Much of the Christian blogging world appreciates folks who are courageous enough to share their bad or hurtful church experiences, in the name of being “raw”, “transparent”, “authentic” or “real”. We love to hear how other Christian’s wrestle with and grow through these unpleasant and often painful broken sinner interactions that occur between brothers and sisters in Christ. I have observed that Christian women especially are magnetically drawn to mommy bloggers who share their epiphanies in regards to parenting, marriage, and relationships. When it involves exposing the hurtful actions of another Christian, of course, all in the name of “growth and maturity”, even more so.
I do sincerely want to be transparent but not at the expense of painting a picture that involves elevating myself into some kind of victim or martyr. For those that know me, I refuse to go there.
However, I have seriously been wrestling with this piece for over a year. I don’t want this to be another strike against the body of Christ, for the sake of sympathy, at the expense of further division. Truthfully, I can no longer deny that my own heart has grown cynical because of some specific past interactions that exclusively have to do with this website.
For the record, cynicism does not equal un-forgiveness. To paraphrase a Tim Keller quote, I am thankful that my faith is not dependent on the quality of my faith, but rather the object of my faith, who is Christ Jesus. With that reminder echoing in my mind, I can proceed.
This website hobby/project of mine initially started out as my feeble attempt to bring three bloggers of color together for the sake of unity, in spite of differences. It included myself, another female and one male. I won’t name them by name.
I became familiar with these two bloggers on Facebook after reading some of their content and comments. I discovered that I mostly agreed with both of their perspectives, sometimes leaning more with one over the other, and vice versa. I knew that sometimes these bloggers said the same things, but often went about it from different vantage points. I appreciated and valued both of their voices equally, even when there wasn’t full stop agreement on the tone, approach or finer points of an issue.
When this website was simply an idea in my head, I reached out to both and asked if they would like to be contributors to my project and thankfully they both agreed. I freely and enthusiastically gave them both the title of co-editor of this new venture and we brainstormed to figure out a name, came together to create a direction and purpose, and collaboratively came up with our logo, even though I reserved the right to have the last word on the logo because I’m Latina and love strong bold colors.
We finally settled on the name, Kaleoscope, a derivative of the word kaleo, which is a Greek word that means to call, name, summon, invite or address.
Kaleoscope was supposed to be a play on the word kaleidoscope, which is commonly understood to be a scope like instrument containing a plethora of colored glass pieces that are sandwiched between two flat plates and two mirrors. Depending on the position of the glass pieces, a kaleidoscope can reflect a variety of beautiful patterns that resemble stained glass, often found in a historical church structure.
Likewise, I wanted this new project to reflect the diverse perspectives of not only mine and my fellow co-editors, but other voices as well. I pictured a beautifully cohesive colorful tapestry of words, sometimes sharp, sometimes not, like a piece of historical church stained glass window reflecting unity in Christ. My hope was to prove to the online blogging world that differences of opinions over various topics and issues don’t have to end in disunity. I wanted to believe that overcoming differences by retaining the reflective love of Christ was possible. I bit the bullet and spent quite a bit of money paying for all the start up costs to get this project off the ground, in spite of relocating to a city we had not planned to move to and moving into a house we just bought that needed way too much renovation.
Initially, I believe we were successful in creating such a website and for several months I felt that things were going well. Our male co-editor was almost exclusively writing on the topic of social justice and my female co-editor and I started a podcast. I wanted to dive into the conversation of social justice via our podcast but my female co-host seemed to want to steer clear of it. At first I didn’t understand why, but respected her wishes so we stayed on lighter topics of discussion to establish an initial podcast presence.
However, once the topic of social justice completely blew up the Christian internet and seemed to be on everyone’s lips, Tweets, and posts, division finally did creep into Kaleoscope.
Erroneously, I allowed the female co-editor to convince me that the male co-editor was too divisive, even though I often leaned more toward what the male co-editor wrote regarding social justice issues. There was one particular painful conversation with the female co-editor that broke the camel’s back. Due to the tone and direction of the conversation, I felt as though a line in the sand was being drawn and an ultimatum was on the tip of her tongue. I felt that she was going to tell me that if the male co-editor stayed with the website, she was going to withdraw from Kaleoscope. I remember feeling really heartbroken, fearful, and saddened, all at the same time, but I didn’t express any of that to her. Since I had more ministry ties with the female co-editor due to the podcast, and because I didn’t want her to leave, I jumped the gun and volunteered to let the male co-editor go by agreeing with her analysis of his persona, even if I didn’t 100% personally co-sign with her perspective. I was just trying to appease her discomfort.
I have reflected on this conversation over and over again in my head. I realize now that I should not have given in so easily, especially since the initial purpose of the website, which was supposed to be unity despite differences, was being challenged. I should have handled this better, but I didn’t. I should have let her give me that ultimatum, if indeed that is where it was going. Instead of jumping the gun and offering a solution she seemed to be hinting at, I lost an opportunity to discuss, revisit and offer a loving challenge in reminding her of the initial purpose of our website. In that moment, I failed to trust that Christ was enough to keep us together for a shared God glorifying purpose.
However, since I’m being honest, I also have to admit that I was also fearful of losing her as a friend and confidant. Up to this point in my saved life, I had never had a close Christian female friendship with a woman who was not white. Most of my interactions with Christian women were often with younger white fellow home-school moms OR younger white women who I ministered to. I was starved for a friendship who was my peer and quite honest, I wanted a non-white Christian female friend. Since Kaleoscope’s female co-editor was my very first non-white Christian friend who was closer in age and finally felt like a real peer, the idea of potentially losing her presence on the website caused me to have loads of fear and sadness.
After agreeing to formally remove the male co-editor from the website in order to keep the female co-editor happy, I felt horrible. I started to feel anxiety rise up in my soul. Every time I had a conversation or a podcast recording with the female co-editor, anxiety continued to develop in the pit of my stomach and at the time, didn’t understand why.
I could not handle the stress of what took place. I recounted all that had occurred to my husband and he advised me to have a phone conversation with the now former male co-editor. That gave me the courage to call him to explain what happened (thank God for wise husbands). I was so thankful for the male co-editor’s grace towards me and the situation I found myself in. I expressed to him that I will continue to share his articles on the website, even if he was no longer formally listed as a co-editor. This helped alleviate some of the anxiety I felt for the wrong way I handled this first major hiccup.
I soon began to get push back from the female co-editor about MY OWN writing and public comments online. I was informed that what I wrote was coming across divisive and possibly uncharitable. I also discovered that the female co-editor was getting feedback from others who disliked what was being shared on Kaleoscope and instead of defending the purpose of our website to others, she seemed to side with them. There was one specific female theologian, who the female co-editor described as someone she greatly respected and trusted, that appeared to caution her the most.
This other person specifically took offense at a Twitter dialogue I had with a prominent pastor. The dialogue was brought to the female co-editor’s attention, which seemed to give her the ammunition to tell me that I should be more careful with my words online. I don’t think she meant to police my online presence, but that is how it felt. It all became grossly confusing, I felt that gossip was occurring between her and that other female theologian over my comments and felt painfully hurt by it all.
I abruptly stopped writing due to feeling misunderstood and eventually took her name off the website as well. As a matter of fact, I took all the contributors off the website because it was ridiculous to pretend there was unity, when the initial bloggers who came together for this project were unable to stay unified.
It was clear that I stunk as a manager of this website.
All of this took place near the end of 2018 and I needed the entire year of 2019 to figure out how to proceed with Kaleoscope. Feeling extremely insecure about my own writing due all of the above, I completely neglected this website. I realized what caused the most pain in regards to this whole ordeal is that I was grossly naive in thinking that minority Christians would have more grace, patience and forbearance with each other and would tolerate each other more, especially since we are often the minority in majority white Christian church settings.
Even though I am quick to push back and wholeheartedly disagree on the social justice narrative that white Christians are the main ones to cause emotional harm to people of color in the church, I realized that my actual orthopraxy believed that narrative. I honestly did not expect to be hurt by fellow Christians of color and assumed the best, simply because there was a shared higher melanin proportion. I was wrong.
Shame. On. me.
The pain I felt over what went down with this website was very real, especially because it blindsided me.
I was grossly reminded that sin is sin, regardless if the sin comes from the words and actions of white Christians, brown Christians, black Christians, or anyone in between. I knew it theoretically but my practice believed Christians of color would never hurt each other, and that is why my heart felt mutilated.
This website is a reminder of the painful reality of what it looks like to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. It is vital for our sanctification to personally and individually look to Christ for healing from pain caused by other Christians. It’s also important for our sanctification to look to Christ when we unintentionally hurt other Christians.
Lesson learned: ALL Christian’s have the potential to sin against one another, regardless of skin color or ethnic affiliation. I knew I believed this on paper….but now I really believe this in practice. It means I have the potential to hurt another brother or sister in Christ, even if I believe my motives are honorable.
Remember….object of my faith….not quality of my faith.
I am now left with the question of what to do with this project that never fulfilled its mission or purpose.
With my confidence level on public writing pretty much shot, I don’t know if want to keep Kaleoscope “open”, with myself as the only contributor. I know that I still have to finish part 4 of my liberation theology series. I also have a couple of articles in draft form, one exploring the hijacking of the term Imago Dei and another on the topic of the word embodied. I have no time frame for when those will get published.
I would really appreciate prayers for direction. There are only so many hours in a day and my thinking brain capacity is easily exhausted and maxed out due to homeschooling my last teenager, my duties as a clinical counselor and recently going back to school to pursue a doctorate of education in community care and counseling that focuses on trauma since my immediate high refugee and high drug use community has a myriad of trauma needs (sorry for this run on sentence).
I know there is a fine balance and plenty of tension in knowing how much is too much when it comes to being transparent online. I pray this blog post does not come across as petty or nitpicky. However, the pain, confusion, and sorrow I felt over this website was real and has taken a bit of time to recover. The female co-editor did eventually apologize, via email. I have to admit that it took some time for me to get to the point in accepting her apology and respond back to her. I do wish we could have had a real conversation over this stuff, like an actual phone conversation, but I will think positive and be grateful that an apology came regardless of form.
Object….I tell myself…..not quality.