Saturday, May 12, 2012

Screw in the Pew: Redeeming (Grace) Qualities

When I started this series I loosely swore to uphold a general aura of propriety and perspective: I am not out to review churches--I am out to have an experience and further my spiritual journey (that smacked of 1/3 hippy, two parts liberal and a smattering of kook).

I do have to be honest and open, however, and honest and open I would not be lest I provided a little background.

I don't have a positive history with Baptist churches. I've been in Methodist, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Jewish, Presbyterian--you name it--but the Baptist and I have not seen eye to eye for a very, very long time.

The last time I set foot in a Baptist church was 2 years ago and I wrote the pastor an email that, while I wouldn't earmark as nasty, was at the least stern and accusatory. I'll tell you why.

One, I am the child of a divorced, single parent who chose to become a pastor. Two, said parent decided it would be in my best interest to attend private school to complete my education. I was taught a lot more than your basic reading, writing, and Aramaic.

At fourteen, I was already the height and shape I am today (minus, er, a few pounds), I wore the same amount of makeup, and had absolutely no appreciation for the word "censor." I also feigned confidence and said whatever the hell it was I wanted to say (including "whatever the hell"). I think Mom had a clue that I wouldn't be meeting anyone else like me at this school. She timidly counselled me that the other girls would probably be fresh faced, Noxema-washed girls with bobby socks and Keds.

That all turned out to be true. A great majority of them were also from Heritage Baptist church. I learned a few things my first year of High School:

1. If you're different, you ain't right.

2. If you're a female, you absolutely need your dad, husband, minister, or a combination of all to tell you what to do at all times or you're in a serious amount of trouble since women are inherently evil.

3. If you speak in tongues, you might be demon possessed.

4. If you raise your hands in church, you might be demon possessed.

5. If you listen to anything but Christian music, you might be demon possessed.

6. If you associate with anyone who is demon possessed you might be demon possessed.

7. Pride and gossip, perfectly wrapped in the trappings of insincerity, will never imply demonic possession and is actually encouraged.

8. It's perfectly fine to identify others as having issues and persecute them daily while never admitting or repenting of your own.

9. Some will be happy to pray for you and quote Scripture to you while ripping your own set of values to absolute shreds--with a smile and sometimes a hug.

10. Adults can and will be total assholes to minors in the name of Jesus.

I realize, of course, that not all Baptists are like this. But understand if you will that just as everyone has their own prejudice based on experience, I harbor mine. This persecution and experience only continued after High School because I reside in Lynchburg, Virginia.

I won't tell you I've been in a ton of Baptist churches, but it seems to me that I cannot attend one without hearing at least one of two things: Baptists have cornered the market on doctrine and women should under no circumstances be leaders in the church.

I got to hear both at Redeeming Grace church Sunday morning.

The pastor based his sermon on John 16 and I will not mislead you by communicating that his sermon was about these two things. It was, rather, concerning how Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to guide us after his departure:

"12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

However, he was able to use this to keenly instill in an already aware congregation that women should not be leaders in the church. He also presented an interesting question: if Christ said the above, then how is it that we have different denominations? 

In my hearty discrimination, of course, what I heard was,"How can everyone else be so wrong when we are so obviously correct about anything and everything?"

I appreciated the fact that he admitted he didn't know the answer for sure, but I also have to note that I found some of his assertions contradictory. For instance, he stated that people who do not confess that the Bible is the inherent Word of God are not saved. I am probably one of those people. I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. However, I also believe that men wrote the Bible and are subject to the same scrutiny--did the Holy Spirit perfectly communicate to them? 

How is it that we are still convinced that women should not be leaders in the church? I suppose the better question in my mind would be, how are women on board with this idea? And can we stop blaming the desire to lead and instruct others on the feminist movement (which, of course, he did)? Women did not wake up to the possibility that they were worthy of basic human rights in the 1960's in America. That is the most dumbass, absurd, ignorant idea propagated by churches--that homosexuality and feminism somehow manifested in the last 100 years in America just to attack the church. I had a Liberty student tell me once that homosexuality had only really become prominent in the last 100 years in America. 

I was like,"Um, just a question--do you know where the word 'lesbian' comes from?" 

The best question may be, if there is a possibility that by having it wrong, an entire people group is restricted to responding to a call from God to leadership and authority in the church, why wouldn't you pursue a more gracious interpretation of a few passages in the Bible? 

But this line of thinking can be extended to any number of things and create a slippery slope into heresy. Of course. Danger lies within this reason. Do not enter. Do not pass go. Do NOT go in there....WOOO! (Ace Venture quote complimentary of High School days).

I did wait until the service was over and then I left. And upon attempting to shake off my offense, like so many times before I assented to the assumption that Baptist's intentions are good. They raise nice families in nice neighborhoods and earnestly desire to create a righteous heritage for their families and community.

The dictionary defines grace as "a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior." My Mom always told me it was often more important to be gracious than to be right. 

Perhaps that is the one redeeming quality she instilled in an otherwise demon possessed offspring. 

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry you have had such bad past experiences.