Struggling In and Out of Church

The folks over at The Parish have an excellent set of posts about what it means to struggle to stay in a church when you don’t believe in “church” anymore. (His post about who God is, is also right on, too). Like the writer of this blog, I’ve over-analyzed my motives, tried to give others the benefit of the doubt, tried to be more humble and accepting of our differences, but have always gotten kicked in the face in the process. What is it about church that makes people more vicious, more prideful, and more (insert whatever here) than those outside the church? Yet, why also is it that you can find more love, more fun, more acceptance, more of a place to belong, than anywhere outside the church as well? In a particularly telling passage, the writer speaks of why he finds church compelling despite being “normal” in every other sense of the word and why he dislikes his denomination, the Nazarenes, but you can easily insert your denomination’s name instead:

The Landscape

I’ve recently had very negative run-ins with Nazarenes. You all know this. (And some Nazarenes are still my friends, but more in the “Why I’m Staying” post next time.) Some of those folks think I’m a bit off the mark. They think I don’t understand Christianity. They think I don’t understand holiness. Some of them are afraid that I’ll poison the minds of young people. Some of them don’t like my lifestyle. No. I’m not gay. I’m not a woman, so I’ve never had an abortion. I actually believe in the deity of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the necessity of living a different kind of life. I’m not even a universalist. I do drink. I do smoke the hookah, which, by the way, contains tobacco when I smoke it. (Although I hear it’s good for opium. I didn’t know people still smoke opium. Awesome.) These folks are trying to convert people to Nazarene-dom. Next month is district assembly for our district. Pastors will get together and report to some District Superintendent (Naz Cardinal) and perhaps a General Superintendent (Naz Pope) how many “new Nazarenes” they have in their churches. Many of them will lie. They will count the Nazarenes that came from other Nazarene churches as new, and they will not bother to ask, “Why aren’t we counting something else, like people fed, housed, loved, ministered to in prison?” Nope. So, in honor of the soon to be liars and the executive muckety-muck that will hear those lies, here’s a visiting blogger who is far younger than me and far more experienced with Nazarenes. I hope she can help some Nazarenes understand that they don’t really understand the culture they’re trying to reach. It’s not cracker-ass America circa 1955 anymore, or 1975 for that matter. Without further bitching…

Well, Here it is…

I Go to church…yet I party…

I say a prayer…yet i scream obscenities…

I sing to hymns…and shake my ass to hip-hop

I reach out to people who need it…I reach out for a towel when i’m piss ass drunk puking my guts up…

I’ve read the bible… i’ve read Cosmo…

…After looking at that list… i look like some bipolar, hypocritical jackass….

But its all true, and I don’t go to church to be fake, or meet people, I go because it’s a place where other people or ‘only humans’ can go, to be a part of a group of not-so-moral minds, with one common goal…to have a better understanding and grow as a community under the name Jesus Christ. I’ve been to ALOT of churches, alot of youth groups, with many different youth pastors…most of the time, finding the same thing time and time again…(in the moviephone voice)’If you give your heart and soul to Jesus Christ, and accept him as your Lord and Savior, you win……….(drum roll please)……ETERNAL LIFE!…. and then there’s the small print…”you must agree to living your life 110% devoted to Jesus Christ, be nice to everyone, never hate your life, always volunteer, be charitable, never curse, give to the needy, love life…love yourself, love jesus…”

It’s not so much that Christianity isn’t about all those things, but throwing it all out there at once… is like interviewing for a job in india… You’ve got a lot expected of you but you aren’t gettin’ shit in return…

What he describes is what every Christian should admit; that we are human in exactly the same ways other people are, but we seek more humanity within the confines of our relationship with Jesus Christ in and with other believers. Is it our fault that none of us can live up to what’s expected of us? Shouldn’t we get some kind of credit for trying?

The sad thing is that the church is sooooo good at kicking its wounded members, yet soooooo lousy at helping them heal. Most people just don’t want to be bothered, and that’s why some of us don’t go to church anymore. But you know what? There are more people that DO want to be bothered inside the church than outside it and that’s why people like me keep going back to be kicked again and again. We hope to meet and fellowship with those lone souls that DO make a difference.

Nope, I haven’t returned to my church. I’ve gotten my letter of resignation back from the pastor. It wasn’t read at the annual meeting (see previous post about leaving church), and everything is still on hiatus. I have no desire to go back there. Occasionally, I’ll feel a nibble on my conscience, but not enough to compel me out the door on Sunday morning. I’ve struggled with Catholic scrupulosity because of man-made dogmas and rules (no I don’t have to confess that I missed church or how many times I doubted God!). I’ve struggled with missing the friends that I’ve left behind in the Baptist church. They’ve sent cards and letters since I’ve been ill and since my father-in-law’s passing. I miss the hugs of encouragement and the laughter in Sunday school class. But I know that going back starts the same cycle all over again and I don’t want that.

Selfishly, it’s good to read that others go through the same thing and are willing to admit it on their blogs. I do miss them. Is it better to be kicked in the head inside of church than kicked in the head in the world?


4 thoughts on “Struggling In and Out of Church

  1. have you ever thought that those friends that have contacted you in these these recent times are your real church? not the place you left? my husband hears it from me all the time that the larger group of people that we gather with on sunday morning is not my church. the group of people in our class afterward is my church. they are the ones that know me, love me and help in the times like you have listed above.

  2. Yes, I’ve thought of that. I need to keep reminding myself that the church is bigger than a building, yet as small as our Sunday school class. Thanks for the comments. 🙂

  3. Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the

    “natural” order of things a METANOIA – the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
    So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is “I” it can do nothing to save itself; it’s sacrifices are of no avail, and it’s Law gives no life.
    After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis – I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!

    Peace Be With You

  4. Thanks Micky,

    I think my metanoia will be salvific for me because it means turning my back on the church and facing the future free from such abuse and narrow strictures.

    I’m glad your therapy worked for you.

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