Where to start? There is SO MUCH in my life that happened to bring me to this moment of flouncing from a Mennonite Church I had been attending for the better part of the past 16 years. When my husband and I renewed our vows, we had our church wedding here. We dedicated our kids to God shortly after our son was born. The former pastor’s wife I still consider one of my good friends. She’s truly a good soul and knows what living love looks like. There are several other good Christian people with wonderful souls who are good friends and I know they try to live out a form of self love and love for others that Jesus tried to get others to see for themselves when he was alive all those years ago.
But institutionally, Christianity is an abusive father. Institutionally, church is not emotionally, mentally, sexually safe. Yes, institutionally. I’ve experienced for myself and listened to far too many stories to believe there are just a bunch of isolated incidents and Christianity as a whole embodies goodness. Back in 2009, some one posted a timeline of events in Europe that summarizes how Christianity took over in Europe. My pagan ancestors literally converted for fear of death. http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/03/how-europe-was-overrun-by-christians/
I have a couple of books I’m reading about Germanic and Celtic history before the monstrosity known as Christianity took over Europe.
This isn’t a good start. Taking over by the sword and not by Love. It doesn’t get any better once Europeans spread to the Americas, but that’s not the point of this particular blog post, so I’m not going there. But there are plenty of resources to learn about that if you wish.
Eventually, I came to realize the damage in my own life wasn’t isolated incidents, but part of the institutionalized evil of Christianity.
A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the pastor of the cult church I spent my teenage years in. His wife treated me like I was the spawn of Satan come to corrupt her children. I confronted him for that after learning that Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN coerced a 16 year old girl and transported her across state lines TWICE to have sex with her. He is currently serving a 12 year sentence for his crimes. I was angry that I was treated like the spawn of Satan in his church while Jack Schaap was abusing his power and doing actual harm beyond the Patriarchy this cult religion preached. Jack Schaap and the previous womanizer and father in law pastor, Jack Hyles were the leaders of this particular faction of cult Baptist churches.
Last night, I stuck the following letter into the church mailboxes of the members of the Mennonite Church I had been attending. A slight background: they went through a “discernment” process to determine if and at what capacity, LGBTQ people would be allowed to be members and/or serve in the church. The church was pretty split on what we felt. Some people wanted total inclusion while others dug in their regressive heels, using the Bible as their weapon of hate against this “lifestyle choice” despite the real life testimonies of current and former attendees who proved it wasn’t a “lifestyle choice” at all. The discernment process was exhausting and rage inducing. In the end, they decided nothing, but have chosen to stay in limbo. I guess some people are just hoping the whole “issue” would just go away. Since that discernment process, my daughter discovered during puberty that she’s gay. Suddenly, I had much more to fight for than just being a strong advocate for my LGBTQ friends.
Then recently, I read how Vice President of Eastern Mennonite University, Luke Hartman, abused his power, coerced a young woman into a relationship and then mentally abused her, stalked her and even threatened her life when she tried to leave. It wasn’t just this alone that got to me, but how their local Mennonite Church and even the leadership of MCUSA (the broader denomination organization) tried to cover, lie, hide and victim blame. That was it for me, guys. How could ANY church argue against LGBTQ people being invited to Jesus’ table, serving God, and being church members when trusted men in power are sexually and mentally harming people and the church once again, caring more about their reputation than about bringing a criminal to justice?!
So here is the letter I wrote. No more silence, First Mennonite Church of Canton, OH. No more hoping this shit will just “go away”. Deal with yourselves, or become irrelevant.
Dear First Mennonite Church, April 22nd, 2016
Yes, our family hasn’t been there for a while and we probably won’t be. Maybe we’ll show up to eat some of your food at potlucks, but that’s it. It’ll be nice to check in with friends we don’t see often. But, I’m done with church and I’m done with Christianity.
I was emotionally abused as a teenager by my dad and by a church (not Mennonite) I was in. My daughter is gay. And during the entire “discernment” process, I was disgusted at many points during the process. At some point in my life also, I joined an Independent Baptist Survivors group on Facebook and learned about many sexual abuses committed by church leaders in the Baptist church and how the sexual abuse was covered up and the victims blamed for what was done with them.
And now Lauren Shifflett of Lindale Mennonite Church told her account of how she was sexually abused by Mennonite teenage boys as a teenager, raped at some point, and then sexually coerced, emotionally abused and stalked by Luke Hartman, Vice President of EMU who was recently busted in a prostitution sting. To this day, EMU and some church leadership of Lindale is trying to protect Luke, discredit Lauren and retraumatize her. If you’re interested, here is Lauren’s sister’s account of how the church and EMU has responded to the situation and to Lauren. http://www.ourstoriesuntold.com/good-intentions-arent-enough/
Here is where my anger has just exploded about First Mennonite, the Ohio Conference and MCUSA in general. First Mennonite, the conference and MCUSA has had this decades long debate about LGBTQs. I heard church members utter ridiculous fears about gay people. I mean, gay people might teach young Sunday School kids that its ok to be gay, right? Ridiculous times where Bible verses were used as weapons to justify LGBTQ exclusion from church membership and participation. At the same time, sexual predators and abusers are protected and word salad performed by Mennonite leadership that brings no real justice to sexual abuse victims.
I just can’t deal with a church half full of complete hypocrites when it comes to sex. My daughter can’t feel safe being around people who might possibly confront her about her “sin” while those same people probably judge Lauren for being a victim of a sick abusive man. Patriarchy is a hell of a drug, isn’t it? And how dare any women or LGBTQ people who don’t live by its rules disturb men’s power, right? So you weaponize religion and the Bible. No different than other Christians I’ve experienced. Your doctrine of pacifism is a lie as the violence of emotional and sexual abuse in the Mennonite Church is allowed and covered up while people whine and cry about gay people forcing the Church to accept their “lifestyle”.
Well, I’m done. Some of you may feel sad or even angry I feel this way.
Well perhaps you should have thought of that before emotionally abusing people in your own congregation. You won’t get the chance to do to my beautiful daughter what you’ve done to others.
So ends my 36 year relationship with Christianity. I’m completely done trying to make a relationship with an abusive Patriarchy religion work.