Sunday, April 02, 2017

No Longer In Use

I don't think I can keep going to church anymore. Today was sort of the end. I don't know if I'll continue for the rest of the month or so that I'll be here.

Today was revealing.

In the past ten years since I left my old church my faith has undergone something of a sea-change. The endless mountains of attacks, disrespect and deriding I've had to endure from people at my old church wore me pretty far down after a few years. The last ten years at the new mainstream church hasn't improved my faith either, in fact, I'm thinking from everything I am observing, reading and experiencing that Americans in general have the Christian faith very wrong.

One of my oldest friends, who also came out of the old church, made the observation to me that I was actually very sweet and kind inside, but that I wear my sarcasm like a shield to keep others away. There's a lot of truth to that, but here's the problem. In my old faith community I was pretty sarcasm-free, not the sappy wit that always had a snappy answer. Certainly not the eye-rolling wretch that likes to skewer hypocrites.

What did it get me? Hurt. Very hurt because I was open and vulnerable to people who didn't deserve it, who took my openness and trust and used it against me, used me to advance their own agenda.

When I got to the new church after a lifetime of having trust issues and having my boundaries trampled I morphed back into my old sarcastic masked self. I let almost no one in the new church near the real me. I'm still hiding from most of them.

That hasn't stopped people there from trying to press me into some usage. But as I've started to critically examine what the Bible says, what faith is and how far from the words of Jesus the church has gone I've become less willing to be a slave to religion. Add in some historical reading and enough Bart Erhrman and I cannot decide if I'm agnostic or downright atheist. I believe in a higher power, but it looks nothing like what the Evangelical church thinks it should, so I guess that rules out being an atheist. I don't know. I'm still on my journey.

Today at church was an illustration to me on a bunch of different levels how hypocritical many of the folks there that scream the loudest that they are UBER CHRISTIAN.

Yes, it's been a bad asthma day. Yes, I got up cranky again, but had to go into church to do the counting of the Almighty offering. While I was there my oxygen levels started to tank, I could feel it. I took the usual actions I always take when the levels are low. I did my deep breathing exercises that the physio taught me, I medicated and I even lay down for awhile between services. When it wasn't getting any better I got up and walked slowly around the church, leaving the other team members to fill my slot.

At one point I walked past two of the most prominent 'Look At MEEEEEEE Christians' in the church that always volunteer for the most visible leadership roles and go on lots of mission trips-cum-vacations to 3rd world countries. Both couples looked at me and one of them remarked I was white as a sheet and asked if I was sick. I said I was, that my oxygen levels had dropped very low (around 88 right then) and I was lightheaded.

You could have dropped a pin and heard it echoing in that vast silence. No 'Hope you feel better,' 'Can I pray for you?' or even a simple 'I'm sorry is there anything I can do for you.' De nada, nope, nothing, neine, nix, not jackshit. Right back to their faux righteous conversation.

This all on a day when others clearly seeing me struggle approached to ask if I would do this or that thing, lead this, pray for this person, or cook, volunteer, you-name-it.

I'm done being used by ungrateful people. I am done putting my needs last. I'm done with all this fake concern, phony behavior and mouthing platitudes while behaving like your faith is really all about you. Begging prayers focusing on getting God to pay off like some holy slot machine to benefit you. Disgusting.

My inner voice was right. There's plenty of reasons to keep my mask up and not let it down there. This church, just like the crazy one, is a seriously unsafe place that uses people up in a thankless fashion. I'll go on worshiping and communing with the divine out away from the church. They can shove that fancy painted stained glass building. I'm not counting the 50K per week any longer. I'm not doing another thing for any of them.

I'll spend my efforts on those who really need it. Like the local homeless and the elderly, like I have done for years now.


Felfeli said...

I am glad to see that I am not the only person who had an almost reverse spiritual awakening later in life. Sometimes I think that if Jesus were to walk into any church in the United States, he would wonder what the heck happened to his message.

Laura Neish said...

I’m so sorry people were indifferent to your health struggles.
I am also going through a spiritual (and sexual and relational) awakening. After learning several years ago that the biblical canon was not a slam-dunk deal like I had been taught, and frustrated by Christians who shamed and discriminated against someone who loves a person of their same gender, yet ignores the needs of the fatherless, the poor and the foreigner I struggled with my faith but wouldn’t look at information that didn’t support biblical inerrancy/infallibility. Until a few months ago. I tried to get a clear biblical understanding about sex but found multiple conflicting teachings, often using the same verses to “disprove” what someone “proved” with the same verses. It seemed you really could prove whatever your viewpoint depending on how you used scripture and whatever logic or fallacies you relied upon. Finally I turned to biblical scholars and Progressive Christian authors to shed some light on how the Bible was formed. Talk about choosing between the Blue pill and the Red one -thank you Matrix. Well I chose the Red Pill. My heart was broken, and freed at the same time. I lost my certainty, my beliefs...and gained faith. At this point I’m not sure who or what I’m talking to when I do what I used to know as prayer. But I know someone is there and that we are loved. I am no longer certain that Jesus is God incarnate (or Saviour, or even that a saviour was needed for that matter) but I love how he was reported to live. I love his heart for those burdened by religious or societal rigidity and his desire to help people know the One he knew as Father, the kind of dad that looks for your return even when you said you wished he was dead so you could get your inheritance. There is something compelling about that kind of love that I can’t let go. Not yet. But even in my very non-condemning church (as compared to other fundy based churches) there is a push to increase organized “discipleship” and shaming messages are delivered with gentleness which makes it even more unbearable to witness. I LOVE these people who live compassionately even if cluelessly as they try to prove things to people who don’t believe the Bible by USING the Bible and shake their heads at the poor souls who just don’t get it. And I was that way not all that long ago. I don’t know where to go next. Do I try a Progressive Church or am I being led (by God? The Universe? My higher self? My imagination?) to let go of it all? I can still learn something from the ancient writings and there are people as passionate as I am about social justice in some churches and perhaps I can help our church become less rigid, overcome their shaming habits and move towards healthy attitudes towards sex and their obsession with sin as they disregard the very work they claim is finished in Christ. But my BS meter is on overload, I’m tired of thinking and sometimes saying “thats not exactly what the scripture says” or “earlier manuscripts didn’t have that part”. And the whole time I’m wondering if it matters anyway. But it’s so hard to let go of something I’ve believed and ordered my life around for almost 50 years.