Friday, February 17, 2017
Leaving the Church to Find God Again
I recently left my church. It was a church that my family had not only attended for years, but a church that we were very involved in. I was a church that was, for many years, our second family.
It was painful to leave, absolutely painful. I felt the fissure with all of my being. It left a hole in my life in so many ways.
I left because our pastor made it clear that he discriminates against and does not welcome the LGBTQ community. I left because I own my priviledge. As a heterosexual white woman, I own that I could continue to go there. I easily could. My privilege means that I could attend nearly any church in my country and be welcomed. I know that not every person has this same privilege, that many would not feel comfortable or welcomed sitting in the pew that my family sat in every sunday.
However, doing what is easy is not what I have learned from the teachings of Jesus. Standing up for the oppressed is what I have learned from those teaching, teachings that I fear my recently former church has forgotten.
If I continued to attend, I feel strongly that my silence and continued attendance would make me a party to the discrimination and hate. Likely, no one will notice my empty seat at that church. I will, however. And, I will continue to use my Sunday mornings to grow my mind and use my dollars to assist organizations that help the oppressed instead of funneling them into a church that discriminates. I know that Jesus would approve. He, after all, is who first taught me all about standing up for and helping the oppressed
I should have left that church many years ago when, after I made a Facebook post condemning the direction of our youth programs, I was called and chastised by the pastor and told that I have no right to condemn "his church". He then called my husband into a meeting without me and told him to "get his wife under control" as if I was a subservient 1940's housewife. I should have left when my refugee clients who live down the street from the church told me that they were rudely turned away when they asked for help. I should have left when others that spoke against the actions of our pastor were told to leave. There were many times that I should have owned that this church wasn't the place for me.
Nothing is black and white, however. That church is full of so many truly good people, people who have been very good friends to my family. That church does do good in the community(selectively). It is where my children attended preschool and sunday school, where they were baptized and given their first bibles. It is a church full of memories for me.
However, being a Christian isn't about making the easy decisions. Many others were horrified about much that has happened and they made the easy decision to stay. I chose to make the harder decision and leave a church that I loved in order to stand up to what I believe is directly against the teachings of Jesus Christ, who stood up for the oppressed and asked that we join Him in doing so, who asked that we not throw stones and love them instead.
Now months later, I can tell you that I still mourn being able to attend that church on sundays. I mourn the days when I believed that the members of that church, my second family, would stand against wrongs against humanity. It may seem trite to mourn a church, but I do.
However, I can tell you without a doubt that it was the right decision. My faith has grown by leaps and bounds. I feel closer to God then ever before.
I left my church and, in leaving, found the strong faith that had been shrouded underneath the rote motions of attending a church and hearing the same sermons over and over again. I was reminded that my faith has called me to action, not passivity.
Sometimes I wonder who now sits in that pew now, the pew that held my family most Sunday mornings for years. The pew two rows from the back. The pew where I sang with my family, tried to keep my children quiet so that they didn't disrupt the service(a futile process, as any parent knows), the pew from which we interacted with people that we weren't related to by blood, but considered family.
Today we teach our children about Jesus from our own pew- our living room couch. We remind them that true Chistianity isn't about showing up to church on Sunday, although that can be a valuable tool for many. True Christianity is about the good we do in the world everyday, about loving those around us and standing up against oppression of our brothers and sisters. I admit that there were times in my past when I believed that putting my body in a pew each week was enough. It never was. I know better now. When we know better, we do better.
I left my church and have found God again.