Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years New Idea

I have a new idea for myself in 2012.  I am not going to church anymore.

I might change my mind, if God should open some door I don't know about, so I hesitate to call it a resolution. It's more of an idea.  A marvelous, life-affirming idea I should have had a long time ago.

The institution of the church has failed me far more often than it has ever supported me.  No, I have been the one supporting it: with my time, talents, affection and money.  I have taught Sunday school, youth groups, Bible studies and openly participated in almost every opportunity for feedback that there is.  I have attended prayer meetings, been painfully transparent in times of public confession, and sang in worship with unbridled enthusiasm.  My intelligence, compassion, sincerity of faith, commitment to the gospel and unwavering good will have been evident to all.

What I have received in return for my investment is: jealousy, resentment, isolation, and open disrespect.  The last straw was my most recent church "home", who had people in leadership engaging in conversations (without me present) about my facebook posts.  These conversations led to my page being watched by the pastor.  On October 31st, he took issue with one of my posts because he felt it was a) inaccurate and b) could be construed to cast a negative light on the church.

The post I wrote was to explain the principle of the fallacy of guilt by association.  I wrote of how one person who attended our church was found guilty of a crime, which is true, but that did not make us a congregation of criminals.  The part that was inaccurate:  this person (a perfectly decent human being, by the way) had done volunteer work for the church while living in one of our buildings for a season as he was homeless otherwise. I put this in my facebook post as "hired and harbored" as I do love alliteration.

The pastor took offense at the word hired, and was extremely offended that I would post that a member of our congregation had been convicted of a crime. Now this person had just stood up in front of the church and told his whole story a few weeks earlier, so its not a big secret on his part.  Also, this person is now involved in a ministry to the homeless himself, where he regularly shares his story of heartache and restoration as a means to inspire others to follow Jesus and work for a better future with hopeful hearts.

Pastor said he was offended for that person's sake, as if I were openly gossiping about someone who had requested anonymity.  Well, that was not accurate, but I had no problem deleting the post.  My brother was offended, and I am smart enough to find a dozen other illustrations to make a point.  Also, he took issue with the word "hired" as we never actually paid the person for their services.  All the work they did was on a volunteer basis.  So that was also inaccurate on my part, and again I had no problem deleting the post in its entirety.

The problem is this:  the pastor called me and began berating me without allowing me to speak in return.  He asked no questions of me, and he refused all my attempts to speak.  He just kept talking over me.  I was driving down the road, in the dark and the rain, with my family in the car, when I took his call.  My husband and son are witnesses to everything, as all calls to my cell phone while I am in the car automatically come over bluetooth.

I tried to tell him he was on speakerphone, but he refused to allow me to speak.  I tried to reassure him that I would happily discuss this with him when I was safely pulled over, but he refused to allow me to speak.  I tried to tell him that at present I could do nothing about the post, but that  I would delete it at my first opportunity.  He did not allow me to speak.  This went on for probably 3-5 minutes, with me trying to speak when he would stop to catch his breath, only to have him talk right over me anyway.  He kept saying, "You need to listen to me!" every time I would attempt to speak.

My customer service training kicked in, and I was actually very calm.  My husband on the other hand, was pretty offended.  "He has no right to tell you what to put on your facebook!  You have freedom of speech!  this is America!" or something  very similar came out of his mouth.  I would later be called a liar by my pastor (his last words to me in fact) because I denied that these words were mine.

This "man of God" just called me to rant, chew me out, rake me over the coals, use whatever phrase you want. There was absolutely no respect towards me as a human being at all.  I can not imagine being spoken to like this by any professional person, much less a person who makes a living representing the Lord Jesus Christ.

The ranting continued, until I had to hang up on him.  I repeated (unfortunately had to talk over him as he would not allow me to speak) that I needed to go because it was not safe to continue the call, but I would call him back and speak to him as soon as I safely could. Then I hung up.  A very few seconds later, my husbands cell phone rang.  The same thing happened: pastor ranting, husband not allowed to speak, eventually my husband was compelled to hang up because it was not a conversation but a rant.

It was all so completely unnecessary.  He could have kindly asked me to delete the post, and I would have done so with no hesitation.  I did delete the post, not because it was poorly written or wrong in any way other than the word "hired".  I deleted it because I live a life of honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.  "As far as lieth in you, live in peace with all men...If your brother is offended, do whatever it takes to make sure your brother."  I live a life of obedience as far as I can. In fact, I apparently take the words of Christ far more seriously than my pastor.

I did call him back, after I was pulled over.  He had calmed down some and I was able to speak a bit.  However in no time he began to agitate himself again, and started to rebuke for my saying, "I have freedom of speech, and I can write what I want."  Now,*I* never said that.  I live by the law of liberty in Christ Jesus, and I know that I can not write whatever I want if it causes harm or offense to a brother.  I never said those words, and so I told him, "I never said that.  All I said was that I couldn't talk right then and...."

That's as far as I got before my pastor spoke over me again, in an exasperated and loud voice, saying, "Oh YOU are SUCH a LIAR!"

I had enough.  I replied, "Now you have crossed a line." and I hung up.

Do you think this man of God, who stands in front of a congregation every week representing the Lord Jesus Christ has  called to apologize?  No, he has not.  This man, who gets paid 75k a year to encourage the saints, willfully disrespects me and feels no shame.  He sees no reason to obey the word of God himself, and I can think of many scriptures that apply here:

Galatians 6:1 1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

James 1:19 19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

I Timothy 5:1-2a 1Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;  2The elder women as mothers;

Proverbs 18:13 13He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Matthew 5: 23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;   24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

I Corinthians 13: 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Proverbs 10: 17He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth. 18He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. 19In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

I wish this was an isolated incident, but my experience abounds with arrogant pastors who fleece the flock for a living without caring for the hearts they pastor.  Why should I attend church, when I will not be respected as a mother in the faith or even as a fellow disciple?  I should not have to prove myself again to anyone, and why would I bother when I know that it is a losing proposition anyway?  I am a woman.  I will not be respected.   I will be milked for my tithe and for any  other work that can be had from me, but my spiritual insight, scriptural knowledge and devotion to God will be dismissed out of hand.  I will not be treated with respect.

And so I am done with the church.  Since I was nineteen years old I have built my life around the institution of the church.  This is an entirely new idea for me: how to live as a disciple without the institution.  It is a great idea, and I am not alone in coming to this conclusion.  The institution of Christianity is not making the world a better place and it is not leading people to a love relationship with Jesus.  It is a hindrance and a stumbling block.  The sooner it dies, the better off the real body of Christ will be.

May Jesus Christ live big in you and I today.


  1. Don't know why some of the quotes are in white and others are not. I can't fix that. All references are in KJV just because that was the default. I don't prefer the version authorized by the reprobate King James over any other. :)

  2. Funny how things work out. You resolving to leave church, me considering going back.

    I am very happy, yet so sad, for you. Happy that you are standing up for your spiritual integrity and the integrity of every person who has not been received with Christian charity in the community of self-proclaimed God's People. Happy that you are seeking God where he may be found rather than seeking him where he obviously wasn't. But very sad that another person has been so badly treated by the community of believers that you can no longer remain in community, for there is no community there to be had.

    I am considering going back as a "trial by fire" mental health technique. My husband suggested it this weekend when I told him I'd ordered another mega-dollar stack of books from Amazon on recovering from Christianity. He said that if I went back to church, either I'd discover that God is indeed present in midst of flawed yet righteous people (in which case, I could happily and healthfully join in) or I'd be so disgusted with it all that the experience would burn out of my psyche any lingering longing for belonging to "the body of Christ".

  3. Well, you'll always belong with me, Sandra.

  4. (((Hugs))) Absolutely no reason you should even consider being treated like that. I do feel badly though, I know you had higher hopes for this church.

    I just did the same thing. Finished my term in the only ministry I felt good about anymore, so that I had no obligation to attend church. It just got to where it felt so bad going it took me days to recover.

    My husband wants to try other churches, but I get tired just thinking about it. So many things I don't want to put up with anymore. On the other hand, church has provided my sense of community for a good portion of my adult life; where do I go for that now?

    I look forward to reading more about this part of your journey.

  5. That is so awful - I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I'm not attending church at the moment, either... my mother doesn't want to go to a church where so much as a drop of patriarchy is practiced, and of course in this tiny Southern town there are not many options anyway. I completely agree with her.

    I'm just such a radical Christian these days I don't even know if I'd find a good fit even if I had options. My best friend and roommate from college came down to see me this past week and, as a proper Presbyterian from a well-off family in the suburbs, she was scandalized by my rants against churches and mainline theologians. A mutual friend had, for instance, recommended that I read John Piper, and I talked about how I couldn't stomach him because of his stance on gender roles.

    Abigail acted as though that were really not important since Piper has a lot of good to say. That might be true if I had not been so drastically affected by patriarchy and warped views of the roles of men and women. As it is, I want to stay as far away from that stuff as possible.

    Also, Abigail thinks it's more important to have Christian fellowship, even if it's not in the ideal church. I really don't think I could stomach going to a church that holds up the "traditional" view of marriage. If I were to get married, I'd insist that the guy would agree to an egalitarian marriage. If he had a problem with this, then I really wouldn't be able to trust him.

    See, extremely liberal. And my views on the family are just the beginning. Where to find a church like that?

  6. I don't understand why that is labelled "extremely liberal" when your views should be labelled "sold- out for Jesus" instead! Really, the fundamentalists are the ones perverting the gospel of Christ. You cannot "love your neighbor as yourself" and uphold patriarchal gender roles. It's impossible.

    Well, since God has promised to meet all of our needs by his riches in glory by Christ Jesus, why don't we just pray for the fellowship we need? I don't see why it must come in an institutional church setting. Such places didn't even exist when the New Testament epistles were written, so they cannot be what the Holy Spirit is referring to when the words "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" were written. Christ's words, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" seems to point to a much smaller, more personal and informal gathering.

    What has spring up is a business racket. With very few exceptions in my thirty years of faithful attendance/giving/volunteering, the churches exist to provide a salary for the staff. I can find no other reason for their existence, as any individual member is expendable. So if the institution is not in existence for the individual, why is it there? What is the common denominator that never goes away? The staff. An independent church is a small business with the pastor as sole proprietor, except our laws allow him to assume no risk and pay no taxes. Pretty sweet deal if you can get it, no?

    I would consider a mainline denomination like the ELCA, the Methodists, Presbyterians or Episcopalians if they just weren't so darned formal. I hate organ music and since I was not raised in such, I have a hard time with robes and choirs, etc. I came to Jesus in the 70s, so guitars and participatory worship is important to me. I still might wind up at the nearest ELCA, but it makes me sad that there's no place for my son to play his electric bass.

    Maybe it's just this city, but there is a strong emphasis on concert band instruments and pipe organs in the two ELCA churches I visited. What one calls their "contemporary" service is like a full choir singing 70s songs, with the old ladies in the choir clapping and swaying while still in robes singing in falsetto. Lolz.

    I want to say: I think that word "contemporary" does not mean what you think it means....:p

  7. This is very sad. I'm glad you are doing what's best for you. I'm happy to say I have found a church where the leadership is humble and Christlike. The pastor certainly doesn't make $75K a year! I don't agree with him on everything, but he welcomes disagreement. The church policy is that as long as you believe in things like the Incarnation and the Resurrection, you can believe anything you like about everything else. The church is very soft complementarian, but they are also open to dialogue on this issue as on other issues; they know I'm an egalitarian and accept me anyway. Not perfect, no-- but in my mind the most important thing in a church is humility and 1 Cor 13-type love in the leadership. I'm willing to put up with a lot if that's there-- and it does exist, even in some church where there's no organ or choir (mine has guitar, base, piano and drums too).

  8. I am happy for you Kristen. I hope it stays that way. :)