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A graph. On the right: “How much I miss the church”. The bottom: “How much I realize I can’t go back”. The arrow goes up diagonally.
The thing most of us miss about church is community.
There’s a documentary about a cult by an escaped member. He interviewed others who’d left. They cried about the abuse. They also cried because they missed community. They feared they’d never experience community again. It was the family they never had. Now it’s gone.
Me too! I’ve served charismatic leaders in the church. I experienced intense community. But this was also where I experienced abuse.
I claim you can’t have that kind of community without abuse.
If someone says a community is always amazing, I don’t believe it. Something’s unhealthy.
Expecting us to be in a constant state of euphoria sets us up for exploitation. To offer utopia lures us into submission to the leader and his vision. Then abuse slips in.
This happens in cults and “awesome” churches. When we are in a state of constant euphoria we are in a perpetual state of vulnerability.
Because bullies prey on this neediness.
To be vulnerable 100% of the time isn’t healthy. It’s best to respect boundaries, provide space, negotiate affection, and enjoy intimacy when all agree.
Compare it to sex: if we are in a constant state of orgasm, we will always be weak, vulnerable and at risk if it’s unsafe.
Maybe our desire for utopia reveals we fear independence. Perhaps surrender is where we are cared for rather than empowered. Maybe we prefer a perpetual state of submission rather than freedom because that would mean being responsible.
Healthy independence leads to healthy interdependence.
Being empowered makes our vulnerability voluntary.
This is healthier and safer.
My graph starts out the same as yours, and I am somewhat similar as you in that I am also a pastor who in the end just had to get out. Yet, halfway along my graph it starts trending back down again, and now 15+ years later it is bouncing along near zero.
There is still a good number of things that are good about the church institution but I have very little desire to go back. I think I am well past the anger and resentment stage, so that’s not it. I know that each person goes through the stages of grieving the loss of a part of their life that used to be of great importance, and there is no one right way to work through it all, but I think I am close to done dealing with it and simply accept that the institution is not a place I fit into and never will again.
I love this and I completely agree that there cannot be community without vulnerability, but I hope that there can be a safe place that that vulnerability won’t be taken advantage of.