An open letter to the SDA Church from a 19 year old.
Tomorrow is my 19th birthday. I have lived 19 years in a society formed around using God's word to keep others down. I have had to make my way through years of being surrounded by people muttering homophobic and misogynistic comments and from an early age I was trained to second guess every decision I made, to censor my true feelings and opinions that happened to be contrary to the community beliefs, to hide who I truly was in order to conform, and to hate the part of me that was so unforgivable and disgusting to my elders and peers. I was taught that I could be anything I wanted, except for a pastor, because Paul said so. It was only when I reached 16 that a mentor and teacher of mine became the first female elder of my church. That I had to wait that long to see a woman in leadership in my church was not empowering.
I remember being on the playground at my church school and hearing classmates call each things they didn't like, such as "gay". I associated being attracted to the same sex as something dirty and unforgivable, something that meant I was broken and had to be fixed. Like many young people, I battle internal homophobia every single day. That battle lead to many sleepless nights and self hatred. I believed that I was a filthy person who couldn't be loved by God because of who I was. This marked the darkest period of my life. I have spoken to many young people like me and they tell a similar story. I have even been in communication with a young person who is in the middle of the same darkness I was at that person's age. That person is trapped in a society that does not allow them to be who they are, for fear of abuse by people who think they are being loving.
Dear Church, you wonder why so many young people are leaving you. Perhaps this is why. Perhaps these young people have had enough of the homophobia, misogynism, and bigotry being spouted at them under the guise of being God's loving words. Young people are fed up. In the words of a dear friend of mine, " "I want to prove Adventists wrong but also don't think they deserve my energy or thoughts." This is what it has come to.
Please, dear Church, move forward. Step into the light and realize that God is all about love, love for everyone. Love in the form of acceptance and celebration. Love in the form of of a safe haven and a warm hug. Love in the form that God meant it to be in the first place.
I am now 19 years old. I pray that not another child will have to live to 19 and have to go through all that I have gone through, and that the Church will have become the truly loving place it should be.
Kari Ann Stickle
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