28 May 2011

Being Real

Over at his blog, my friend John Meunier asks the question When is Honest Too Honest? It seems that over at Chad Holz's blog, he has posted about dealing with a specific sort of addiction.

So John wanted to ask the question, what sort of information should we suddenly let people know from the pulpit? A fair enough question and I answered John with an "I don't know" before reading Chad's post.

But on reading Chad's post, I find myself wanting to ask a different question: When can the church learn to be real and to deal with real issues that real people face on a daily basis? If I am reading Chad's post correctly, he admitted that he was addicted to pornography and entered into a twelve-step program to deal with his addiction. He preached on the subject and it was not well-received by the congregation.

I can totally understand that. And I can totally understand that it would be a shock for the congregation to learn about their pastor's addiction one Sunday morning from the pulpit, but I'll leave that question of the use of the pulpit to John's blog.

What I'm more interested in is why we can't "be real" in church. I'm more interested in why twelve-step programs seem to provide more spiritual healing than our faith communities. I'm more interested in why people feel that they can't ever admit to the minister that they are angry at God, afraid of God or not sure about God.

And I'm interested in why we all - lay and ordained - collude in what often seems to me to be a centuries-long culture of enabling each other's fear and addiction.

This is a think-piece. I don't have any answers here. What I do know is that if we can't admit to ourselves and to at least one other person what our real stumbling block is - hatred for our father, anger at God, shame at being addicted to pornography - whatever our imperfection (aka sin), we haven't got a glimmer of hope of beginning our spiritual healing.

The church is, by and large with some exceptions, invested in maintaining our belief that we don't really sin - or that we don't have some thoughts, feelings or behaviors that we think are shameful or improper. And then we collude in helping others maintain their belief that they don't really sin.

I also believe that the shame that keeps us from being real, and our institutional enabling of allowing ourselves to hide our sin, means that we don't really believe in God's forgiveness or grace. Our actions speak louder than our words and our actions say: "We don't really believe that being wrong can be forgiven. And we don't really believe that we can become holy."

We are addicted to our false image of Being Good and to our false belief that God is not really gracious and forgiving.

And so churches become places where pastors who get help for a sex addiction are at risk of getting the sack. Like any family which is deeply invested in a systemic addiction, we have to expel from our midst those who are on their way to recovery.

Isn't it time for the church to become a different kind of community?


David said...

Someone who has dealt with a lot of this is Anne Jackson.
Sorry if I sound like her publicist, though I am just an ordinary pastor. She has impressed me and dealt with some very hard to talk about issues.
Her twitter link is @AnneJackson
her books can be found here:
But the best resource I have used is "Permission to Speak Freely"
I loved her former blog, and have used her website (though it isn't loading for me today)
Her struggle with pornography, Bi-Polar Disorder, and her recent Divorce, as well as church abuse have all been very real, and helped direct some of my thinking.
David Camphouse

PamBG said...

David: Thank you for the suggestion! It's so good to learn about someone I've never heard about before who is a fellow-traveler.