In light of the backlash that came with my recent post “7 Reasons to Leave a Church”, I would like to take a moment and say thank you to every single person who reached out by liking, commenting, sharing, or sending me a private message in response.
It turns out that something as simple as a Facebook “like”, in this situation, carried the weight of a public statement. And so to the brave souls who dared to stand up with me and endure the bullying and rejection, I salute you. Your courage inspires me.
To those of you who messaged me privately, I want to express my gratitude. Huge thanks to all of you who took the time out of your day to write to me about your own experiences. Your messages have been a source of encouragement and I cannot thank you enough.
Of all the emotions I’ve experienced since the big exit and trying to heal from that mess, nothing has been stranger, but also confirmation that I made the right decision, than the social media shunning that followed.
It’s a peculiar phenomenon directly related to the fact that we live in a world ruled by social media. It reminds me of the concept of excommunication, in which a person is cut off from the larger religious group by being deprived, suspended, or limited in their participation with, or membership in, the group because they did something that was frowned upon by the group. Today, it could be argued that excommunication is a virtual spectacle in which the offending party gets iced out on social media. No more likes. No more comments. Unfollow. Unfriend. Block.
Strangely enough, I’ve watched this happen before and have been a part of doing it to other people when they left. I even anticipated it happening, and so in order to soften the blow, I pre-emptively unfollowed a number of individuals who would likely not share my views. Despite all the mental preparation, however, it still wasn’t easy watching the very people who smiled and said they loved you, turn their backs on you because you chose to speak up. Thankfully, I’ve grown some thick skin over the years and people’s opinions don’t phase me like they used to. So that took all of maybe five minutes to get over.
The more upsetting part of this situation is not that I’ve become the black sheep, but that anyone remotely affiliated with me is also getting the big unfriend and block action that I’ve grown accustomed to. As silly as it sounds, I don’t make light of it, because it can be deeply upsetting and the social rejection can be damaging. When most of your social network, social activities, and weekly agenda revolve around church (because that’s how this particular group is set up and it is expected of you), it’s a painfully difficult and lonely process to heal. I know this because I have been there.
And so I would say to those of you who have stepped away, who are being shunned for being associated with me, and who are in the process of grieving and healing, please know that you are loved, accepted, and covered by our tender loving Heavenly Father who sees your heart and your pain, who wants you to be free and whole in Him, and who loves watching you, His precious child, explore and probe the ever expansive depths of His goodness and kindness towards you.
Lastly, may the strength of His unfailing love hold you steadfast. May you find rest in Him as He tends your wounds. And in the grip of His grace, may you find peace, and the strength to journey on.
Grace and peace.
[Disclaimer: Despite what is being said about me, I did not then, nor will I now, publicly call out or name anyone involved. I have not, nor will I ever, condone violent acts. I have no intention of taking the law or due process into my hands. And I am not responsible for the arrest that was made last weekend with regards to the incidents I alluded to in my post. I wrote that post as a way for me to process, not as any kind of means to a vicious end. I have no personal vendetta against anybody.]