Why I’m Not Inviting my Friends to Church
It has nothing to do with the fear that I’ll offend them.
Challenging congregants to invite people they know to church is one of many tactics that churches employ to get people to convert to Christianity. They may use the threat of hell, the reward of heaven, or the knowledge of having tried to save someone as motivation. However, even when most churches are well-intentioned, I still cannot invite my friends to church with a clean conscience.
Churches are like second homes to those who attend them, but not all homes are places of love, understanding, and comfort. Many churches have harmed their congregants, especially if they are LGBTQ, invisibly disabled, or struggle with mental health. Falling into all of those categories myself, I internalized the idea that love was not for me. It was something that I could give, but not receive. I felt as though I had to earn God’s love by rejecting any possibility of finding romantic love or by thinking of myself as a mere pawn in God’s convoluted game.
For someone who has faced trauma at the hands of the church, receiving an invitation to a church service can be a slap to the face. That invitation is seen as an attempt to invalidate the trauma on the grounds of where it took place. Good intentions don’t erase harm perpetrated by the church. Instead, they are a reminder that the traditional church structure allows a great deal of harm to take place without anyone doing something about it.
Even without adding church-related trauma into the equation, I would still have serious reservations about inviting someone to church. Organized Christianity had always been a source of cognitive dissonance for me, even from a young age. There is pressure to conform in the world, but churches impose even greater pressure to conform. Treat others the way you want to be treated unless doing so would violate your right to religious freedom. Hate evil unless it’s perpetuated by the church itself. How would I justify such contradictions to someone who was new to the church or to the Christian faith? I couldn’t, not without abandoning God’s command to love others without reservation.
Seeing as the church has been a place of confusion and pain for me, I don’t want to thrust that onto anyone else. I do understand that many people find comfort in the church, many of whom are simply unaware of the way the traditional social hierarchy within a church almost seems designed to enable abuse. It gives those in power many opportunities to abuse it by turning other congregants against each other and gives the targeted, especially those in vulnerable populations, little (if any) chance of recourse. I cannot, in good conscience, try to save someone from a distant, inaccessible version of hell when I have walked through the flames that the church has lit.