When “Sorry” Seems to be the Easiest Word
Jesus said to Peter, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ – Matthew 26:34
After a terrorist atrocity, I hate seeing Muslims at a news conference being forced to apologize for something they didn’t do. “We’re not like them,” they have to say.”Islam is a peaceful religion.” They shouldn’t have to deal with those stereotypes. And when it’s Christian people slinging the stereotypes, that makes me angry.
But these days I also get mad when church people blandly tolerate the sloppy stereotyping of their own Christian tradition. They pretend to agree with whatever is being said about them, in a nervously neurotic attempt to appear open-minded. It frustrates me because I’ve been there and done it all myself.
When someone said, “Religion is responsible for all the wars in history,” I’d nod dejectedly, even though I didn’t really think we were. I tried to get out in front with apologies they hadn’t even asked for yet: “And while you’re on the subject of war, don’t forget imperialism, capitalism, and racism! Religion invented those problems too. You can tell that by the fact that religious people can be found at all their meetings.”
But eventually that gets old, not just for the apologizer but for the genuinely curious listener, who really wants to know. They’re not asking us what we hate about our religious life. They want to know what draws us there now.
We need to talk honestly to people outside the church about Jesus, community and why we worship, in the here and now.
Dear God, thank you for giving me to words to confess the terrible sins of the church. And now, please give me more to say than that. Amen.
Lillian Daniel’s new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.