Things I Didn’t Know: Churches are Traumatizing People

When I was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church there are a lot of things that just didn’t click with me. Since coming out as bisexual and finding myself in a more progressive space, a lot has become clear.

A lot of people aren’t just leaving churches because they were hurt or offended. A lot of people have been deeply rejected to the point of being traumatized. They have been told they are unworthy, broken, inconvenient, going to hell, unholy, rebellious, and the list goes on and on. These words have been the reward for sincere questions and difficulties in many cases.

When I was a pastor, it was easy to rely on the idea that people hurt people, the church doesn’t. Since I’ve left I’ve realized that there are structural reasons in churches why certain people get ostracized and others are protected. There are gatekeepers who decide which sins are disqualifies. Those gatekeepers are judging the severity of the sin on no other qualification than how much of a threat the sin is to the protection of the status quo in churches.

That’s why public sin is more severe than private. That’s why doubt is worse than judgementalism. That’s why stealing money from the church bring more immediate action than anything else. That’s why questioning doctrine is more severe than treating people with disdain.

All this amounts to treating human being as objects. Members are resources to the goals and objectives of the organizations. Those people who contribute most to the organization are most valued. Those who detract are shamed or even expelled.

People aren’t resources. When you treat them as such you end up deeply wounding them. People walk away from churches with lingering fear that they will burn in hell. They walk away angry and cut to the core. They often walk away forever.

The greatest form of healing is ultimately found in new spiritual communities that are people focused instead of institutional focused. Communities that prioritize healing can bandage the open wounds and calm the lingering fears.

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