07 December 2005


Here is a silly fact about me. I love getting the mail. This once caused quite a to-do between LightHusband and I. But that's another story. I really love getting it out of the box and going through all the items. Someday there just might be something there for me, or for someone in the family. Something real. Most days tho, it's just junk. This time of year the Christmas cards start coming and I like that. These days tho, I let the children get it from the box, with the proviso that they bring it to me and then I get to go through it and, of course, throw most of it away.

Last week, however, a rude shock arrived. Someone has decided that we should receive Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal. At first I thought it was just a mass mailing we'd somehow gotten on as the result of another list we're on, the result of an overzealous friend. But no, it's a real subscription and I have no idea how we got it. I hope it's not the same overzealous friend. Because it's being sent back, cancelled. I feel violated.

The other day I was in the grocery store and saw the Christian book kiosk turned to a very fundamentalist book and thought, "Look, what a rainbow our faith family is." And then thought, "Wow, I really must be healing, I'm getting past the hurt of the past 4 or 5 years." More and more I am able to honestly have those thoughts and feelings. Really. I am.

But then this happens. Someone tries in one way or another to tell me what to think or how to think and I'm back at square one. That's been the whole problem all along. I'm more than capable of thinking for myself and that was what brought the whole thing down on my head.

So the pretty story is that several years ago, God called to LightHusband and I. We didn't quite know what to do with that for awhile, so we piddled around and dinked around and finally left our church of 14 years. But it was on good terms and we found this great new, small church that meets in a coffee shop and we're much happier now. And we really are. But if you look carefully when we tell that story, you'll find that behind my smile my teeth have been ground down to nubs.

The only part of that story that's really true is the end. We really are happier now at our little church that meets in a coffee shop. Oh yeah ... the beginning is too. God did call us out, and maybe if we'd just left that church instead of trying to change it, we wouldn't have gotten so hurt. But the problem was that we believed all of Jesus' teachings about church being a family (or is it Paul's; or maybe a combination). This was the church we had both come to know Jesus in and this pastor had shown us the way. We believed we should stick it out. God had given me a calling to teach adults and now these two things (the church and my calling) were clearly in opposition to one another. The pastor told me that my calling was not from God; the elder in charge of education told me many things that I have chosen to forgive but suffice it to say that they were mean and hurtful and meant to keep me in my place, but not intended for reconciliation in any way. There were meetings and letters. And I've read this too many times on the blogs of others to think that I'm special anymore.

The evangelical/fundamentalist church has had a great time for the past couple of years sitting back sniggering up it's sleeve at the problems that the Catholic Church is having with priests and sexual immorality with altar boys. But I want to ask, is treating your lay leaders and pastors like this any better? I really don't think that the Church can leave piles of human refuse in it's wake and claim that it's doing anything good. Just because this behavior isn't technically illegal doesn't make it morally right.

We were fortunate, LightHusband and I, to have a small group (3 couples) of friends from our church who walked the journey with us. We lost most of our friends from our former church. Friends and family of 14 years. It felt and many times still does feel like a divorce. But in the midst of it all, God was so good and gracious to us and put us in a place where we could heal. Where we wouldn't lose Him. Where we could grow again. In a place where there were streams of living water that we could drink deeply from. A place that we walked into and immediately we were known and accepted for just exactly who we were. Really, our second week, someone who we'd just met that day said, "Where have you been? We've been waiting for you."

In things essential, unity; in doubtful, liberty; in all things, charity.
Imitation of Christ by Thomas aKempis

It seems to me that the "essential" things are Christ's resurrection, His Lordship; the details identified in the Great Creeds (Nicene, and Apostles, etc.) and that all others are "doubtful" and thus we should all grant one another liberty to explore those things. In any case, it would seem to me that being charitable in all things means that there would not be these stories of pain and suffering caused by the church popping up all over. That arguments over who has the "most" authoritative view of Scripture, of God, of whatever, would not be happening. That conferences would be open to all Christian brothers and sisters speaking. But they are not.

I am very tempted to speculate as to the reasons for this. But it would be just that: speculation. And then I would be engaging in the very activities that I am decrying. So I will end with this thought.

In the end, the only thing that will matter is Jesus' judgement of our lives. The only measure we have of that are His words. I believe that His call to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself", should occupy much more of our individual and corporate time and attention than it currently does. There is enough "work" to fill a life within that sentence. Additionally, His words regarding judging others, I believe, are critical. He spoke about removing the plank in our own eyes, before being concerned about the mote in our neighbors; about the dangers inherent in judging others because it raises the bar on ourselves. Entwined throughout all of His teachings and the behavior he modelled for us was a consistent ethic, that is that love is not manipulative, it does not strike out, it allows for the free will of the other, and above all it is seasoned with grace, mercy and humility. Woe will be to us if we ever forget that.


Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Hi Sonja,

Great post. It grieves me to about members of the Body treating each other like that, but it's everywhere. One of the priests at my church, Mother DeDe, was treated not much better in the "liberal, mainline" Episcopal church she grew up in for being a woman who dared to believe that God was calling her to ministry. And (though I'm by *no* means equating this with your or DeDe's experience), check out the fundamentalist non-Christian (my former boss) trying to tell me how and what I can and can't believe over on my blog in the comments on the post on 1 Chronicles 13. There always seem to be folks who need to put other folks in a box and keep them under control. :-(


12/07/2005 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Thanks for those excellent words, Sonja. It's funny how God works on the same things in different people at the same time. You put things very eloquently. I feel like printing out those last few paragraphs and carrying them around with me today. Yeah, they were in the Bible first, but there's something about reading the same thing said in a slightly different way. Thanks.
I love getting the mail, too! Which I find amusing, because, as you say, it's usually junk. Old habits, from back when I wrote letters? I don't know.

12/07/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger kate said...

By the way. Please, if hubby is willing, do share that "mail to-do" tale!

12/07/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Great post. I think a steady diet of not being judgmental is probably the key remedy to staying healed from all of this crap. It is difficult to practice, but freeing when it is on occassion accomplished.

12/07/2005 07:43:00 PM  

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