The Church is Sick — It’s Time to Heal

In this article for Medium, Duke TMC alumna Danielle Ellis writes about the cancer of racism that is destroying the church.

“I am a surgeon in-training. In surgical training, we learn how to take care of patients with surgical diseases from trauma to appendicitis to cancer. Cancer is a particularly complex disease, and one of its most complex features is that, for the most part, it is invisible. There is no blood, and there may not even be pain, but if left untreated, it is deadly.

For some patients and families, though, the heavy reality of cancer is just too overwhelming to accept, and its invisibility makes it too easy to reject. Often, the treatments we have for cancer are so taxing on the body and soul that it takes many to walk alongside the patient in order that she might be healed. Which is part of what makes it so heartbreaking when the families and friends of a patient deny her illness or its severity. Looking past cancer and seeing the person in front of them for who they “really” are, refusing to say the word “cancer,” wanting to go back to “normal,” hoping that their loved one will be the one to beat the odds — all strategies to deny the reality of sickness and suffering. And in their denial, they leave the sick to care for themselves. To this, you want to say, your husband needs you. You want to yell out, your sister feels alone. You want to ask, how can you earnestly hope and pray for your brother to heal if you let the invisibility of his illness keep you from acknowledging that he’s sick?

Friends, there is an invisible sickness in the church. You may not see it, and you may not hear the cries of pain, but rest assured that the cancer of racism is devouring all of life. And no, this is not the kind of cancer that comes from decades of smoking. It is the kind that comes from being exposed to a substance you try to get away from but cannot escape. No mask can filter it out; it is in the very air we breathe and it is suffocating us. White Christians: black and brown Christians are sick, tired, exhausted, and dying. And if we are sick, then the church is sick, because “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). White church: as one of your black, Latina sisters in Christ, hear this — you, our church family, are denying our sickness and its severity. And it is heartbreaking….” Read the entire article.