The Issue of Church

30 06 2009

I talked to my mom today, just catching up.  We chatted about how in less than a month, I’ll be married for 10 YEARS.  We talked about the husbands and kids and how they were doing and all our recent doctors appts.  We made plans for LJ to spend the night on Sunday.  We talked about E and how he hates to have his hair washed, fixing toilets, and general household stuff.  You know, normal mom & daughter things like we’ve been doing for all the years we haven’t lived in the same house.

Which has been since I married Shaun at 18 because my mother and I can be best friends as long as we don’t live in the same house.  We’re both alpha females and neither of us backs down, so it was prudent for my wish to continue breathing to move out.

Then she did something that hardly ever happens.  She asked if I would mind bringing the kids to their (my mom and my grandma’s) church on Wednesdays for Children’s Church.  Apparently, grandmommy and great-grandmommy are very eager to show off their new additions.  This is fine – it’s absolutely wonderful!  This is what I wanted for the kids – family who was excited and proud to be related to them.

But…  I’ve been avoiding the whole church thing for like 3 years now.  It’s got its own “thing” compartment in my brain for “topics I actively pretend don’t exist.”  It’s not so much the theology, or the ideas, or any of that “stuff” that gets to me.  It’s the leadership (visible and otherwise) whose job it is to “put on church” for the members.

What happens when I think about this is that all my thoughts collide like a train-wreck and my rational decision making skills just give up and let the straight-up emotional part of me go “nope, not thinking about that.  Everyone stop – it’s time to think about… chocolate.  Yes, chocolate.  Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.”

That’s about how long it takes for me to find something else to think about and the active willful repression continues.  Like just now, I changed the birds’ water, pet a couple of cats, checked on the kids, then went pee.  Only this blog post is keeping me on topic.

Let’s see if we can untangle this train with a list.  That’s nice and rational, right?  Here it goes:

The Top 10 Issues I Have With The Idea of Church

1.  I am firmly pro-choice

This isn’t really so bad as I believe I can respect their ideas while still holding my own beliefs.   Hey, other people have to believe other things otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to debate with and that wouldn’t be any fun.  The problem comes in when I am (or the beliefs I have are) cordoned off into an “toxic waste section” because they aren’t going to try and CHANGE my mind, they’ll just IGNORE my mind while disassociating themselves from the heresy.

This comes from being about 14 years old and I went to Sunday School with a friend in a church that was a different domination from the one I had been raised with.  Which denominations they were are largely irrelevant.  I learned something very important that day:  Sunday School teachers of small groups have no fear in saying things that even the pastor would not say under his breath in an empty bathroom.

(This line of thought collides into the line of thought where “spiritual authorities” in the church are a bad idea.  Back on topic, though.)

I can tell you right now, that if a SS teacher said to one of my children that “women who have abortions and doctors who perform them are going to burn in hell” in the same lesson as “once saved by Jesus, you are always saved and forgiven” (neither of which I believe is an accurate statement based on the Bible) I would immediately sprout another head and a few more arms…  I don’t have it planned past that, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be pleasant.

I was told that stuff above (seriously, that’s about word for word what was burned into my memory) as a 14 year old because I questioned the teacher on where exactly it said that bullshit in the Bible.  The only thing worse than SS teachers is 14 year old girls that have been indoctrinated by this SS teacher for the past 10 years while being sheltered from the real world by over-indulgent middle class suburban parents.  I understood persecution that day.

It still didn’t change my mind, because even with all the nonsense they flung at me, no one could come up with a reasoned, scriptural answer or anything resembling compassion for women who are in the situation where they have to make a choice.

Also, really, how many of those girls in there went on to adopt the children that were born and then went on to be ignored/abused/neglected.  How many of them are foster parents?  How many of them work with the poor and homeless children whose parents are substance abusers?  How many of them work with the children who have a home, but come to the shelter because it beats going home to a relative’s boyfriend who is likely to abuse them?

Come on, now.  If you’re going to preach a philosophy that says children are sacred and should be protected then actually HAVE A FUCKING PLAN OF WHAT TO DO WITH THIS EXTRA POPULATION AFTER THEY’RE FUCKING BORN!  Because, boy, living in the United States with all these churches and all these kids who have never been helped by a the church who is working so hard on foreign missions work that they forgot all about those kids they insisted not be murdered.  Can’t we just focus on the children that are already here and already in pain?

(I suspect it may take vodka and/or a cigarette to make it through this post without smashing my keyboard.)

2.  I am unable to be a professional pew-warmer

I’ve tried – I really have tried – to just not have feedback for the speaker.  I’ve also tried to have feedback but just keep it to myself.  I really would like to be one of those people who goes to church to enjoy the ambiance and the hugs where your torso doesn’t touch theirs and to shake the pastor’s hand and have a fake conversation with his wife, then the family goes to El Sombrero and talks about local sports teams.

I was almost there once.  Almost!  I had friends that we sat with.  We went to lunch.  We had little faux dinner parties.  Then two things happened:  they had babies, and I didn’t AND I didn’t keep my mouth shut about what I thought about “keep on praying and it will happen.”

After that, I just backed off the whole relationship with people and churches thing and hid in my house and stopped answering the phone.  When I’m really honest with myself, I also realize that one of the friends’ husbands had a problem with my past and that made me very uncomfortable and upset. That leads to #3.

3.  When I get uncomfortable or too close to the “inner circle,” I freak out and back off

This always comes with finding faults, making excuses, and forgetting to charge my phone.  It also comes with not believing other people can help me get through grief or a hard spot or that anyone would even want to.  This is what I refer to as my “spiritual reactive attachment disorder.”

4.  I don’t blend in and I really have no wish to

a.k.a.  “people with tattoos can’t go to heaven” and “Leviticus says tattoos and gays are bad, and I forgot the rest.”

Which leads directly into number 5.

5.  I’m very well educated on the philosophy and belief system I subscribe to

Seriously, if you’ve read the Gospels and the letters of Paul, you’re ahead of probably 50% of the “Christians” sitting in the pews.  My mom is a bible scholar and living in her house, you could not turn around without seeing the scripture taped to the bathroom mirror, the pantry door, the place where you set the car keys near the front door.  She also asks for birthday gifts like “I’d like for you to read the Old Testament for me and write a “sermon” based on something you learned.”  You live with my momma, you learn the Bible.

With my natural curiousity, I’ve read the Bible in at least 7 different translations (The Word on The Street being my favorite) and own approximately 500 books on world faiths and spirituality.  Yes, I’ve read them.  If you do this, you start to see a lot of commonality and realize how people can talk about “one world, one faith.”  Also, combining that thought with the idea that memories and instincts are passed down through mitochondrial DNA, you can see how the world religions share a common mythology.

Anyways, most pastors I’ve met either don’t believe that I’m capable of that amount of thought or are somehow threatened by a young woman having comparable knowledge to what it took them years in seminary to learn.  (Granted, they know more about church history and apologetics than I do.  I haven’t explored that side of theology as much.)

I’ll have to put the next 5 into a part 2.  The kids are hungry and so am I.  I also need to regain my internal center of balance before writing more.




2 responses

30 06 2009
the observer

Wow, this post is awesome. You speak for SO, so many people in this piece. I don’t currently share your “spiritual reactive attachment disorder,” lol, but I’ve had it in the past for sure. What I love about the subject matter you brought up is that every issue mentioned with the church is completely legitimate! You’re not exaggerating or over-simplifying at all. The church and most of its people are exactly as you described. I’m curious to know if you think those people are Christians or not? Regardless of that, such behavior is still lacking honesty and truth, in my opinion. I would love to chat extensively with you about this. Check out my blog sometime, I’m a Christian but many people I know would consider me a little … out there/deceived. Also, there’s a great pastor, Matt Chandler (of The Village Church), who you would probably resonate with. He’s hilarious and calls the church out on all its traditions and its people talking in ego.

Anyway, sorry this is a novella, but I appreciate you initiating such a discussion!

30 06 2009

Thanks for commenting and feeling me on the spiritual RAD. LOL I’ll check out your site and the dude you mentioned – it seems interesting.

As far as your question about do I consider the folks in the pews “Christians” I really don’t know. I don’t know their story or how they define themselves. If they define themselves as Christian, I don’t know what flavor they are unless they want to spend some time laying it out. Now, what God thinks about them is between them and the big man.

Because, to get really honest about it, I don’t really care what the average church-goer believes deep down in his or her heart. It’s not really my business, either, but mostly I don’t have enough energy to care. All of my spiritual energy right now is answering the 4 year olds’ questions about God being omnipresent and omniscient. It goes like this: “God is in the tree. Yes, God is in the leaf too. Yes, God is in the dirt. No, I don’t know if God needs baths after being in the dirt…”

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