Sunday, June 23, 2013

Long time coming...or the one about fences and getting off of them.

Another Sunday morning when the children and I have stayed home.  The task of finding a new church, a new building is daunting and overwhelming.  I'm not a social person.  I don't do "small talk" well.  I find meeting new people exhausting and fight the need to curl up on a ball and disappear for a day or two.

To remain at our old church, our home church for the past five years, would have been the easiest thing to do.  Easy and Right are not, typically, synonymous.

Since the time I was able to make a conscience decision to do so I have followed the teachings of a simple carpenter from Galilee.  Over the years, I managed to get lost a time or two.  But I always found my way back to those simple teachings...love God with all your heart and soul, treat others as you want to be treated.  Love.  Interlaced through it all was Love.

Given my childhood, I never knew the comfort of a "home church".  We were often at a different church every week.  The building was inconsequential.  Often, there wasn't even a building.  The local congregation met under a thorn tree. The blue African sky was my cathedral.  No man made structure could compare or bring more glory to God.  I didn't have a need inside of me to seek out a building.  Until my eldest was born.  Even then, I didn't know I had that need.  All I knew was that I was lonely.  Achingly, depressingly lonely.  The life before children ceased to exist overnight.  Single friends no longer called for a spur of the moment get-together.  Late night date nights fizzled out completely.  It was just me and this little person with even less conversation skills than I had.

When our daughter was born I did not want to be faced with that same crushing loneliness.  My mom flew in to meet her newest grandchild.  Together we went and visited a church just around the corner.  It was the same denomination I had grown up in.  The pastor's wife was a missionary kid from Asia.  The pastor's eldest daughter had two children the same ages as mine.  It felt like coming home.  There were/are beliefs held by the denomination that I always struggled with.  But none of them make a difference in a person's soul so I just sort of ignored them.

Up until a few weeks ago, my little family and I were regular members.  When the children's program was revamped and I made sure I was a part of it.  Even though there were bits of the doctrine I was willing to overlook, I wanted to be involved in my own children's religious education--at home and at church.  It was a balancing act between my own beliefs and those of my fellow teacher. Creation was always fun.  I do believe that God created the universe--or at least set everything in motion for its creation.  I also believe it was 4.5 billion years ago.  My co-teacher believed the literal 7 days = 7 days translation and that the earth is only 6,000 years old.  We never discussed it, he and I.  But when questions would arise, I answered with a question: "Who was there? Read the first verse.  Who does it say was there? Does it say God and a bunch of biblical scholars?"  Nope.  It says, "In the beginning, God." And I would leave it at that. Because, again, I do not believe that the status of anyone's soul is jeopardized by whether they believe in evolution, creation or some hybrid of both.

I taught in the children's program for three years.  Fellow teachers moved on until there were only two of us left.  Even though we took turns teaching we both had to be with the children.  Accountability due to the fact my fellow teacher was a man.  Even with multiple requests made to the rest of the congregation, no one stepped in to give either of us a break and a chance to spend a Sunday morning in the regular church service.  Not only was I teaching preschool during the week, but now every Sunday.   It got to the point where people would leave the church and it would take me weeks to figure out they weren't just on vacation.  On the rare times I did get to be in service new people in the church treated me like a visitor.  And we had been there for five years.  The threads were already unraveling.

Back in September our son made the decision to join Cub Scouts.  I've never been a fan.  Something about children in uniforms doesn't sit well with me.  It could also have something to do with getting kicked out of Girl Guides as a young girl (for fighting, if you must know).  Or the ex-fianc√© who was overly proud of being an Eagle Scout when he turned out to be not so nice of a person in the end.  I put all of that aside and supported my son in his decision.  Because that's what, I believe, Parenting is about.  Letting go and doing our best not to brand our children with our own Issues.  My own parents let go and I'm all the better for it.

In the past 10 months we have witnessed nothing but positive influence on our son through his involvement with the Cub Scouts.  He has thrived.  He has accomplished things he only dreamt of before.  His pride in his accomplishments and achievements has spilled over into other parts of his his life.  We made the decision to be involved as a family.  He wants to continue with the scouts and we support him whole heartedly.

Last month Boy Scouts of America made the decision to no longer ban openly homosexual boys from being Boy Scouts.  In my opinion, they didn't go far enough since they kept the ban on homosexual leaders.  Is homosexuality a sin? I don't know.  Is it a choice? Not a clue.  Is being around a homosexual going to make my son gay? Nope.  Sexuality of any form has no place in Boy Scouts.  That's what their Morally Straight code stands for.  What the ban lift does is tell all boys they're welcome.  Unconditionally.  Sounds an awful lot like the teachings of that simple carpenter I follow.  The announcement reenforced our decision to not only stay with the scouts but to also have a bigger presence.  I was already thinking of going through the paperwork to be a den leader next year and the announcement cemented that decision.  We decided to stand with the Boy Scouts.  As has, thankfully, our pack's sponsor church.

The denomination I grew up in, the one my grandparents were members of, the one I've been a part of the past five years made a different decision.  The day of the BSA's announcement the leaders of the denomination released a strongly worded statement condemning the BSA and encouraging all sponsor churches in that denomination to sever ties with their sponsored scout packs and troops.

All my life I have been taught about the love of Jesus.  My grandparents, my parents forewent comfortable lives to take that message of love to people all over the world.  Never once, in any of my dad's sermons did I hear him preach about the need to look like him, dress like him, eat the same food as we did.  All I heard was about Grace and Love--unconditional love.  Jesus loved people where they were at.  None of the stories about Jesus begin with him telling the beggar to first go bathe and then they'd talk.  Or telling the whore to sit somewhere else.  Nope.  He sat down beside them--where they were at.  Filthy, smelly, slimy.  And loved them.

Over the years I have met people who were tossed out by the Church.  Rejected for their sins.  Rejected because they didn't fit the mold of "Christian."  The hurt and bitterness has brought me to tears.  I've talked to so many about how that's not Jesus.  That's not what he taught.  It was the Church who sinned--they failed to love.  And now they've turned their back on ones who need to know Jesus's love the most.  Is homosexuality a sin? Even if I knew the answer to that one it wouldn't make a difference.  It shouldn't make a difference.  I'm not looking to start a debate or argue theology.  I know what scriptures say, or rather, I know what we've translated them to say.  I also know we're taught that we've all sinned...and that makes us all equal.  But what these boys now know is that they aren't welcome in a building.  Because that's all it is.  A building.  For something that may or may not be their own choosing.  I choose to follow the example of Jesus and meet them where they're at.  I'll continue to follow and teach the simple message of Love.  Of Grace.  This amazing thing that none of us deserve.

The denomination I was with drew a line in the sand.  And I was on the other side.  It didn't make me angry, mainly because I wasn't surprised.  But it did make me sad.  Heartbreakingly so.

I cannot raise my children in a faith they will, probably, feel they need to apologize for later.  Only time will tell, really, if I managed to walk away without torching bridges behind me.  I know it was the right stand to make.  The peace I feel now is testimony to that.  But the mere fact I had to take a stand in the first place will always break my heart just a little each time I think of it.

If it's just a building, then why the need to find another one? Why put myself through social anxiety stress to do so? Because, after all of these years, I understand the need to be around like believers.  Fellow followers of Jesus.  To learn more.  To study.  To simply Be in a house of God.  And also, for the same reason we don't homeschool our children, they need to learn about the scriptures from someone else.

I know there's another community of believers out there who will welcome us...social misfits, "non-traditional" beliefs and all.  And when we find it, it'll feel like coming home.  Again.

2 comments:

Rachael said...

BRAVO!

Soozcat said...

Oh, man, Dori. I so feel for you, having to go through this.

Some people have suggested that it would be easier to know what to do if Jesus had dealt specifically with someone who was gay. My response is, "How do we know he didn't?" We know very little about Jesus' followers, other than by their professions -- and, in some instances, by their self-professed problems (Peter's "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man" comes to mind). But none of that mattered to the Christ. Once they became his followers, they started anew. Whatever baggage they might have carried with them before, they were expected to lay it down once they became fishers of men.

In fact, the only people Jesus ever soundly condemns in his sermons are the "hypocrites" -- those who do evil but who pretend they are the best, by virtue of the strictness of their observances. He had little or nothing to say in condemnation of the sinners who followed him, because they were aware of their own failings and were trying to do better. Those people who concealed their own sins under a veneer of propriety, who hid their evil even from themselves, received some of the hardest tongue-lashings from Jesus. It wasn't because they were trying to be good. It was because they were trying to be *better than*, because they were measuring their own goodness in the eyes of their fellow men. And that part of human nature hasn't changed much in two thousand years.

We'll continue to remember you and your family in our prayers, and ask that you might be led to a church where you can feel the love of Christ and of your fellow man in abundance.