This week, I met with yet another young thinker in search of a church that would allow them to ask difficult questions and get honest answers. They want answers that are rooted in personal belief and understanding- not just a “because someone said so” type of response. This person is in search of a place where they are free to frequent- and even participate- though there might be some deep disagreements on certain views of society and what their role is in it. These discussions are easily found in a coffee shop, but can be very difficult to find within the context of a religious body.
Too often, I find those who are willing to engage in discussions of spirituality, morality, and the betterment of society, but they feel that they are unable to find a place within the context of a church to have a civil exchange of ideas without being branded as a target at best, or ridiculed and cast aside as “problem children” at worst.
It seems odd to me that those of us within the church are convinced that we have answers that will help to provide a long and satisfying life (Proverbs 3) for humanity, yet many people don’t feel as though they have the freedom to engage us in discussion without experiencing something that does feel like it lasts a lifetime, yet it is anything but satisfying.
Our sanctuaries are supposed to be safe places. Places where people go to find refuge in the middle of life’s storms. Places where people are free to ask questions and find answers. Places where one, regardless of background or belief system, can experience kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love, etc.
Why then does this not seem to be the case many times?
We need to have our churches once again be places where people can be free to be on their journey to truth without being demonized for having a difference of opinion. We need to once again be places where people can find answers, and not simple condemnation. We need to be excited to be on a journey with other imperfect people- and not so quick to flog those who might make a mistake. We need to remember that we are also on a journey and are capable of making mistakes.
We need…. we need to make our sanctuaries safe places once again.
Do you have any suggestions on how those of us in the church might be able to better accomplish this very thing?