Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Angry but Trying to Sin Not

Warning: today’s post will be a little long. Also ranty. Consider yourself warned, but I need to get this out of my system.

While we were in Louisiana last week, we visited my husband’s older brother, S., and his wife, D. They are wonderful, generous people and I wish we could see more of them.

While we were chatting, they mentioned that they had found a new church that they really like. I was happy for them, because they have been looking for a church for almost a year. Things didn’t work out so well with the last church they attended.

When they were engaged, they decided to start attending somewhere together, and started with one that belonged to the denomination in which S. and Justin were raised. At first, everything was wonderful. The pastor was super-friendly, they joined a small group and became good friends with the group members, often eating and hanging out at each other’s houses. When S. and D. got married on a tiny budget, the group members helped provide decorations and cake. When S. was struggling to get his mortgage business started, the pastor asked around and one of the wealthy men in the church co-signed on a line of credit for him. It all seemed like one big happy family.

Then a problem arose. The problem was that a child molester was attending their church.* Not only attending, but teaching Sunday School. D. was a teacher in the same class the man was assigned to, and since she is a survivor of sexual abuse, the thought of being in the same room with this man, much less letting him teach young children, induced a panic that she could not endure. Not only that, but the man lived across the street from where they were living at the time, and she was scared to let her little girl play outside.

S. went to see the pastor to ask him to do something about the situation. If I had to guess, I’d say S. probably thought the pastor would say, “Oh no, I had no idea! Thank you for letting me know and I’ll tell him we can’t allow him to teach Sunday School any more.”

Instead the pastor got angry at S. Not only did he already know, but he certainly would not offend this man and his wife by asking them to step down. Didn’t S. believe in the grace of God? That behavior was part of the man’s past, the pastor said, and it was unfair to judge him for it now. (Apparently the pastor had never heard how hard it is to rehabilitate a sex offender.)

The implication was clear: if S. and D. didn’t accept the pastor’s decision, they were unwelcome.

So they left. What else could they do?

Now this is the part of the story I wanted to get to (I had to include the first part because it makes me so CRAZY MAD at that idiotic pastor). Now that S. and D. are no longer attending that church, its members shun them when they run into each other in public. No “hi” or anything from the people they spent three years of their lives with. Just turning aside and walking away. One of the girls in the church worked for them, and when she found out they’d left the church, she quit.

Because of course it is in the Bible that thou shalt attend the same church as your boss, or you will be cast into the fiery flames of perdition. It’s right here in…wait, I know it has to be in here somewhere…oh, right, it's NOT.

Great. Another example of “if you don’t believe exactly like I do, to the point of fashioning yourself into my clone, then you don’t believe in the Jesus I know.”**

Aaaarrrrrgggghhh. This kind of thing makes me want to scream myself hoarse. As Heather said recently about some of her hate mail, “Thank you, Agnes, for proving once and for all that religious fanatics aren’t total douchebags.” (Sarcasm intended.)

I’m just thankful that S. and D. are smart and mature enough to know that not all Christians and not all churches are like that one, and they kept looking instead of quitting in disgust. Still, this kind of stupid in-fighting among believers is common enough that it, and not love, is the way non-believers identify us. And I for one and sick and tired of it.

I’m angry that people who might have been influenced by me are turned off by any mention of my Christianity because of what church people did to them. I can still love the nonbelievers—I don’t have to shove the gospel down their throats--but my mission is made so much harder by the intolerant bigots who got there before me.


*Of course they didn’t rely on rumors for this information. Public records disclosed that the man had been indicted on 21 counts of child sexual abuse.

**In the interest of fairness, I should note that in all likelihood, the church people probably don’t know why S. and D. left. They are not “siding” with the child molester (I hope to all that’s holy.) No, they’re just hating on them for finding another church: “How dare those infidels not declare our church HOLY and PERFECT IN GOD’S EYES!”

5 comments:

  1. You've read my blog, so you know my thoughts about organized religion and such. But I never thought about how frustrating it must be for good, kind, decent Christians, when they hear people who don't go to church describe terrible things that were done or said to them by other Christians. I guess it's kind of how I feel about the skanks on "Rock Of Love". It really rankles me that they they are representing womankind.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me a different perspective.

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  2. This makes me so angry and frustrated. How can one church deem themselves superior to another? How can one judge someone for not going to the same church as they attend? The person who quit because they no longer attended the same church? It's like they have lost their minds! When attending church, thinking for yourself is still a required skill folks! Just because someone doesn't mold themselves after you or your church, doesn't make them inferior to you.

    (ok, sorry, maybe a little ranty here)

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  3. I hope (or maybe not) that the church's wealthy parishoners will back them when they get sued. Not that I don't believe in the grace of God, but I also believe in removing yourself from temptation, which this guy obviously isn't doing. Absolutely unbelievable.

    And as for the members of the church, that part doesn't really make me quite as angry. Maybe it's because in a jaded way, I almost expect that from hardline (insert denomination name here).

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  4. I'm surprised it's even legal for that man to be working with children. Isn't that normally a condition of parole?

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