Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Churches I've known and loved

When I was young the Christians I was exposed to (i.e. my mom's friends) in every way I could observe at the time exemplified living according to the word of God. As I've gotten to know many of them as an adult I've found that for the most part they do in fact live according to biblical principles as well as humans are capable.

I was taught that there are in fact hypocrites, who call themselves Christian, in the church but I assumed that only happened in other peoples churches. I was also taught that; a. my relationship with God is between me and God and only he is qualified to judge me, b. love is more important than anything, even faith, and living a life of love for all is the highest possible calling c. faith, while taking a side seat to love is a critical component of living a "Godly" life d. treat others no worse than you would like to be treated.

To be clear where I am coming from. My mother is a fundy in recovery, she as she gets older lives in increasing alignment to the bible. (thus she becomes less fundy every day) My dad is an atheist with slightly agnostic leanings. Part of my independent thinking is a result of learning at a young age that I should just be me because I'm not going to please both of them. After a few years in the Methodist church my mom moved us to a talking in tongues, jumping up and down Pentecostal church. I even spent 4 years going to my churches parochial school. Then inexplicably my mom decided we would go back to the Methodist church till we could find a suitable replacement. Found out later that our minister had committed adultery causing a rift when he was driven out of the church. We soon found a non denominational, Pentecostal church. I was twelve and my mom had made me a part of the process.

I thrived at our new church. Within a few months I was old enough to join the youth group, I joined the worship and praise team and began private music theory lessons with the music minister, a PhD candidate of music theory from the Eastman school of music. (he subsequently used his work with me as part of the research for his dissertation which included a comprehensive curriculum for private music theory lessons) I made a number of new friends and soon became a part of the core in that church.

When I was thirteen I both lost my virginity, smoked pot for the first time and drank for the first time. They were isolated incidents that were not repeated for a long time but they marked the beginning of a shift in my mode of thinking. By this time I had started writing songs with the help of Dan (the music minister) and performed my original music in front of the congregation and even at six or seven conferences and youth rallies. I became firmer than ever in my zeal for the lord.

When I got to highschool I started smoking tobacco and dabbled a little more in the use of drugs. Oddly it took a little longer for me to experiment more with sex but a number of kids in my youth group were becoming sexually active. Around this time my popularity in the church began to wane. (I showed up to youth group a few times smelling like what I'd been smoking) I was asked to quit the praise and worship team and parents were a lot less keen on their daughters showing interest in me. I understood the P&W team but a number of parents dislike of me didn't make any sense, I was a part of about 35% of the kids in the youth group practicing strict abstinence.

Then the bombshell, one of the sexually active girls in the church got pregnant. When this came out all but a handful of us in the youth group ganged up in condemning her for being a whore. And at a time when this seventeen year old girl needed the love and support the Christ commands us to provide, the core of the church with few exceptions made it quite clear that she was no longer welcome in our church. Without exception everyone who was sexually active were the loudest in they're condemnation.

My entire world shattered, after using the first opportunity I'd had in several months to address the congregation (in collaboration with Dan and our youth minister Allen) to chastise them for their actions concerning Bree (the preg. One) and pleading with them to apologize to her and offer her the support she so desperately needed. (I quoted scripture and everything) I didn't even get to sing the song I was up there to sing. Instead the pastor of the church made some reference to the likelihood I was stoned and one of the deacon's actually asked me to leave the premises. Five families including the youth minister's left with me that day, Dan and his wife left the church five weeks later after he found a new job.

I do not and never have believed in a god of hate and condemnation. I do not believe in a god who sets us up for failure. I do not believe in a god who would put a little bigger bottom line and multi-million dollar ahead of the health and well being of those who actual make the profits possible. I do not believe in a god who would put those profits ahead of the health and well being of the planet he called us to steward. I do not believe in a god who would have us kill each other over what to call him and how to worship him. I'm no longer certain I believe in God at all.

The God I grew up believing in was a God of love who expected me to reflect Christ's love that others would come to know him. The God I believed in gave me support in my endeavoring to live by the word and when I failed forgave me every time. The God I believed in called the pursuit of gross wealth evil. The God I believed in would consider killing in his name an absolute abhorrance.

Between the failure's of the church and the realization that the country I learned about in school didn't exist I went off the deep end. Twelve years later I have yet to recover.

2 comments:

Beth said...

The God that you say you grew up with is the one that follows Scripture. A church is made up of people, and people make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

stumbled on this while searching the internet in regard to being traumatized by church. I realized recently that I have gone through a traumatic experience because I think about the same thing over and over that happened at a church and can't move forward with relationships in a church setting.In pentecostal churches due to the nature of emotional highs and the strong feelings developed from that, when something does go awry then the pull on our pysche is that much more damaging. It has nothing to do with what God is like, or confusion about God. God's purpose in allowing those things to happen is for us to grow closer to Him and to get beyond, way beyond, churchianity.