(Note: The poem I’m about to share with you is not directed at any particular church or ministry group. This is in response to several issues I’ve encountered in a handful of different churches and groups over the years. My intention is not to slander anyone but to be honest about the fact that I have been seriously bruised by many people in many different circles. My intention is to express the truth that our words and actions can affect others in extremely negative ways.)
When you stop going to church after ten years,
people ask you, “Why did YOU stop?”
“What are YOU doing to stop this format from working?”
It’s you, you, you
They expect you to answer THEIR questions,
not turn the tables and ask any of your own
I went from being afraid to ask questions
to not having anything but questions:
“Where are you when people need you?”
“Why do you scare people into eradicating healthy boundaries?”
“Why do you question my integrity when you have no reason to do so and when you know full well I have every reason to question yours?”
“Why do you care more about being right than about unity and connection?”
“Why do you assume I’m worthless just because I’m an introvert?”
The list could go on and on!
A good rule for writing is to write about things that scare you, especially when they don’t scare anyone else.
It scares me that no one has been able or willing to answer my questions.
More than that, it scares me that this doesn’t scare anyone else.
I’ve mentioned before that my spirituality has undergone some major evolution especially in the past few months. I am getting asked more and more questions about what Messianism is, and what my “version” of Messianism looks like. I’m also getting a lot of questions about why I’m done with church involvement for the forseeable future.
The short answer to why I’m not going to church is, I have been wounded by churches just as much as I have been encouraged and supported by them, if not more so. In the nine and a half years that I have been a Christian, I have belonged to four different churches. At three out of the four, I was on the receiving end of what I now realize to be unhealthy behavior and, in some cases, all-out spiritual abuse. (Spiritual abuse is a topic that deserves its own post, if not multiple posts. More on that another time.)
I know that not all churches are unhealthy environments, and that there can be unhealthy people in an otherwise healthy church. If you are happy with the church you’re at, that’s great! I’m not forcing you to leave. But for me right now, I am much healthier not attending church than I was in the last couple years of my church attendance. I am still a Christian in the theological sense of the word, but I am trying to figure out what that is supposed to look like. I say “I” but my husband has been searching along with me.
Last year when I became exploring Judaism and Messianism, I noticed some important differences between those traditions and mainstream Christianity. A big difference was the fact that Judaism provides a much more holistic way of looking at things. During the past couple years, I’ve gotten the message that self-care is synonymous with selfish, so it’s sinful. I held onto destructive relationships much longer than I should have, because I reasoned that it would be selfish to do otherwise. Mainstream Christianity has no regard for the Old Testament, which has a lot of common-sense wisdom for navigating tricky life situations, especially in Proverbs. The Jews and Messianic believers I know have a lot more self-confidence and take much better care of themselves than many Christians I know. I wanted that. No, that’s not putting it strongly enough. I realized I needed that if I was going to stop being exhausted by life.
I was going to write more about what Messianism looks like for me, and how I practice it in my daily life, but that could get pretty lengthy, so I think I will put it into another post.
Have a good weekend, everyone!
Until a few years ago, I didn’t watch or read the news regularly. When I was a teenager, I decided it wasn’t worth knowing what was going on because it was all so depressing. (This was right after the U.S. invaded Iraq.) When I was out of college, I decided it was important to know what was going on, but I still didn’t like watching or reading the news because my opinions on politics are so all-over-the-board that I don’t really identify with a specific party. I was also sick of all the bickering that ensues whenever there’s some major hoopla going on.
So I avoided the issues.
I’m starting to realize that avoidance is my main MO and it’s causing a lot of needless suffering. (More on this in another post.) So rather than avoid issues because other people can’t talk about them respectfully, I am going to take the plunge and talk about a current issue as constructively as I know how. If other people can’t discuss this rationally, that’s their funeral.
I’m going to be honest: I see both sides of the current immigration issue. I absolutely believe that everyone should be treated with decency and respect, whether they are here “legally” or not. It’s rude to refer to someone as an “illegal.” The conditions in deportment centers are an abomination. I’m not arguing with any of those points. But that being said, I’m not sure allowing them to stay is a viable solution, and I’m saying this from a humanitarian standpoint. If they can’t obtain citizenship or resident alien status, isn’t that going to drastically limit their options for the future? And the U.S. isn’t exactly in the best financial shape right now. How can we care for all these people when we’re not doing a great job of taking are of ourselves? These questions don’t have easy answers, but they’re still important questions to ask, and I wish more people weren’t afraid to discuss these questions honestly and respectfully.
I’ve been reading Elizabeth Esther’s blog, http://www.elizabethesther.com/ for awhile. (Sorry I couldn’t do a shortened link. Technical difficulties, and I’m worked up enough about this issue that I wasn’t about to try to fight with the darn computer.) She wrote about how beauty and color are helping her heal from PTSD. I had gotten into a mindset where I was afraid to spend money on anything enjoyable or colorful because I was afraid of getting more lectures about how there are starving children in Africa who need my money. (Side note: While it’s absolutely true that there are starving children in Africa, why is that all anyone ever talks about? There are starving children in the U.S., people!) Now I know that there are things we can reasonably do to help those children, and depriving myself of what I need to heal is not one of them. Forbidding myself to paint my nails or hang decorations on my walls is not going to help. Sponsoring children is much more effective and I don’t have to kill my soul to do it.
One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”
This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do what we can to address the issue of poverty. But it’s a complex, systemtic problem that can’t be fixed overnight, and if service is more important than people, then we have a serious problem.
I haven’t written in a week because I don’t really know what to say that won’t just be adding to all the noise. People at my old church are still being extremely immature over the whole church politics blow-up. (For the record, I don’t look at it as I left that church. That church chose to leave me.) I’m at a point in my spirituality where I can’t be in a church without having a panic attack, for a number of reasons. People are still biting each other’s heads off over the whole Hobby Lobby thing. The U.S. is having a humanitarian aid crisis as unaccompanied minors are fleeing their native countries in droves. Things are getting crazy over in Israel, to put it mildly.
I have strong opinions about all these issues, as well as a lot of honest questions, and I feel like that’s not allowed because it’s not the easy way out of this. But the thing is, there is no “out”. I live in the U.S., so there is no escaping any ramifications of the Hobby Lobby case or the myriad of complex issues surrounding the immigration/humanitarian crisis. I know people who are in Israel right now, experiencing all that horror firsthand. Right now, my heart feels like it’s not going to survive any of this.
I don’t have a strong point or some kind of miraculous conclusion about all this other than I am very sad and angry and I’m sick of trying to keep it inside. Anyone who’s played a role in other people keeping this kind of stuff inside should be ashamed of themselves.
Many people are taken aback when they find out I had/am recovering from an eating disorder. I don’t fit the “usual” stereotype. I didn’t get into it because I wanted to look like a model. I was rather tomboy-ish as a teenager and didn’t give a flying squirrel about looking a certain way. I had a pretty decent head on my shoulders about those things. So from an outsider’s perspective, it makes no sense that someone like me developed an eating disorder. Now I realize that that’s probably why it took so long for people to wake up and smell the stinkweeds and realize that’s what I had.
It starts to make a little more sense when you look at it from the standpoint of apology. For me, anorexia was one big apology. I quit eating, not because I wanted to look like a model but because I felt like I had to apologize for taking up space and oxygen. I felt the need to apologize for being born with a strong personality. I felt the need to apologize for being a book-a-holic. (That may not seem like something to apologize for, but you wouldn’t believe the insults I’ve gotten for that.) When I got older and started thinking about career choices, I felt like I had to apologize for the fact that offices scare me and I’d rather die than work in one.
It’s a complete myth that only people who are unhappy with their outsides develop an eating disorder. I was indifferent about the outside but hated the inside with a passion. I don’t mean to imply that it’s never about appearance, because for some people it absolutely is. But to say it’s only about that is simplistic and offensive.
I’m pretty much fresh out of (nice) things to say to people who think eating disorders are all about the outside.
The social media world has been pretty heated these past few months. A church I had been involved with for a few years wound up in a church politics situation that got very ugly. I didn’t mind that people were discussing the situation; discussion can be healthy. But grown adults were acting like junior high kids. Now the internet is abuzz with people praising and opposing the whole situation with Hobby Lobby. (Google it if you’re not in the loop. I’m too frustrated and worn out to get into it here.) As social media gets more accessible and more user-friendly, we’re taking “freedom of speech” to new heights, to put it mildly.
I had a particular situation awhile back where I posted a blog entry and someone I was friends with at the time wrote an extremely inappropriate comment. This person had crossed the line between disagreement and hate speech. I could not leave that comment on the internet with a clear conscience, so I deleted it and wrote a message to my friend explaining why I had to do so. He wrote back that this wasn’t the first time a blog or group administrator had removed his posts, and why couldn’t anyone stand to hear from someone with a different viewpoint? Well, after hearing more about what was going on in his personal life at the time, I realized he had some serious character issues that had nothing to do with me or anyone else, and it had everything to do with him.
I’m going to say that part again: The internet was not to blame for his behavior. The internet cannot be responsible for hate speech any more than bricks can be responsible for the construction of death camps. What he wrote was a reflection of what was already in his heart.
I’ve read a lot of articles and posts pertaining to the recent Hobby Lobby kerfuffle. My absolute favorite actually opposes my personal viewpoint of the situation. It’s my favorite because the author is not out to slander anyone but is sharing her viewpoint in a well-articulated, gracious manner, and I don’t feel like she would wish me ill if she knew I respectfully disagreed. She used the internet positively because she is a woman of excellent character.
Who we are off-line is who we are going to be online. The internet doesn’t slander people. People slander people.