As I’m pacing the pews in a church corridor and I can’t help but to hear,
An exchanging of words.
“What a beautiful wedding,” says a bridesmaid to a waiter.
“Yes, but what a shame the poor groom’s bride is a whore”
I chime in:
“Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the God damn door?
No? It’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.”
~Panic at the Disco
That was the moment I remember moving from Christian girl to angry teenager. I was going to bathroom during the singing one Sunday morning, and I walked past the stairs that lead from the third floor all the way to the basement. They had no closed door, and no carpet- perfect for the echo- when I heard them talking.We were helping out. The janitor quit, probably for the same reason we would, so we filled in for him. It was supposed to be temporary, but everyone knows if you say that your time doing that particular service is up that you aren’t being a good Christian. Anyway, I was heading to the bathroom when I heard my Dad’s name echo up the stairs to me. I paused and I heard two grown men talking about what an awful job my father was doing as a volunteer janitor. My bathroom need completely forgotten, I found myself descending the stairs confused and defiant. Down two flights of stairs, I reached the bottom and the men were still talking about my father. I came around the corner with my eyes on their faces- in their eyes- and I walked straight toward them very slowly never dropping my gaze. Once I got up close enough to speak -which they could not anymore- I turned my body, and my eyes, down the corridor with my head high and my eyes just tearing. Ever since that moment, I’ve never seen my faith the same way. These were the elders, the wise Christian men who were supposed to be the leaders. They didn’t fit with my idyllic view of Christianity. They didn’t fit with the core teachings of Christ to me. The childhood images of who I thought people should be were tainted by who people really are. I could try to rationalize like other people and say that everyone is human, but did I want to? Do I want to?
I just didn’t understand all the ‘buts’ that people used to soothe me. All of the sudden the gray areas were all around me. Yes honey love your neighbor as yourself, but there are limits. Yes honey turn the other cheek, but be practical. Yes honey blessed are the poor, but some of them have brought this on themselves. To this day all the ‘buts’ still confuse me. My faith is forever changed by them.The ‘but’ that made the most impact was the one that happened when the church I went to decided to kick out our pastor. To me, he had always been a very kind, very gentle man. My family knew the Pastor and his family very well. In fact, we spent several Thanksgivings at their house cooking, eating, and playing games. I remember going over there once, before we became really comfortable around each other. The pastor’s wife was in the kitchen cooking, and listening to Christmas music on the XM radio. Santa Baby was playing. She sang along for a few bars, and Pastor did too, then she decided to change the channel. They seemed to be enjoying the music and yet they changed it; I thought I understood right away. It was concern. Concern about what I would think or, if I should tell anyone, what they would think. I felt I knew because the next station that they found was Christmas carols. That was the first time I ever really felt as though I could be truly comfortable around them. After several years and a few dates with their son, I felt as if they were more family than friend. But soon there arose a devastating problem. You see, Pastor had just been found to have bipolar disorder and though it was well-controlled, the powers-to-be wouldn’t allow it. Then came the accusations. Pastor isn’t emotionally stable. Pastor and Mrs. marriage is going south. They’re on medication. They should be on medication. They have a secret life. Yes, honey Pastor helped you out a lot. He stuck up for you, befriended you, comforted you, but honey Pastor doesn’t deserve his severance.
It wasn’t even that that broke my heart the most. It was the all business, business meeting. Christ didn’t attend, but I wasn’t quite so lucky. It was my first. You see in our church you had to be eighteen to attend, and I had just made it. I sat there in the meeting, and listened to them tear down a man I respected. Those people who had torn down my father piece by piece, now turned on my Pastor. Both of these men -my father and the pastor- were, I felt, Christ-like in a way that their persecutors never would be -in resolute quiet acceptance. I listened to the prayer spoken to open the meeting which began, in a typical Robert’s rules way, with a reading of the minutes. I listened to these men and women politely take turns bearing arms against the Pastor, and his family, and that was difficult. I was stunned by their terse explanations why Pastor should be fired. Someone even typed up why he shouldn’t receive his severance, and that hurt. But let me tell you, none of that compares to walking out of that meeting and seeing those who attended greet those who hadn’t with a perky smile and bit of light conversation. My head was spinning and what I had just heard could barely be confined to just my face. The thing that found most shocking was that I could contain my emotions to the result of a sour expression. All around me others, who knew and loved Pastor, acted as though all that hate could be pushed to the back of a mind. That’s what really broke my heart.And while writing this I realized I have so much more that I need to work through. So many more situations just like this that altered my faith, and almost pushed me from the Christian faith forever. And just the thought that I could easily make this a little piece a series (or even a book) hurts me deeply. And to be honest that hurt is the one thing I hope never changes. You see that was six years ago, and I have yet to give up on the Christian faith. However, I have in many ways, given up on the Church. I feel that it has no need to be involved in my faith. We’ll see.