Since Lent is the season of “repentance” let’s talk about it. Religious faith that is useful, constructive towards a better life, a better world might rightly proclaim that we indeed are fragile and maybe at times even broken people. And sometimes, we do horrible things to each, to our planet and to ourselves. Sometimes we can be downright vicious and self absorbed. Other times we can be utterly blind to the way we hurt others, our surroundings, or ourselves. Church folk sometimes call these things “sins of omission.”
But I am not a monster. Neither are you. We are not refuse. We are not garbage. We are not objects of wrath. If it offends your sensibilities when I say that god does not hate us then perhaps you do not truly know anything resembling a god of love.
Unfortunately it is sometimes hard for me to hear anyone say I love you. And sometimes I have to force the words out of myself to others. Because somewhere deep inside my whole life I have believed that I am just trash. And I have so closely aligned this feeling with the plain truth that we are all imperfect. I really thought god wanted me to hate myself. I have confused the self hatred that is a product of what Christianity calls “our brokenness” with the anxiety of growing up in a broken home. I mistook the disposition of my father or mother for the disposition of a divine being towards me. This is a tragic distortion of whatever might be good or true about the world’s religious faiths.
I have done many things in my life for which I am sorry, “repentant” even. But true repentance means a true effort towards different behavior. Guilt and shame and “worm” theology almost always perpetuate cycles of undesired behaviors and characteristics. It has become hard for me to hear some of the hymns and Christian songs that were my favorites growing up. Songs that were so attached to my “spiritual formation.” Amazing Grace just doesn’t sound as sweet anymore, when I hear a congregation singing in unison “a wretch like me.” I can’t listen anymore to Sufjan Stevens compare “The things under his floorboard” to John Wayne Gacy Jr.
I am not a wretch! I’m not a monster! Are you?