Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Take to the world this love, this hope, this faith

This entry is just laying the groundwork for the next one.

I'm tired of what I grew up in and I'm tried of where I went. I'm needing to find a happy medium, part 1.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church committed to evangelism in the old school way of knocking on doors simply to talk about Jesus. I don't recall hearing much of the Gospel preached (certain passages me strike me when they come up in the lectionary because I don't recall sermons on them) or really even a lot of what I'd consider Good News. I remember a lot of rules and legalism concerning salvation. And I remember a lot of working to persuade people (yea, manipulate them) to "pray that prayer" where "once saved, always saved." There was a lot about Jesus, but not a lot about the Trinity other than saying we believed in it. These are all my experiences. I'm sure someone who was there and older while I was there might have better memory, but this is what I remember, so it's what occurred most frequently to stick in my mind. Salvation, as I recall, was being saved from Sin and going to heaven. If you were really saved (if you meant it when you prayed that prayer), you'd start "living right" and doing what Jesus wanted you to do (which meant adhering to a purity code of selectively literal passages of mostly the Epistles). And you were supposed to invite people to church and tell them about Jesus and try to get them saved, too. There was a lot of emotion: fear tactics to scare the hell out of people ("What if you died on the way home tonight? Would you spend eternity in hell?", judgment houses, tribulation trails) and ratcheting up emotion in general to just get people in a state of frenzy...and then manipulating them to make a decision. And I got tired of it and found other ways to practice my faith.

And I got bitter about it (and really still am, somewhat, but more of that later). There are times that I look back and wonder how (and thank God) that I stayed a Christian. I could've easily just gone to church because I had to, but could've gone through the motions loathing it all, but I didn't. And I think that was grace in action: being formed and used and transformed by the community of believers where I found myself. I found somewhere different. I changed denominations and I went to college, and I was introduced to something very new from what I'd known: social justice. The idea that rather than merely knocking on doors, we were supposed to be writing congress people - not (just) to outlaw abortion, but to end war; not just to keep gays from getting married, but to feed people who couldn't eat. Micah 6.8. Magnificat. Luke 4. These were things that seemed totally new to me and I'd never heard them applied the way they were being applied. I was in love. We did local missions for people who needed stuff done like wheelchair ramps. We picked topics for advocacy and advocated and tried to recruit others to advocate with us. And we made amazing community.

And I grew as a person. I remember when I was working at Lime Springs how bent out of shape I was about what we sang every week, never from The United Methodist Hymnal and told my mom, "All we sing are songs about dying and going to heaven!" And she replied, "Isn't that the point of our faith?" or something to that effect and I wanted to shout, "NO! WE'RE IN THE WORLD TO WORK FOR ITS BETTERMENT, to build God's reign here and now, not live our lives 'saving souls' and then waiting for Jesus to make everything better after the rapture and the tribulation!" But I didn't. I felt like it would be pointless. And I remember being at an Easter service very different from the Easter Vigil I'd attended earlier that morning. I don't remember hearing anything about Easter in my second service; it was a Good Friday service, all about death and blood. In my notes from the sermon I was really snarky, actually...and then I worshipped there later. And I didn't like a lot of the sermon. Or much to any of it. But in that space, with the songs I have a nostalgic attachment to (but hate the theology of), but saw and heard Good News to the people in that assembly. God was there and I'm not going to say She wasn't. My experience in college was my experience, and I grew from it in a lot of very good ways.

But I don't really remember us talking a lot about salvation at my college experience. I know that some of those people there are going to read it, and I don't want them to think that I'm dissatisfied with what I had there. I love those peopled and love the time that I spent there, so y'all don't get your feelings hurt. But over the last few months, I've developed a longing for something more yet, and I'm going to talk about that in the next entry (or two), and I hope that I can convey what I'm thinking/feeling and hope that people can get me and maybe get something out of my ramblings...

1 comment:

  1. Lucky indeed, to have found your way out of that kind of church. My parents left the Southern Baptist Church after their church refused to baptize a dying man because he was too weak for full immersion. They wound up in the Episcopal church and they are (and I am!) very grateful for that. Many of my friends, however, grew up in the same type of situation, and now more have than have not left the church for good. Many of those who stayed have lost the joy from their religion. That to me is truly tragic.