Been pretty busy lately, hiking and all, but I did finally decide to visit a church. I figured it was time for me to visit an affirming church because at least at an affirming church I would not be subject to cheap shots from the pulpit aimed at drumming up support by slamming the LGBTQ people who certainly wouldn’t be willingly sitting at that church. I figured that most churches that are affirming don’t actually preach sermons about gay people, so even though I haven’t exactly figured out what my beliefs are, I would be pretty comfortable there. The list of affirming churches in my community is not very long, so I compiled the list and began to debate which one I should visit first. Many of the churches on the list were very different from churches I had attended in the past. Most were Episcopal. I knew Episcopal churches would feature liturgy and some different ways of doing things so I did some googling to see what I would be in for. Yes yes, I do my homework before darkening the door of any unknown church. After much debate, I picked one. Thinking it probably wouldn’t be the place I would end up, but they are hosting an event that looks interesting (read progressive) and so I felt it would be a safe place to figure out how to navigate an Episcopal service before I visit a place I might actually want to join. What I found there shocked me.
Thinking about church this Sunday. Definitely not sitting in the walls of a church, but thinking about them from a distance. A local pastor gave a tirade, I mean sermon, against the evils of homosexuality recently. That’s painful. More painful, watching as local commenters on Facebook defend him. One commenter could not even understand an article criticizing him – the writer would post quotes as examples of his cruelty and the commenter was like, “I don’t get it. He said that. It’s true, what’s the big deal?”
What’s the big deal? The big deal is that traditional evangelicalism says a core piece of my identity is broken. They would quickly say, well, we are all broken people in need of Jesus. But the difference is that they would say that the nature of my brokenness makes me ineligible (I hear unworthy) for love. According to traditional Christian sexual ethics, my brokenness disqualifies me from being a parent, having a family, having a spouse. And just to be safe, I better make sure I maintain a low level of intimacy in all my relationships. So what I hear there is that until/unless I get this “evil” worked out, I am worthless. In the very religion that advertises a place to belong, grace and forgiveness, unconditional love; I hear the message that none of that applies to me. I’m too broken for that, unless Jesus “fixes” me.
I have done an awesome job of following those guidelines. So much that I don’t even know how to have people in my life. I don’t know how to have close friends. I don’t know how to have romantic relationships. And according to tradition that means I have successfully resisted my brokenness. Yay! Good for me! And yet I hear from the pulpit that I’m supposed to be in groups where we can have intimate friendships. But that’s not for me. I’m not wanted in those groups.
I just can’t do a theology that on one hand encourages communities and relationships for everyone else and isolation for me. That’s why I’m not in church on this Sunday morning. Because it’s for everyone else. Not for me.
Cloghane: St Brendan’s Church © Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons
I find myself embarking on a Church hunt yet again. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on this in the future, but for now I just want to express why it is that I felt a need to leave the place I was attending in the first place.
I was raised to believe that Church membership is a commitment not to be trifled with. That could be why I’ve never joined a church. Growing up, my parents were members of a church that practiced believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism), and would baptize teenagers, but reserved membership for those over 18. So I was baptized, but went away to college before I joined that church. That fellowship of churches is rather limited to certain geographic areas, so I find myself now living in a region that doesn’t really have any of those churches. Other denominations I was around growing up practiced believers baptism linked to church membership. Some of these churches had standards of dress and other guidelines for their members – head coverings and plain dresses for the women, restrictions on the colors of cars, no TV, and various other guidelines. It was obviously a big deal when my friends decided to be baptized and join their church when it meant they would be submitting to these guidelines. Continue reading