I am ashamed.
I am ashamed that we feast while our neighbors go hungry.
I am ashamed of our selective memory.
I am ashamed of the bumper stickers, the t-shirts, the logos, the fog machines, the light shows, the celebrities, and that paralyzing fear of Silence we’re so bound and determined to avoid that we keep shouting and shouting and shouting at one another till our words are just clanging cymbals echoing off church walls.
I am ashamed of the walls. They are built high, with circles of barbed wire around the top, to keep pests away from our bread and wine, to keep the Silence from getting in.
I am ashamed of the abuse, the shaming, the cover-ups, the secrets, the millstones being forged in Sunday school classrooms and pastors’ offices where people are supposed to be safe, and the way I want to watch those millstones drag a few more bodies down to the bottom of the sea.
I am ashamed of the violence—in our theology, in our words, in myself.
I am ashamed of how we have confused two kingdoms—demanding God’s name on Caesar’s coins, invoking God’s will in our wars, reducing God’s Word to against or for. We’ve turned the Bible into a position paper.
I am ashamed of our mindless routines: segregated Sunday mornings, men up front and women in the back, the Romans Road and the Sinner’s Payer, “what were you wearing to make him say/think/do that?” the relentless chase after the American dream.
I am ashamed of mission trips that hurt more than help, of hijacked stories and imagined heroics, of our industrial savior complex, and most of all, my own stubborn complicity in the very injustices I decry. There is “slavery stitched into the fabric of my clothes” but I’ve learned to ignore the itch.
I am ashamed that the Church has become the scariest place to come out instead of the safest, that it routinely shuts out the most vulnerable, the most hurting, the most despised, when those were the people Jesus started with, the people he loved most.
I am ashamed that we are so quick to speak and so slow to listen.
I am ashamed by our lack of imagination, ashamed by our hypocrisy, ashamed by the heavy loads we bind up to place on people’s backs, ashamed by the logs in our eyes and the stones in our hands.
I am ashamed by our failure to love.
I am ashamed of the way I judge those I deem judgmental, the way I stumble through my day without prayer, the way I issue praises to heaven in one breath and curse my brothers in the next, the way I talk a big game about loving others and then brush past the woman crying in the airport, the way cynicism seeps into my bones, the way I zone out in front of my wireless glowing mirror in a pathetic effort to avoid confronting it all. Who’s the fairest?.
I am ashamed, and I am sorry.
But I am not ashamed of the gospel.
I am not ashamed of this scandalous news, whispered first by a pregnant Palestinian teenager whose dream for the world shattered the proud and lifted up the humble.
I am not ashamed of the carpenter anointed to restore sight to the blind and set prisoners free, or his ragamuffin band of fishermen and tax collectors and zealots, his friendship with prostitutes, his strange ways and long stories, his challenge to the religious, his radical notion that women are human.
I am not ashamed of the good news that we have it backwards: Privileged are the poor, the peacemakers, the merciful, and the suffering. Cursed are the rich, the full, the merciless, the hateful.
I am not ashamed that when God strapped on sandals and walked among us, God fed the hungry, wept with the mourning, touched the untouchable, turned water into wine, cracked jokes about religion, obeyed his mom, defended the defenseless, bantered with children, forgave his enemies, and reminded us that the whole point of it all is to love God and love our neighbors well. That's it.
I am not ashamed that when God strapped on sandals and walked among us, God rode a donkey instead of a war horse.
I am not ashamed of the good news that we don’t have to wait around for the right leader or the right government because there’s a new and better kingdom growing in us and around us, a kingdom that welcomes all to the table.
I am not ashamed of the good news that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.
And I am not ashamed of the very good news that when God strapped on sandals and walked among us and endured the very worst this world has to offer, the very ugliest inside of us, God looked upon it all and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And I am not ashamed of the very good news, first shouted by another unlikely woman in another garden, and then echoed through the centuries in every corner of the earth, that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! Risen indeed, we say, even when we're not quite sure we believe it.
I am not ashamed of this great cloud of witnesses, kicking up dust ahead of me on the path. They are hermits and homemakers and sinners and saints and pilgrims and poets and mothers and activists and peacemakers and friends. They bind up wounds and stand up to bullies and offer rides and listen well and make meals and let things go and work hard and fail sometimes. But they keep telling the story—this story that sets both the oppressed and the oppressors free, this story that may even save me.
I am not ashamed of love. Love casts out fear; love knits us together; love conquers all.
I am not ashamed of the Church. She is a survivor, after all, a work-in-progress, a stubborn bride-to-be. The gates of hell will not prevail against her, they say. So I guess I better quit hedging my bets.
I am not ashamed because there are all these little mustards seeds scattered across our broken, shameful world, some of them just now swelling and splitting underneath the dark soil; others breaking through the surface with a garish flash of green; others meandering toward the sun, desperate for light or rain or some sort of trellis; others growing slow and steady into tall shade tress with limbs like arms wide open to the world, welcoming the birds of the air to nest in their branches.
I am not ashamed because my roots are deep and the sky is tall, and there will always be some place to grow.
I am not ashamed because I am not alone.