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  • Writer's pictureClint

Church-Words and Feeling Known

Have you ever been in a conversation, replying on social media threads, or maybe even listening to a talk or sermon, and realized that there is something getting in the way from you and the other person understanding each other? Of course you have. We all have. Communication is really complicated - it’s amazing we are ever successful at it!

I have found that in my own faith journey of deconstruction and reconstruction this happens all the time around keywords that show up in church-world:

Saved. Lost.

Hell. Heaven.

Kingdom of God.

Good News.

Justice. Mercy.

Love. Wrath.

Inspired. Truth.

God’s Word.

If I’m right about the audience of this blog, some if not all of these words have played a vital role in your worldview at some point. Perhaps some don’t do much work for you anymore, and still yet you cling tightly to others. Or more likely, you’ve wrestled with how exactly to think about these concepts and have imbued them with a renewed meaning from your own faith and theology journey. Maybe you’ve outright discarded a few!

What can make this process so hard is that not everyone in your faith community and tradition have embarked on the same journey you have. By no means are you better than somebody else who hasn’t had to go through a period of reorganizing. You’ve just had a different set of experiences.

I use the words “had to”, because that is what it felt like. I had these doctrines, beliefs, mental boxes and labels I used to organize the world, and then something happened, I can’t point to a specific moment, but I just couldn’t bring all of that old luggage with me anymore. There was too much dissonance with my lived experience and what I began to think and feel that God was like.

Part of the journey is finding your own honesty that you simply don’t believe some of those things any more and the courage to proceed in the world without that old luggage.

It can be hard to feel understood by folks in your community that have not been through a similar kind of decon/recon period. Those above words can carry such different textures, theologies, practices; it is not uncommon for their to be some miscommunication. For example, when the word “sin” is used, what does the person mean when she says it? What baggage is carried by the word? Is sin dishonoring to God? If so, how come? Is God angry with you for sinning? Is sin bad for you, and how so? Does it just mean to have done something morally wrong - what does it mean to be “wrong” and how do you know?

You see, even just one little word bears a weight of complexity that rides right under the surface. In my role of vocational ministry, I hear these words used with such ease and with an air of assumed understanding. After a service, a woman came up to me to have me pray for her sister who was “living in sin”. Now what in the world does that mean? I can only imagine the religious trauma that has been caused by continually telling people or describing them as "living in sin." The woman assumed I knew what that generally meant - and maybe I did. This is part of pastoring; meeting people where they are, including their theological assumptions, and caring for their soul the best way you know how.

In that moment, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to launch into a conceptual analysis of sin and the implications our view of it has on the rest of our understanding of God. And I’m fine with that. But, it can lead to feeling isolated. Like you aren’t really known, understood, valued. That you might be kicked out of the club if they really knew the questions you have, the theological thoughts you entertain. I know it’s not just me in vocational ministry.

I want this platform, Open to Truth, to be a safe place where you can entertain those thoughts. To ask all of the questions. Leave no stone unturned. To feel heard, understood, known. If you ever want to talk about these things, please write into the show at - Tony and I would love to talk about them with you.

For more on the complexity of language, albeit less theologically focused, you can watch our most recent episode on Youtube or listen on your favorite podcatcher.

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