I am a Christian, raised by two Christian parents in a (mostly white) protestant church. I attended a Christian school from kindergarten until ninth grade, and I heard all the rumors that public education was a cesspool of sex, drugs, f-words, alcohol and demonic rituals. Fine, I embellished on the last one—but you get the idea.
Now let the record show that I have both gratitude and respect for the faith that my parents instilled in me. It continues to hold true all these years later, in fact.
I believe and identify with Jesus the Messiah as both my personal savior and model for existence. His life on earth was a master class in how to treat humans with compassion, justice, honesty, acceptance, kindness, inclusion, grace, equity and unconditional love.
His passion for the outcast, broken, powerless and marginalized has no rival in history. His sacrifice on a hill outside of Jerusalem transformed the world forever, and His transformation inside my own soul has been nothing short of miraculous.
I love Jesus—as the author Glennon Doyle remarks, “I worship the guy.” But I do have questions for the American church that proclaims to represent Him. Yeah, I know—it’s an institution maintained by humans and, therefore, messy and flawed. That’s cool because I too am messy and flawed, so it’s a community where I belong.
But I also believe this is part of the fundamental issue. I belong in the church since people like me tend to belong everywhere. I am white, heterosexual, middle class and raised in a first-world nation.
Sure, I’m a female which does present some challenges, but as a member of the dominant culture, my life comes with privilege—which I did not ask for, did not realize and did not earn. This privilege just is, and that’s not how Jesus operates.
He is the most zealous advocate this world has ever known. Before there was Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, there was Jesus of Nazareth healing the disabled, befriending the prostitutes, making time for the children, and seeking out the oppressed.
As a man of color, born into an overthrown society, with no permanent residence or source of income, and hated by the religious elite, Jesus understands injustice. He surrounds Himself with anyone that culture has marked “the least of these.” He is not a colonizer. He is not a western citizen. He is not even white.
So how did the teachings of Jesus come to be associated with the status quo of mainstream Caucasian America?
When did it become Christian dogma to remain silent toward racism and complicit toward the patriarchy?
Who determined that some groups of sinners are welcome in the church, but others are irredeemable and toxic to the establishment?
If Jesus spent His whole ministry on the frontlines of activism, then why does the church often turn a blind eye to this work of justice He started 2,000 years ago?
What if—instead of weaponizing scripture like the Pharisees who enforced the law in Jesus’ time—Christians saw each interaction and encounter as a chance to lead with the same grace our Messiah has offered us? It should not be a revelation. It should be as instinctual as breathing.
In a cynical, dark and fallen universe, the church was built to send a message of radical, supernatural, countercultural hope. It was never meant to shame or exclude.
So I have questions for today’s evangelical institution. And not because I’m here to judge or condemn it.
Rather, because I love the church and want each human on this planet—from the Guatemalan refugee to the homeless teen on Skid Row—to realize they belong in the family of Jesus…
- Why are sins measured on a legalist and arbitrary spectrum? I sin in the areas of addiction, deception, retaliation and self-absorption, just to name a few of the countless ways I fall short on the daily. But none of my sins have stigmatized me from acceptance in the church—so how am I above a person who’s transgender or someone who has thoughts of suicide on the moral hierarchy? Spoiler alert: I’m not. My issues are just easier to dismiss and hide.
- What is so threatening about a woman on the platform? Some of the most influential teachers, leaders, mentors and pastors in my life are women. They have discipled me, held me accountable, spoke truth over me and showed me that freedom in Christ is real. Many of these women are just as qualified to preach as their male counterparts—sometimes more so—but too often, gender conventions subdue the calling and purpose on their lives.
- Where is the racial diversity in church leadership? I am a firm believer that cultures of inclusion start from the top-down—the most effective way to create safety for people of diverse racial backgrounds is to ensure they are represented in the church leadership. Who is on the board of trustees? Who is at the table making decisions? Who is onstage to lead worship, deliver announcements or even preach on Sunday? Jesus exists for all creeds and colors, so it stands to reason, His church should reflect this.
- Why are foreign missions prioritized over local communities? I would jump at the chance to visit countries like Nepal, Ecuador and Uganda, but as a traveler on my own dime—not as a short-term missions worker. The more research I unearth on this topic, the more I learn how mission trips (regardless of positive intentions) can harm a nation’s infrastructure. For example, if you construct a well in a Kenyan village but don’t teach the residents how to maintain it, what happens if a pipe bursts or water leaks? Instead of empowering the community, this forces a dependence on westerners. So before sending a team to another continent, how can the local church serve the disenfranchised right in its own backyard?
- When did comfort supersede both justice and mercy? I look at some of the modern church services that I either attend or catch a snapshot of on Instagram, and I wonder, Is this a production to entertain the audience or an invitation to connect with Jesus? In a society where mega-church pastors turn into celebrities and worship music is “enhanced” by strobe lights, Christians must actively resist the urge to form insider clubs or echo chambers that keep them sheltered from—and naive to—the abuse of power around them.