Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

What you can’t blog about

November 6, 2011

We 21st century Westerners seem increasingly comfortable sharing our baggage online. If you experience poor customer service or an expensive car repair, it’s fair game for a tweet or status update. In my case, I had a son who got cancer and died, so I blogged about it. No one told me to stop or change the subject. Most people, Christians or otherwise, can generally tolerate blog posts about how much you miss your deceased child.

What is simply intolerable is sharing how you were mistreated in church. First of all, there’s just no way to get away with it. The internet is far too public a forum for such deeply personal wounds. Plus, everyone will know who you’re talking about—or at least they will think they do. Ironically, the sweet and thoughtful people will heap guilt upon themselves. “Oh no, was that me?” But the real culprits will have no clue. So it’s not actually worth it. That’s why we don’t blog about church stuff.

Even in our increasingly permissive society, just about any topic is safer than a first-person account of church-inflicted wounds, including the standard taboos: politics, race, theology, sexuality, hell. To air one’s dirty laundry about church issues is to commit the eighth deadly sin. After all, it’s bad for business and probably won’t fix anything. So we passively bottle it and lug it around for years until the festering stench starts to scare people away. Keenly attuned to others’ possible agendas but not our own, we become self-appointed victims of spiritual abuse the world will never understand. Hrumph.

Yes, yes, I know. Matthew 18 tells us to share our grievances with the offending person and seek reconciliation on an individual level before taking it to others. Fair enough. There’s clearly a place for mustering up the guts to tell someone they ticked you off. The few times I’ve actually done it, I can report that it generally prevents a lot of bitterness and future headache. Any therapist will vouch for the basic principles of assertive conflict resolution, including an even-keeled use of diplomatic statements like, “My feelings were hurt when you dismembered my teddy bear’s arms.”

But what if there was no single person who actually offended you directly? What if you find yourself in an atmosphere where territorialism and suspicion lurk just beneath a waxy glaze of smiles and pseudo-inclusive lip service? What if you’ve tried your best to play by the rules and voice your viewpoints through the proper channels, but you still know you’re not welcome to be your true self? What if your expectations are likely too high and you simply need to accept certain realities about churches being smelly hospitals for sinners and clowns?

That’s why you don’t blog about church stuff.

  • Great post, as always! It makes me sad that this happens – people carry all sorts of wounds from churches, but when it makes us suspicious and antagonistic towards others, than that’s just out of hand! Hope you find a safe place to rest.

  • So your “true self” is neither a sinner or a clown? Perhaps there is a unique ward for you in the smelly hospital of Christianity. It’s okay to say the church stinks, cause we all do. I read an article by a sociologist who said it is best that we fight the tendency to surround ourselves with people just like ourselves as it will distort our beliefs and make them extreme. On an added note I believe it is our nature to want to be seen by others as we really are. That is a great gift to give and receive from another human being, but I think the only person who can see us that way is God.

    • “Perhaps there is a unique ward for you in the smelly hospital of Christianity.”

      Um, thanks? Did you even read what I said? I guess this proves my point about not blogging on church stuff.

  • I guess I missed your point, it sounded to me like you were making an appeal to not settle for less than your high expectations. It appeared to me that you were unwilling to accept the others in their sinner or clown state. Nor were you willing to accept that your “true self” may not be received by the other sinners or clowns, simply because they may be unable to do so.

    Please clarify if you would where I am missing the point.

    • Quite the contrary, my point was that churches can be frustrating places precisely because they are supposed to be full of sinners and clowns like me (and you). I used the hospital metaphor because it’s a paradox of recovery and dysfunction. Christ, our model, is a wounded healer. The problem is when we elevate our wounds above everyone else’s and demand that hospital policy revolve around our personal whims and soap boxes rather than the collective well-being of the community.

      I’ve been around the church long enough to know that not everyone in the body of Christ will accept a dorky clown like me, but this shouldn’t preclude me from expressing disappointments and disagreements as they arise rather than bottling them unaddressed.

      • We are on the same page. We need each oher, even the hospital administrators can benefit from a humble word delivered by a clown.

      • thanks daniel— don’t know exactly HOW IN THE WORLD I stumbled upon your blog, but regardless, here I am 🙂 Its been along time since those days in Hawaii—anyways, in reference to never being able to share or express the deepest issues of our heart with the blogging community regarding the church…maybe its not completely in the same genre but this blog…..
        sure comes close. She feels no pressure to kowtow to church boundaries and from my perspective goes too far at times…..but again, to your point, she is some one who I have found that feels no problem airing her feelings.

        The second thought as I read your post was the despite our culture being permissive, why should that lead to us feeling it is a good place to share our wounds rather than find those people in our life we are relationally share those with? Why is the blog the best place to find redemption and healing from those wounds?

        Good looking out daniel, look forward to hearing back.

      • Thanks for stopping by, David. To answer your question, I certainly do NOT think the blogosphere is the best place to share our wounds (hence the title of this post). Deeper redemption and healing is more likely found in the presence of close spiritual friends and loved ones. At the same time, I think there is a useful place for writing, journaling and blogging through our feelings.

      • so daniel forgive me if I am a little confused by that answer….with the distinction you are making when you say that blogging is not the “best place” to talk about hurts in the church I hear you saying that it may not be the best place for it but that it should still happen and then you say that there is a place for blogging about specific hurts that occurred in the church(I add “that occurred in the church” since that is the topic at hand that is supposedly taboo in blogging according to your post) …..but then you make the point of saying “hence the title of the post” which I gathered is the topic you CANNOT blog about i.e. church hurts.

        In your mind should you:
        1. Never blog about church hurts.
        2. Your not supposed to but people do and
        a. those people are wrong
        b. those people are right
        3. Is there another option?

        Again dude, just looking for clarification and trying to understand the point your making and enjoying seeing what God is doing in your life these days 🙂

      • Option 3: Use discretion while avoiding legalism. It’s really a case by case thing, so I’m not sure it would be helpful to offer universal rules regarding blogosphere topic selection. What are your thoughts?

      • I agree- I guess thats why I thought it strange to say the topic that can NEVER be blogged about— I love the idea that there are times that it would be very helpful, even to the offending party to share thoughts through the blog- albeit in a discrete and considerate manner- keeping doing it big daniel, blessings

  • Here’s my theory. Part of what will make heaven so great is that you will be known fully and loved just the same–not just by God, but by all. That is what the Church is supposed to be about–loving what seems unlovable. The problem is just as you characterize it…my sin is not as bad as yours, my problems deserve your attention, but yours can wait. Christ modeled perfect forgiveness, while enduring the greatest of hardships when he told the thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I can’t wait.

  • By the way…my goal is to someday be as contemplative as you, and have half your your literary artistry…well done.

    • Great to hear from you, brother Paul. Good insights on the Church as a pre-paradise edition of heaven, where the unlovable are fully known and loved. Makes me weep for multiple reasons. Maybe that’s why I get so wound up sometimes about how ecclesiology plays out here on the blue planet.