I did 30 days of yoga, started taking a multivitamin and slept a full 8 hours last night, so all these disparate pieces of processing the last couple years’ grief and anger are finally falling into place.
Today, I finally managed to recognize that I believe Jesus is asking us to choose sides. It’s not a conservative versus progressive kind of choosing, or a Republican versus Democrat kind of choosing, or a Duke versus UNC kind of choosing, but it is choosing sides nonetheless. Over and over again, the choice is set before us to choose to honor the dishonored, believe the maligned, center the marginalized – or not. The denominational structure I left is designed to forbid people within it from making this choice. The system asks every individual who functions within it to “represent the fabric of the whole church” and give equal weight to both poor and rich, abuser and abused. But that is the exact opposite of what Jesus asks of us.
I don’t think it is possible to “represent the whole fabric of the church” and follow Jesus’ commands. It’s not just difficult, it is actually impossible. Jesus says “blessed are the poor, the hungry, the reviled” AND “woe to the rich, the over-filled, the highly respected.” We get called to honor the ones who are without honor in the world, and reminded that in God’s realm, the last are first and the first are last. Over and over again, Jesus points out the person the rest of the crowd has ignored and makes them the center of attention. Over and over again, Jesus invites us to see the world from the perspective of the underside. Over and over again, Jesus calls us to go cast our lot with the hungry, the oppressed, and the outcast. Not just pity them or give them charity or tokenize them, but to go, listen, learn, honor, and follow the people the world hates. You can’t run a majority-rules, profit-motivated, representing-the-whole-fabric, everybody-gets-the-same-airtime kind of organization and follow those commands. Trying to do both at once is impossible, dangerous, and harmful.
The misguided attempt to follow Jesus and keep everybody happy leads you do things like remove a Black Lives Matter statement because a powerful white man asked you to do it. It puts you in the position of being required to defend an abuser instead of protecting the people he harmed. It leads you to asking brilliant, compassionate queer people who insist on their sacred worth to sit side by side on a stage with people who have insulted, threatened, and demeaned them, as if each position were equally valid. It asks you to require your leaders of color to pretend that the vile, racist trash they receive in their inboxes and voicemail is legitimate discourse and respond to it as such.
You can’t follow Jesus like this. It’s not just that trying to hold space for every perspective or finding a “middle way” is a difficult position to be in, a complicated role that we should respect for its challenge. It is actually antithetical to the radical call of Jesus. And, in my experience, it kills you. Sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once. But death is sure and certain. That’s why I left, and it’s why I’m writing about it: I don’t want to die. I want to choose the other side.