When I was discerning a call to ministry 10 years ago now, I asked a hippie-Jesus-freak-convert-CatholicWorker-poet pal of mine how I could possibly work for a church with all that baggage in its trunk that Rachelle described here so eloquently.
"Look," he said, infinitely patient, "the official story is never the whole story. Somehow, the Spirit kept working in good, small ways in good, small people even while the powerful were abusing their power, just like they would in any system."
Which is not a way of getting out of the apologizing that needs doing, but a way of acknowledging that there's more to The Story than abuse, and also a reminder that there are those whose hunger for power will lead them to corrupt any system they find themselves in, not matter how good it may be at its core.
I know about the guilt of this this abuse in a real, personal way btw. My great grandfather was actually named Alleluia Iraneous, but he was called A.I.. He was a missionary in India who somehow one day talked his way into Gandhi's house (yes, that Gandhi) while that beloved leader was fasting and not receiving visitors and tried to CONVERT HIM TO CHRISTIANITY. "As Christ is to your people, I am to my people," Old MG said. Which A.I. heard as some kind of Savior complex, but which I'm pretty sure Gandhi (just months from his death at the time) understood in a suffering servant kind of way. AI considered it a failure for the rest of his life that when Gandhi was assasinated, his last words were a prayerful cry: "Hey Ram" instead of "Jesus." This is a true story. So when I stand in my metaphorical spiritual ancestor's shoes, (as Rachelle says) I'm standing in literal ones, too.
And I deal with it in both helpful and not-helpful ways. Making fun of an earnest and energetic but misguided person, dead now 50 years, on my blog? Probably not the healthiest way. But I do think that reaching out in healing love, like Rachelle did to Soeren, is healing, in a small way, those scars.
That one person at a time method seems like never, never, never enough, but personally, I'm trying to get over that piece-of-shit-at-the-center-of-the-universe view of myself that because I PERSONALLY havent saved the whole world, it's not going to get saved. Or, put another way, if I personally havent atoned for these sins, they're not going to be atoned for. Which, taken to the extreme, can be zealous in the same way my great-grandfather was.
All this doesnt get at the major apologies and reparations that need to happen, and the grief and guilt that all of us as Christians bear. I rejoiced, for example, when The United Church of Christ apologized for its role in overthrowing the Hawaiin monarchy and then put their money where their mouth is. I just think that in my own corner of the world, and with my own Savior complex to deal with, it's better for me to concentrate more on one by one by one person at a time,