I am assuming that if you hang around here at all, you know that I am not your traditional Christian and you are at least somewhat o.k. with that. Warning, though, this post might rattle some cages so feel free to stop reading now.
At a recent women's coffee evening at church, I was highly alarmed when I was told that they wanted us to watch a video on "post-abortive women." Abortion and gay marriage are two issues in church that make me want to run for the hills. Both are issues, to me, that cannot be reduced to black and white and to do so totally ignores the human beings involved and that, to me, immediately means that we are not taking a Jesus-following approach. I sat at my table with mostly "evangelical" Christian women, getting more and more alarmed at what was coming and how I was going to cope. My only possible compatriot in the squirming was a friend J. She, however, grew up Catholic and, not to offend anyone, I find that I have a number of Catholic friends who have this amazing skill at just not hearing offensive stuff said at church (which is totally perplexing to me, who grew up in a denomination who had a statue of Margaret, a dissenter, who is known, for among other things, hurling her stool at a minster who offended her at a church meeting, in their seminary lobby). But, back to the evening.
As the video rolled out, I stopped feeling quite as nervous. It was clear that the focus was going to be on supporting post abortive women in the church, not from a standpoint of condemning them but to share with them that they are welcome and that healing is available. After a diplomatic email conversation with our pastor, I can say that I now feel sufficiently comfortable that 1. they really do just want to support a group of women who most likely would be terrified to speak in church and 2. that the intention is to come alongside these women AS THEY WORK WITH TRAINED COUNSELLING PROFESSIONALS and not just to counsel ourselves. That's critical for me. My dad is a practicing pastoral psychotherapist which means that he is an ordained minister who also happens to be a fully trained member of the College of Psychotherapy for our province and not just someone with good intentions who hung out a sign. Much of his practice involves supporting people who have very legitimate challenges (either related to mental health issues or life trauma) who were further traumatized by church people (ministers, mostly) who felt empowered to offer counselling despite having no idea what they were doing.
It's all worked out well and thankfully, I am a member of a church that is directed by someone who is thoughtful, responsible and has an understanding of his own limitations. That isn't always the case.
I don't fit, I know that. I don't have a definite belief about abortion or homosexuality. I would say that I am definitely pro-life but what that means for me is most definitely not protesting with signs of dead fetal tissue that traumatizes people around me. My being pro-life is being pro-birth but also pro-enough self esteem to not be bullied into sex you don't want, pro-education for women so that they have choices, pro-understanding that rape victims face their own challenges, pro-adoption and a system that supports different ways of creating families, pro-making parenting affordable and possible, pro-supporting the elderly and pro-making life liveable for everyone in our society. Yes, there are questions and for me, they don't have easy answers. Most of all, though, Jesus told me to love and that's what I am going to do. Judgement is someone else's job and especially given the suicide rate among gay youth, do you really think that it's the Jesus response to tell them that they are broken and flawed when they are already struggling? I personally think that the church needs to shut up on the condemnation and to spew compassion whenever possible.
Then, comes the dilemma. When I get a message about an event to highlight this ministry, do I speak up and risk finding out that my church doesn't have room for me in my mis-fittedness or do I stay quiet and avoid trouble? When I write it down, it seems easy but it isn't always. The church is home and family to my kids and this is a small town. If we leave the church under a cloud, we are going to encounter these people daily and regardless of whether I have a deep understanding that I am doing the right thing, it has ramifications for me on a daily basis. I'm lucky, I have found a church whose sympathies are largely mine and whose leadership DOES have room for different beliefs but that isn't always the case. It's a hard place to be sometimes, especially when my INFJ-ness makes it really hard to compromise on the issues of compassion.