Church was cancelled today.
Our congregation was evicted from its current space as of January 01, 2014. We cleaned, packed up our stuff, and moved everything this week to its new space; but with the holidays and all, we took a week off to be with family and friends.
It's a Lutheran Church.
My first liturgical church.
Since there were no services this morning, I sat and watched Nadia Bolz-Weber on Youtube. Unlike me, she's covered with tattoos, swears like a trucker (I only swear like a trucker's 3 year old) and she's way more 'in your face' than I am.
However, like me she was raised evangelical and came to discover frustrating and unloving practices in our traditions. And like me, she left it for the sake of her life, soul and God. It might sound selfish but until you're in a place where the rage and fear and terror refuse to budge week after week it's difficult to understand why I'd be so ready to flee.
And it's true that I have been quite harsh on the evangelical church right here on The Underground Railroad. When we idolize preaching/teaching, listen to that preaching, but respond contrary to what's being taught OR worship what's being taught so that our lives reflect… I don't know… something like white bread: looks tasty enough and even smells good, but gosh it constipates you in no time. (please give me at least a hollow laugh???)
At Bible camp, I was taught that it was my fault for being a sinner and, as a sinner, I would be tortured forever and ever by this angry God who would put me there unless I loved Him. It didn't matter if I never asked to be born a sinner. All I learned was that I was going to be punished for being something I didn't know I was being born as.
At Baptist bible college when we had a female speaker, my heart would sing but then break when male friends of mine would get up and leave. Again… I learned I was "less".
In charismatic churches, I was shunned because I never spoke in tongues.
In fundie churches, I was "shhhhed" because a) I was a woman, and b) the church's function/role was to evangelize, and never to support a wishy-washy social gospel.
In all these churches, I learned the Bible so well because we were taught that defending/contending for Scripture was the HIGHEST priority for any believer in our immoral society (sola Scriptura!).
But… at least as a child… I learned the Bible during "sword drills" better than the boys — even the grown up ones. I memorized the books of the Bible, broke the major/minor prophets, memorized Psalms, explained away the discrepencies between the Gospels, and worshipped the ever-worthy Protestant St.Paul.
As I grew up, I learned I could only lead "women's" Bible studies; I could NOT be a senior pastor; and if I were to marry, I would have to SUBMIT to my husband, as in written in the Scriptures. Gay sex was the ultimate evil, after abortion, which was all a part of some hidden agenda from "the world" to undermine God's kingdom.
Some of you know the spiritual abuse I went through from some teachers/counselors, so I won't re-hash it here. If you want more of my story, shoot me an email. I'd certainly like to hear yours. Truly!
… evangelicalism has given my life so much. And I'll be the first person to say that I have not been faithful enough in recognizing this credit and influence.
1. Fundie churches instilled in me not only a knowledge of the Scriptures, but a LOVE for them. Sure I interpret them differently than most of my teachers and some of my friends do now, but that love has not diminshed. While I love the congregation I'm in right now, I do miss that robust Bible sharing.
2. Charismatic churches fuelled my love for social justice. While some evangelical churches continued to insulate themselves from justice issues (except for sending Bibles to some corner of the world), one group of Pentecostals especially kept that flame for the marginalized alive. We were out on street corners handing out hot chocolate to prostitutes at midnight… we had conversations with johns and drugs dealers… we worked with single moms to make sure they had what they needed to raise their own children so they wouldn't be taken away by social services.
More importantly, this group desire to be KNOWN by this love. It wasn't "an outflow" of the gospel. Jesus' living love for the poor and marginalized was a powerful and integral part of the gospel!
3. I was not a perfect person… teenager, young adult, college grad, single woman living alone.
In fact, I was downright impossible to love.
As a teenager, that spiritual abuse coupled with severe social deficiences led to deep existential depression, hallucinations, and morbid curiosities. Self-abuse and suicide were evident. Making and keeping friends was impossible.
I possessed this "radar" — a sense about people. It was specific and unpredictable. My soul would connect with another person and I would become deeply attached to that person… to the point of suffocating him/her. Of all the things from my past, this is one aspect of which I am most ashamed. Attention-seeking was condemned (or at least poo-pooed) in the church, and yet I couldn't live a day without seeing whatever person my soul had chosen. I wanted to be loved that badly. I called it "The Fever".
And yet… a small handful of friends from college and my first years in early adult life stuck it out with me. They prayed with me, for me, and for some crazy reason I can't fathom to this day called me friend.
Many people prayed for me, especially after the nervous breakdown I had in my mid-twenties. These people disagree with LGBTQ lifestyles, are sometimes vocal about being pro-life (anti-abortion) but struggle to be pro-life for people other than fetuses, and preach that women have a secondary place in God's kingdom than men.
But they loved me.
They taught me.
They prayed for me.
Right now, I've lost friends because I don't necessarily believe God's panties are in a twist over who's gay and who's not; over who's hellbound and who's not; or whether the world was created in 6 literal days or not. Some of those are the very friends who walked with me through that dark time. And it's heartbreaking… for me anyway.
I didn't emerge from my darkness as your typical evangelical Christian. I'm not sure how they prayed for me, but I can guarantee I didn't turn out how anyone expected (myself included).
Quite frankly, I don't know what I emerged as. All I know is, it's not yet and I'm certainly not complete.
I struggle with needing to be right. Part of it is personality, but a part of it is also that pressure-cooker focus for evangelical children to know how to demolish ALL arguments from ANYONE who disagrees with evangelical teaching.
Truthfully: I do not know how to get rid of this aspect to me. Humility is hard-won in anyone's life, but when being right is held up as a the Golden Snitch ("You're AUTOMATICALLY right!"), and that this is God's way of loving the world… how does that get pressed out?
I don't know.
It's part of why I left evangelicalism: I began using the tools and arguments I was taught as a child to discover holes in our tradition. Yet people around me condemned me for doing such a thing. But I can't blame them either.
I still do it. Even if it's about whether or not to have the toilet paper OVER (the proper and correct way of having all TP).
My prayer is that the people who so fervently loved me and prayed for me would continue to so for others who don't fit the mold. You might not agree with the LGBTQ community, but as believers we are called to be reconcilers. Instead of throwing Scripture at people as proof of sin… maybe look to how WE can be Rebuilders of Walls and Restorers of Streets with Dwellings (Isaiah 58).
Without evangelicals I wouldn't have loved the Bible as I do…
… wouldn't have learned and loved music as I do…
… wouldn't have so vigorously nurtured spirituality as I do…
… wouldn't have walked the dark streets of the city at night as I do…
Without it, I wouldn't have become who I am.
Sometimes I am critical. I am still questioning why we do what we do, even in the name of Love.
But that doesn't mean Love wasn't present.
For that… I am grateful.