"Either poop or get off the pot."
My grandmother used to say this to me, although I'm sure she wasn't the first person to coin this saying. I remember hearing these words many times while sitting at her dining room table, coffee and toast in front of her. We'd be chatting about whatever choice my teenage mind was facing at the moment. Eventually Miya (that's what we called her) would look at me with a little smirk on her lips and give me these words of wisdom. "Liria, you just need to poop or get off the pot."
Using the word "poop" wasn't exactly something one would expect from my Baptist grandmother, which made these moments quite humorous. (I think she did it partly to see my face when she said "poop.") She was most definitely right, though. I needed to follow through with a decision I already knew was correct instead of procrastinating, avoiding, or deflecting. Miya was a kind, Jesus-loving, old soul but there were times she used the word "poop" to give more impact to her very direct advice.
It's interesting to me that her words back then are what I keep hearing now when I look at our Church.
I think most churches tend to advertise themselves as safe places for the broken and hurting. They say things like "come as you are" to draw people through their doors. They preach about how imperfect we are, everyone is welcome, and they just want to love people.
But that's not exactly true. While I believe many churches have hearts that want to love everyone, they don't necessarily follow through. They aren't always a place for the hurt and broken to find safety. Based on the location of the church, the primary demographic, or the doctrinal beliefs, a church may be inclined to steer clear of certain "issues." And the reasons vary for their decisions almost as much as the number of issues they choose to avoid. Yet at the end of the day, this "motto" that the Church has adopted, that everyone is welcomed and loved, is in many ways false. At least, that's how it can feel.
I could pick from any community of people of whom have been ignored or neglected in their hurt places, but I won't speak for all of them. Just those I share common ground with: sexual abuse survivors. Let's face it, sexual abuse in general makes most people feel uncomfortable, but it's becoming painfully evident just how much the Church is uncomfortable with the subject.
Recently the world has seen countless adults come forward to talk about the sexual assault, molestation, or rapes they endured at the hands of those more powerful or stronger than themselves. There have been weeks upon weeks of men and women finally telling their story of assault which had been oppressing them with shame. So many lives have been impacted, nearly destroyed. So many have lived in fear, desperately wanting to be seen and heard. And honestly, these stories have been coming to surface for years while most people maintained their lack of knowledge of the damage sexual abuse has and the magnitude of the problem.
Through all of it, though, the Church has remained silent. Disappointingly silent.
But the Church is not silent when there's a natural disaster anywhere on the earth; it likes to be on the front lines, helping when needed to meet people where they are. It's not silent when there's a shooting or terrorist attack; the Church is the first one to start fervently praying for the families of those affected. And it's not silent in telling people they need Jesus; it literally sends people across the ocean to share that message.
But where is the Church when sexual abuse has been exposed? What are their plans to help those broken and hurting people that it beckons into its buildings? When is the Church going to publicly pray for the lives impacted by the violation of another person's degrading actions?
The world is seeing a silent Church.
And those attending its services are seeing a silent Church.
There are men and women across this world whose wounds have never healed from the sexual violations done against them, yet instead of being a place a safety for those survivors to run, the Church is busy avoiding the subject. Or worse, using scripture in various ways to keep those victims silent. Those responses indirectly support the abusers, whether that's the intent or not. When less than 3% of allegations are false, and preaching the truth is a major platform of the Church, you'd think there would be some mention regarding these hurting souls. Because Christians say they want to tell the truth.
Seriously, Church? You are not going to open the wounds of these survivors by talking about it - their wounds are already open. You can, however, be the salve on those wounds. You can point them towards healing by acknowledging these are very real hurts. You can give peace to those survivors sitting in your pews by courageously and passionately praying for all the men, women, and children currently and publicly coming forward about what was done to them.
The world hears the Church say things like "all are welcome," and "we all are broken," but when someone arrives at its doors and is brave enough to talk about what happened to them, Christians should have more for them than just a referral to a therapist.
Stop focusing on how this subject makes you uncomfortable, Church. Stop focusing on all the ways you may "do it wrong." Stop letting yourself off the hook for doing the hard work. While you're busy thinking of your own reputation, every 8 minutes another child's molestation is proven and it may be decades before that young life may speak of it.
If you're going to tell people your doors are open to the hurting, then you should mean it. All of the different types of hurting. And, yes, that means those hurting from racism, those hurting from mental health, those hurting from physical handicaps, those hurting from abortions, and those hurting from abuse. It's absolutely more work, but don't advertise something if you're not willing to follow through. At the very least, pray from the pulpit! Because sometimes to those of us who have been hurt to these extreme degrees, your blatant silence feels like false advertising.
Be the refuge you were designed to be, Church.
Be the sanctuary you were created for.
Because what's the alternative? What are you going to say when you have to answer for why you didn't help the multitudes of people who were affected by sexual abuse? What reasons are you going to give God when you know there is a problem, when it's all around you, and you choose to do almost nothing?
In the words of my sweet Miya: Church, you need to poop or get off the pot. If you're going to tell people that church is safe, then be safe. If you want people to believe they can come as they are and you will meet them where they are, then follow through. Or you need to stop making promises you aren't prepared to keep. Because in the midst of the current floods of survivors coming forward, sexual abuse victims everywhere are looking for a place to run and people to talk to. They are looking to be acknowledged and validated.
I believe you were created to do this, Church. I believe you were given armor so you could fight the many evils of this world, but I'm just hoping to be seen and acknowledged. So let's start with that.
Much love to you,