Sunday, October 3, 2010

Digging up Ghosts



I probably shouldn't be writing this at all at the moment for a variety of reasons. The last of which is that when I got home from work tonight, I had a note in my mailbox from my neighbor lady complaining about my deck. I haven't taken all the plants off for the season, so I guess it looks messy. (Sorry, but I do have other matters to attend to that are a bit more pressing, and the weather has not been very cooperative when I do have the time.)

The other reason is that I have had A LOT of stuff on my mind for the past few weeks, that has been stressing me out. But I also think it will help if I get some of it down in a post...kind of a healthy way of venting. At least I hope so.

The biggest issue that I have been wrestling with for this time concerns a Sunday School class that I am supposed to start teaching next week. They made the announcement this morning, so I guess I have no choice. But the fact of the matter is that I am scared stiff, and extremely nervous about the whole thing...and this morning I figured out why.

But first, to illustrate what I am about to print, here's a tune for y'all.



So anyway, I have a confession to make: "I don't like Christians."


I suppose that that is a rather odd statement to make considering I am one. But for the most part, it's true. Most people who call themselves a "Christian" tend to really bug me. Most of what passes for Christianity in the U.S. really gets under my skin.

I believe in all the major tenets of historic, orthodox Christianity. Jesus never ceases to amaze me, and I love him more than life. But most of the people who call themselves his followers really bother me.


A True Story:
Only a small handful of people know my full background on this issue. I'm not going to barf it all up on this blog, but I've dropped more than a few Freudian Slips about my story. Along time ago I was a Youth Director at some local churches. I got my Masters of Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary. I figured that eventually I would become a pastor.

Well...

The last church that I worked at...which shall remain nameless...was such a disaster for me that it caused me to really go on a tare for quite some time. The fact is that I still have numerous scars that are healing. In fact, it dawned on me this morning how much healing still needs to happen.

Suffice it to say that this particular church had all of the right head-knowledge. Their theology was spot on as far as safe, Evangelical issues were concerned. In fact, from an outsiders perspective, everything was hunky-dory. (Apparently, it was hunky-dory for most of the insiders, too.)

The problem was that the head pastor, who left right before I got there, had been having an adulterous affair for a long time with a church member. In the process of leaving he tried to tear the whole body down with him. I was hired under false pretenses. I thought I was supposed to be a youth director. Instead, what they hired me for was to be a tap dancer in a mine field. The long-term members of that body chose me as the recipient of their wrath & pain.

For many years after that, I wanted nothing to do with Christians. I still believed that what Jesus said about himself were true. I had enough head-knowledge, and had thought long, critically & logically about whether or not Christianity was true. It was. It IS. But at that point, I certainly didn't believe in Christians. Every negative stereotype that you can think of was shown to me to be absolutely true.

(I still can't drive past that place without hoping that the entire building burns down, and those people are forced to go elsewhere.)

Long story some what short, years later I was drawn back. God is faithful even when we have our heads lodged deeply up our exit door.


I realized this morning how deeply affected I still am from that experience. I was speaking with the wife of one of the Elders. She made a comment about the evils of the "Emerging Church" movement. My gut reaction was a defensive posture, because what she said triggered some negative memories of comments people at that other church used to make about people who approached Jesus from outside the politically correct box that American Evangelicalism has made for ourselves.

It also, LITERALLY, caused me to worry about this blog. Maybe I should ditch it. I mean, if you look to the right, you'll see a whole bunch of blogs I peek through from time to time that are all apart of that, so-called, evil emergent movement. Many of those folks have influenced me in my spiritual growth. AND in fact, I can attest that it was Rob Bell (Apparently one of the Emergent giants...even though he rejects that label.) himself who really caused me to hunger and thirst for a deeper knowledge and relationship with Jesus.

Worse then then that, I have links to secular blogs!

Possibly the most evil of all is that I like the Bio-Logos forum. These folks are Christians in the fields of science, philosophy and theology who understand that the three Creation stories of Genesis are NOT to be taken literally. (To some people who call themselves "Christians," that is enough for them to judge you...in this case ME, as being worse than being a non-believer.)
So should I dump the blog for the time being? I don't know.


It's always interesting to me to hear other talk. Every single one of us has our own subtle definitions of words & terms that are based upon our personal experiences. The very term "Correct Theology" causes me to see red flags, simply due to my experiences from that evil church. (I probably shouldn't link the word, "Evil," to that place. But I can't seem to help myself.)

So what's going to happen in class if I use a word or a phrase that I think is completely benign, but causes someone else to see red flags? To be blunt, Christians are masters at being offended. They are extremely good at holding onto concepts that are largely irrelevant to the day-to-day business of picking up your cross and following Jesus into his kingdom. I have seen Christians absolutely livid over the idea that someone would not agree %100 with the ideas of John Calvin, but then turn around and gossip about the neighbor they are supposed to love.

In fact, as far as Christians in the U.S. are concerned, I have seen that we make the best cannibals on the planet. We love to eat each other. Sad to say that if you study church history, almost as soon as Christianity became legal, Christians began to persecute and kill others who called themselves Christians.

So, for these past two weeks, I guess my subconscious has been wondering if it is my turn as full course meal. Will my take on Jesus' sermon on the mount be enough to have people tearing me apart as soon as my back is turned? It may sound silly to you all, but this is a big fear of mine. It's happened to me before.

The fact is that there are some very influential leaders and thinker in my particular denomination who consider themselves to be the arbiters of all theological truths. I know that there are folks at Living Waters who are heavily influenced by them. I have watched what folks at Bethlehem Baptist do to others who don't buy into hyper-reformed theology hook, line & sinker. (And it doesn't look much like something Jesus would do.)

Am I next?


Strange how after all this time I still have these ghosts that follow me around. I have scars that only my soul seems to see, and it has made me feel them again. I fear that someone will scratch at them in the name of their version of orthodoxy, and that I will lose my temper and respond harshly.

It's so odd that for the first 15-20 years of the church, they didn't even have any of the New Testament to create a systematic theology. All they had was a passionate & burning love for that Jesus guy who they believed had died for their sins, was resurrected, and would someday come back for them.

Those poor folks had to wait almost 2000 years before they could claim that Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, John Piper, Rick Warren, and so on, were all heretics who's theology was not the proper one to fit into someone else's proper box.

What happens to a guy like me that doesn't seem to fit into any box, because I like many of the ideas of these thinkers even when they don't see eye-to-eye with each other on many issues?

How much digging in the dirt do I have to do before I can exercise the last of these painful ghost?

I dunno.


I do know that I'm tired. I can only imagine the dreams I'll have as my subconscious continues to work this out.

"Digging in the dirt,
to find the places I got hurt."

Peace

Joe

2 comments:

  1. That is some powerful soul searching and excellently honest writing.

    Please don't stop blogging. If you have to go underground for the sake of appeasing others then at least email me the super-secret hidden handshake link.

    I don't like Christians either but they kind of come with the territory. I will be praying for you in this new ministry endeavor!

    Daemon

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  2. I really hope you do not stop blogging. I appreciate your honesty and I have gained wisdom through your words.

    We are in our third church since adopting two children from the foster care system who were traumatized, prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol and who have been diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). Once when our son was 4 years old he was hauled out of his Sunday school class clinging to his teacher's leg and crying as the class behind him sang "Jesus Loves Me". (I thought that was rather ironic.) The teacher turned him over to us saying that he would not sit still or sing.

    Another teacher once marched the entire class out behind her so she could talk to us and they could see that our son was not going to get away with what he was doing (again, not sitting still).

    Both of these events took place before our son was even in first grade.

    Our homestudy for adoption had listed our church as the place we would find our primary support as we raised our children but it did not turn out that way. My husband told me repeatedly, "We follow Christ, not Christians" but it was still very hurtful.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly.

    ~Kari

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