I’ve been struggling to come up with something to write about for this week’s blog. The truth is that it hasn’t been the easiest week. Sad things have been happening at our church back in Minnesota, and a lot of people we really care about are hurting. And I wish there was something I could do or say to make it better, but there’s not. I feel helpless. And helplessness is not a feeling I deal with well.
The last time I attended a service at the church I grew up in, it was toward the end of my senior year of high school. I walked out just a handful of minutes into the sermon, after I listened to the pastor take a passage of scripture out of context, remove a piece of the middle of passage that further changed the meaning, and twist what remained to fit his message. Despite the fact that I went off to a small, conservative Bible college that fall, I could probably count the number of times I went to church while I was in college without using all of my fingers.
A few months after my partner and I started dating, something (I’m not really sure what it was, looking back) prompted us to look for a church together. I suggested we try the UCC near my apartment. I’d gone on my own a couple of times in college, and was impressed by how welcoming they were; I hadn’t gone back since because I just wasn’t ready to give church a try again at that point. We ended up finding a wonderful community at that church. Our experiences there slowly rebuilt my faith in the idea that church could be a nurturing place…a place of safety and acceptance. It was everything that church, in an ideal world, was supposed to be.
I guess that was ultimately the problem: this isn’t an ideal world. I’m not going to go into details because I don’t know or understand everything that has happened in recent months, but suffice it to say that things that have happened in the past week have gone a long way in destroying that rebuilt faith in church as a safe space. I’ve been rather abruptly brought back to the reality that there are people who claim the same religion I can’t quite let go of who think that not only is there not currently a place for me in their places of worship, but that there shouldn’t be space for me there. Those people probably exist in every denomination of every major faith…even in the ones that are normally seen as progressive. And that hurts.
Even though I have more-or-less been functionally agnostic for several years now, I have always been at least nominally Christian, and there are large pieces of the Christian faith that I want to be able to hang onto. But even though it goes against everything I personally believe about God or Christ, it’s hard for me to kick the notion that Christianity doesn’t want me around. It makes me wonder whether all the time and effort I’ve put into wrestling with what and why and how I believe has been worth it, really.
Because, see, I want to believe in a God who creates people in the image of the Divine, and that this means that all people have value simply because they are human, and humanity reflects the boundless possibility of the Universe. I want to believe in a God who is love incarnate. I want to believe in a God who is bigger than I can comprehend.
But the God I see in religious settings looks an awful lot like a bigger, meaner, more condemning version of the people who think my existence is a mistake, that my “lifestyle choices” mean that I’m bound for eternal damnation. And I just can’t believe that the power behind the universe is a bully. I won’t believe that.
If someone’s faith is reassuring them that they’re right and everyone else is wrong, that they have a place at the party when it’s all said and done and the people they don’t like will burn forever…I want to say I feel sorry for them. Because that would be the decent thing to feel.
But mostly, they make me angry.