selves. Your purpose is greater than your “coming out”- you were made for more than your sexuality. Your life’s meaning comes from your Creator and is not limited to what a misogynistic culture has deemed appropriate for you; true empowerment is proclaiming God’s truth over yourself and others. True enlightenment is learning how to walk in Christ’s freedom.
This may be a difficult letter for you; but I hope that the message stands out in your mind long after you leave this page. I hope that the truth of the Gospel will beckon to you again and again until you are willing to wrestle with the tension that is Christ: fully loving, fully holy, fully God. I’ll be here wrestling myself.