I took a big risk and decided to be vulnerable in my latest memoir. The hard fact is that I couldn’t accurately talk about my faith struggles without describing the events that influenced the way I relate to God: namely, the rape and the abuse. Those things are absolutely critical to the way I related to God for years, and to this day I have a bend toward self-deprecating worship.
You know what, though?
I’ve had enough of that. And I’m really tired – no, more like angry – to see so-called human depravity glorified with catchy songs and slogans. Abuse survivors and depression sufferers just do not need this crap.
I’m not saying I don’t believe in sin. And I don’t consider myself a “good person.” But I do believe there is a world of difference between “not good” and “utterly depraved.” And I no longer see the need to dwell on my horridness to emphasize God’s goodness. I honestly cannot recall a church environment I’ve been to in which God was praised just for being God, without having to bring “But I’m so unworthy” into it.
The comic artist sells the bottom left “evil heart” logo as a t-shirt in his online store.
Good marketing, huh?
I heard all about my unworthiness countless times in the five years I dated my last boyfriend, in words and through actions. He gradually taught me to hate myself. When I hear young, otherwise happy women in bible studies and small groups flippantly talk about their depravity, something in me breaks. I can’t help but think that this teaching is making them ripe for falling into the clutches of abusers (see When God talks like an abusive boyfriend).
I don’t say this to minimize the consequences of sin (though I admit I still struggle with the Jewish/Christian dichotomy between sin as action and sin as identity). I say this because I don’t see nearly enough affirmation of the worth of human beings in church (in this context, I’m referring to evangelical churches).
The Christianity I read about in my teenage years affirmed God’s passionate pursuit of humans. That Christianity showed a God whose heart broke to see his creation quantify their worth by their income, their social status, their number of relationship partners. That Christianity showed a God who used Jesus to say You don’t have to do anything to earn my love, you already have it! I made you and think you’re awesome!
The Christianity I encountered in college was radically different. It was a Christianity that said You’re disgusting. You’re pathetic. God sees filth when he looks at you. Only when you become a Christian do you deserve to be looked at with a little less contempt.
Many Christians espouse the latter rhetoric and wonder why their numbers are dropping.
True, the word “love” is often misunderstood. But when Christian “love” looks a lot like condemnation, there is a problem. “Tough love,” on the other hand, often feels unfair, but that’s generally reserved for drastic circumstances; it’s not the kind of love you start out with. When starting a new relationship, you focus on what you find attractive about a person. You tell them what you like about them. You know they have flaws, and you might work with them to improve, but healthy relationships don’t use degradation to get someone to change.
I want a God who will challenge me, convict me of my wrongdoing, and enable me to let go of bad habits. But I’m running far, far away from the God who supposedly created me, made me “fearfully and wonderfully made,” yet thinks I’m a parasite.
To that I say, enough.
Humans deserve better.