Back in June I posted about Divorce. Not of the marital type, but of a distancing yourself from something you held near and dear. I have been struggling for a while with my decision to stay away from the church we attended, I agonize over the fact that we should be in church on Sunday morning worshipping God. We disagree over 'where' we should attempt to attend, having visited a number of churches in this immediate area we have found that the 'political' atmosphere is almost the same and palpable....something I feel has no place in a house of worship. Maybe if I delineate my concerns, something will ring out, show me what should be done.....or maybe someone reading this will contact me and give me some form of idea just what is going on. I really wish I knew.
Here are my 'grievances' with the church we attended. Some may seem petty, and I'll grant that, but when coupled with the others, it snowballs and make me uncomfortable to sit in the pew on Sunday knowing what I know, and what I'm expected to do, and somehow I can't quite wrap my head around how what they want is related to what Jesus wants me to do.
Let's start with the obvious: Politics
1. A member of the denomination decided to run for county-wide political office. This person was employed by the denominational camp and at the main headquarters. Now this unto itself is not the problem, but what I have a problem with is that each 'visit' to different churches was used as a campaign stump and fundraising. He lived in denomination-owned property, was receiving a denominational paycheck which was funded from church coffers. If this person wanted to run for office, he should have been self-supporting, not having the monies I put in the plate on Sunday funding his political ambitions.
2. A member of the local congregation ran for a state office. No experience, but 'God told him'. The church newsletter 'encouraged' support and votes for him. The assistant pastor took him thru the polling place (a no-no if you're on the ticket and are not casting your vote)and had him shaking hands with those waiting for the voting booth. When questioned, the pastor in question said that 'he was member of the church and could go where he wanted in the building' Also this candidate was white, his opponent black. Comments made regarding this even tho the opponent was an experienced and learned man....this wasn't even touched on.
3. Sunday school classes are used to push a political agenda. Middle school and high school kids are told to question their parents if they aren't registered in 'God's Own Party'. The adult classes definitely lean towards 'you are out of the will of God if you don't vote for a particular party'. Also, extreme views of other parties taught, in that if I am a registered Democrat, don't let me around pregnant women as I will FORCE them to undergo abortions......when not all support it nor encourage it. Questioning this will get you 'rebuked'. Most kids are espousing political viewpoints and when asked 'why they believe this' they say 'Because God said so'.
4. A relative of one of the local congregation ran for local office. Facebook was used to drum up a write in candidacy for him. It was used to encourage non-registered voters to fudge information and write in a provisional vote. Also, it was encouraged that if you lived outside the voting district to 'use an address' of a congregant that DID live in the area affected, and again write in a provisional vote. It wasn't 'supported' by the church to do this, but the Facebook page was manned and updated by congregants and it wasn't 'dissuaded'. Isn't this voter fraud?
Next Point: Feelings of Not Being Wanted/Only Needed for Certain Things
1. Do you ever feel that 'you' are not wanted, but your certifications are? I attened a Bible College for four years, my husband was a Boy Scout Chaplain for 20 years. In both our work and volunteer activities, we both had child abuse and federal abuse clearances done. We have been asked to be 'non-teachers' in classes, to be removed when others can be certified. Realize that some of these 'teachers' we have to be the 'designated clearance' for are middle school kids. Also, when we volunteered for something we knew we could do, we never got so much as a 'thanks, but no thanks.' We would, however, get calls at the last minute for grunt work....'we need the flower bed cleaned for tomorrow' 'can you paint a room' 'we need the kitchen cleaned' at the last minute. Gee, make us feel like the hired help and less than someone else. A sore spot also was seeing people 'come to Jesus, join the church and in less time than it takes to shake a stick, they are given positions of authority. Not saying these people may not have special gifts, but it made being passed over more evident.
Next Point: I make a point of referencing the choir, but I know it is endemic in other areas as well, but an undercurrent of disjunction or power-plays, etc.
1. When I participated in the choir we had a leader who had the voice of an angel, she sang from her heart and she genuinely cared for you and the music she wanted you to sing. She was a consumate professional who taught music. Unfortunately for us, God decided the heavenly choir needed her more and took her home way too soon for us. I think the beginning of the end of my love for this church came with her memorial.....in this predominately white church the comment was made at the end of the memorial 'well at least we won't have to sing anymore n*gger music anymore'. Our director was an African American woman who didn't look at your color but at the heart...the comment was made by an elder in the church. HOW.....COULD....HE. This broke my heart.
2. Everything suggested by the next director was questioned, from the type of music to why we had to stand up and sing. Machinations about 'who should do this' and 'I could do it better' was made. None stepped up when the position was open, but tried everything in their power to undercut the leader. Decimated one, stressing her to a breaking point. When I left, the same was attempted to be done to the next.
These were the most prevalent...here are a numerical listing of other issues I ran into:
1. Young men's Bible Study led by very, very ultra-conservative men. Main emphasis seems to be anti-homosexual. Prayed for the family of an overdose and went to great pains over 'how it could happen, and what a great guy he had been' but when a 13 year old killed himself after being labelled 'gay' and bullied, it was remarked, 'good, one less of THEM to deal with'. James Dobson's take on homosexuality as being deserving of capital punishment is an 'okay' theme in these meetings.
2. Fundraising. When a youth group or number of kids want to do something and raise funds to do it, it is said that 'we can't ask the community to support church activities'. That's fine if it's equally handled. When a wife of a church official wanted to do the same thing, not only was it 'okay' but the congregation, including those who were told no in the past were expected to hop on the bandwagon.
3. Participation in outside activities discouraged. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, etc. Told that energies should be directed toward the church only.
4. Prayer List. The church has a running prayer list. Call or email to have people listed for prayer. I contacted them with a request for the daughter of a dear friend's neighbor. I had known of this girl for a number of years and knew of her struggle with cancer. I had personally asked for prayer for her on numerous occassions in the past in group settings. When the end was near, I asked for prayer for her to have a peaceful 'homegoing'. I get a terse note from an assistant pastor telling me that 'we pray for our own'. Now this is the same person who will put out an email asking for prayer for his neighbor's son's co-worker's kid's classmate's uncle's co-worker's ex-wife's ingrown toenail. What gives? Shouldn't we lift ALL who ask for prayer up to the throne of God?
5. We have not darkened that doorway on Sunday morning since the Novemeber elections that put our current president in office. Has anyone called asking 'hey, what's up?' 'How are you?' But I can get emails and calls telling so and so is sick and needs a meal (I was on the hospitality/shut in list) but no one even bothered to ask how we were, were we sick, injured, etc. The last straw for me was January 2011. FBD is Type 1 Diabetic, and she had a really bad incident. To say really bad is an understatement...she spent 4 days in ICU and could have died....I got a call to feed a family of four whose dad had just had 'outpatient surgery' on his foot. Gee, mom and the two teenaged kids were JUST FINE, but I needed to cook for them, let's see, I'll fit it in that two hours I left the hospital to shower. My daughter is judged because she goes to a Catholic college (more on that later) but it was a Friar and members of her college who came and prayed for her...the church she grew up in didn't want to know from her.
6. Mission Trips: Labelled as service projects, but the service is often lacking, due to people wandering off to 'evangelize'. Evangelization is good, but if you don't follow thru with what you promised to do, how effective is the message you try to deliver. Also, the trips seem 'racially' charged....do we really want to help 'those people' in Haiti and NOLA? Need is need, people! Also, it seems that more and more people who go on missions trips come back complaining how 'un-american' the people were....well, duh, we are supposed to bring the message of Christ, not how to be American.
7. Last but not least, we were told basically 'we were the only ones who saw these things as a problem'. I know of others who left this church as well, only one who I spoke to. This person voiced similar concerns.
What do you think people? Am I over-reacting? Is this something I should overlook and return to fellowshipping here? Should I shake off the doldrums and actively look for other venues of worship? How far would you travel for fellowship? Inquiring minds ya know.
There are other issues with this church that stem around my eldest daughter that poisoned my views. They are too intense and personal to go into at this time, realize that the hospital incident is only the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, though, input is welcome.