Sunday, April 19, 2009

Disrespectful But With a Smile

I'm just gonna say this upfront - I reserve the right to vent on my own blog.

That said . . . . what the frickin' hell!?

I'm serious! I mean, really, how in the world can straight "professing Christians" smile with arrogance and then slap me in the face and think that they are doing the Lord's "good work"? I probably shouldn't say "Christians" because some of the people there were cool. It's more like this particular pastor of A Village Community here in Long Beach.

I literally wiped my feet on the mat, not before entering this "house of worship" but rather AS I LEFT this place.

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." - Matthew 10:14

All through the service I kept mentally shaking my head at the things I was hearing . . . .

The whole service was about asking questions. People were asked to text message their questions. The pastor even started off with talking about "us having a conversation with each other." But instead of a discussion about the value of having questions or that we sometimes ask the wrong questions or what are the right kind of questions or at the very least having a discussion about the question - like I suppose I was expecting from this kind of a topic - instead, the pastor read off a question, answered it himself, then read off another question, then answered it himself, then read off another question, then answered it himself.....blah blah blah.

I mean seriously, who does he think he is that he's got all the answers according to his worldview?

And here's the kicker. After reading off a question that said, 'Does God love believers more than He does unbelievers?' he arrogantly and resolutely "ANSWERED" with an emphatic "YES".

Seriously. He said that there is scriptural evidence to suggest that God chooses some and does not choose others and that He loves some and does not love others. Seriously.

Now, yes, there's context to this whole thing. But that's still the bottom line of what he was saying. And I'm not saying that I don't believe in a distinction between "God's people". I understand that as well as the "setting apart" of them. But in this discussion about "questions" I was absolutely dumbfounded that it didn't even occur to this pastor or anyone else that perhaps that was the WRONG question to ask. I mean, really, do you really want to talk about how God loves some people but not other people? Was that the "message from God" for today?

It didn't even occur to him that perhaps the better question to ask instead of 'Does God love believers MORE than He does unbelivers?' but rather would have been better to ask 'How does God want me to love both believers AND unbelievers?' That would have been a question God would answer. I mean, how many times did Jesus NOT answer a stupid question? SO MANY times! Why? Because people asked the wrong question.

But no. Instead of reframing the question, he stayed on that direction to go on and on about God's sovereignty to love whomever He chooses and to NOT love whomever He chooses. Why, did this pastor say? So that the ones He chooses to love could FULLY APPRECIATE the love. So that the ones He chooses to love could see the contrast. Seriously. He spoke about an exclusive love. No empathy or compassion for those outside of God's love. Just that those whom God chooses to love should appreciate being chosen.

I also wondered why the pastor wasn't coming up to me to shake my hand or welcome me during the entire service - particularly since there was literally 12 people in the room and there was a 'say hello to your neighbor' time and also two times where everyone broke up into tiny groups to discuss stuff. There were times when he could have said hello. I wondered if he recognized me because we had met once or twice YEARS ago while I was with that faith-based non-profit that I co-founded. But maybe he didn't recognize me. Yet still he chose not to greet or welcome the obvious ONLY newcomer.

At the close of the service, he prayed a prayer of just accepting truth in faith. Um, the truth that HE just presented? Without question? Without doubt? The prayer was to accept it even when it was hard to accept. His answers. His truth. His interpretation. His worldview. I seriously thought this, but during the prayer it really felt like it was a brainwashing. But this wasn't a cult out in some remote ranch. This was a church just like most in the city.

So then after the service when everything was done and over with, he walked up to me saying my name, 'Eric, you remember we met before.' And I was completely friendly and saying that it was good to see him and he asked a couple probing questions about what I was doing now. I told him about Catalyst Community and I told him about the Green Long Beach! Festival and that some from his church were having a booth and selling T-shirts. I told him about some of the good things we're doing in the community. I didn't say anything gay-related.

He wasn't interested in what I was doing now though. He wanted to probe because he had thought I was a pastor. I told him that I encouraged some communities of gay Christians to feel supported because there are so many that want to worship but are being rejected out of their own congregations. But no I said I wasn't a pastor. And in that context of conversation, he began to say what he really wanted to say which was that he wanted to make it CLEAR that they were not an "affirming" congregation.

(And in my head, I'm thinking why is this relevant? I didn't bring up the gay thing, he did. And if he didn't know me before this, he wouldn't have even known that I was gay.)

Really? I'm here visiting your church and was actually looking for a place to start going to regularly and the welcome sales pitch is to make it CLEAR that they were not a place that thinks "gay" is okay. Really? And after me telling you that there are SO MANY CHRISTIANS who are gay that WANT TO WORSHIP JESUS but are being REJECTED out of their OWN CONGREGATIONS, you feel it necessary to talk about the gay pride parade and how there are churches in the parade that are affirming of "the lifestyle" and there are churches on the side that are holding picket signs and yelling "burn," and you want to tell me that your church represents "neither" but that you want to make it CLEAR that "we are not affirming"? Really? That's what you want to tell me?

And after saying these things to me, he started saying with a smile, "That's my main concern. I wanted to make that clear." After he said that a couple times, I thought it was odd. It seemed out of context. So I inquired, "wait, sooooo, what's your CONCERN?" I asked genuinely with a 'I don't get it' tone. I wasn't saying anything about anything gay regarding me and this congregation. And he said, "well the festival. If we're going to have a booth, I wanted to make it CLEAR that we're not affirming." So I was like, "but the festival is a GREEN festival. You know, GREEN as in, the environment? The festival is about encouraging people about sustainability and how to use energy efficiently and to talk about recycling." And he was like, "oh."

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49

Who's the Sodomite?

So now as I think back to the lack of welcome and the lack of eye contact and the messages that God loves the believer and NOT the unbeliever and the closing prayer to accept the truth and the intentional effort to make it CLEAR (his words) that they were not an affirming church . . . . I get the sense that it was all because he did recognize me right from the beginning. Remember, there were only 12 people present. I was clearly the newcomer.

After he realized that I was helping to organize logistics for a GREEN festival, he said his goodbyes to me, stepped back and away to assemble his post-church service meeting (which was actually a debrief of their 'outreach project').

I said my friendly goodbyes to the folks I met, started shaking my head and wiped my feet at the front door as I LEFT them.

What a freakin' arrogant hypocrite.

So I drove home just pissed and angry and mad at how disrespectful he was but with a smile. I'm SURE he has NO CLUE as to how offensive he was. And I'm SURE he has NO CLUE as to how he hurt me and his own witness.

By the time I got home, still mad, the first thing I saw when I turned on the television was the ending speech from Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers For Bobby" (see below) and by the time she hugged her son/that kid at the side of the parade I was literally balling my eyes out just crying like really really heavy tears.

I mean, seriously, why can't I just go to a church service with other people that love Jesus and not leave feeling worse than I did when I arrived? (And no, maybe I don't want to always go to a church where the congregation are mostly gay.)

As far as I've gone on this journey, I'm still surprised at how this still affects me the way it does. I still take it very personally, the Church's rejection of gay people, because my own story of suicide is very real and relevant to me. And I was the one who gave THEM a chance. I freakin' allowed myself, yet one more time, to go into a place knowing that these freakin' Christians might freakin' hurt me freakin' again. AGAIN! It still affects me profoundly and as strong as I think I am, they still freakin' make me cry every time.

Damn it.




Break the cycle of hurt. Go to www.TwoWorldCollision.com.

7 comments:

Earl said...

This was a hard one to read. It made me very angry but I was also very saddened by it. Such an unloving attitude from a supposed man of God! This is what has kept me from running back to a congregation after 4 years away from one. I am tired of the BS!!!! We have to take a really close look at Jesus- that is why we're supposed to be called Christians!!! Too many churches do as the pharisees and chief priests and not as Christ did!! Lord, give us patience and endurance as well as boldness to keep proclaiming our place in the Kingdom.

((hugz)) little bro. God is for us still, even though He is not always represented well by His people.

Thom Poochigian said...

Dear Eric,

What I see mostly from your posting is your heart to see God's people be welcoming and loving to others no matter who they are. You want people to see in you the value that God sees in you. I see the value and I pray that God will give those people the eyes to see and the ears to hear and a heart of flesh not stone. I can also pray that his ministry will only be taken away from him until he is about to follow the greatest command - to love God and love others maybe he is driven by his fears rather than being motivated by the love of God To me that is the biggest tragedy - that he is not living the abundant life God want for the world. Blessings Bro!

PGMT said...

Wow, Eric, I hadn't read that post when I replied to your message. I am so ashamed by this people. I know the type, and organization I used to be close to said things like: "of one hundred souls we are interested in the one hundred" But then, when you actually went to spread the Good News to everybody they would tell you some were not worthy.

I am sure that Jesus was crying there, alongside with you, sharing with you the pain and sadness you felt about what this people are doing "in the name of Him"

Brian said...

Dear Eric,

I just wanted to write and say how sorry I am that this happened, and that stuff like this is SO frickin common in our churches.

This is not what Jesus was about.

It bothers me that disagreement on this issue makes people feel free to treat others like crap. I mean, we come down on different sides of the homosexuality conversation, but to me that is far less of a theological difference than say the distorted calvinist nonsense this pastor was spouting in his message.

It bothers me that evangelicals will gladly partner with churches that use the most horrible Word of Faith teachings in ways that hurt and cheat people...but if someone happens to disagree on this issue, the is NO room at all to treat them respectfully, or call them brothers.

It hurts me to see a brother reach out again and again, only to be slapped down.

It's not right. It makes me angry.

And I respect the heck out of you for keeping on trying.

Much Love

Brian

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric!

I am so so sorry!!! I was crying at the end of this post. I just do not understand, and I never will. I am just sad that when people thinks of a "Christian", that man is who they think of!

I think he should read my article!:)

Just know you are loved more than you will ever know by Jesus and the people who are striving to be like HIM!!!

Love ya

Becky

somist said...

hi Eric,

Just wanted to say I found your blog off "Beyond Ex-Gay" and thought I'd give it a good look. I'm a transwoman who has had to somehow find a way to walk through my own faith and my transgender background, and in many ways it's very similar to what you seem to be trying to do.

My experience in churches is similar to what you describe here -- the old-style faith groups still view the pastor as the authority figure who imparts God's wisdom, there is no such thing as a dialog. It's funny that they can try to seem "cool and fresh" by using technology, but they don't really understand how to use it in context of a new way to think about things. So it's just the same-old same-old assumptions of how church should work, glossed over with fancy tech (e.g., "texting the pastor questions" -- he didn't see it as an opportunity to REALLY take advantage of the medium or approach things differently).

I also found the church unnecessarily divisive. My sister (evangelical) and I had discussions where out of the blue she felt the need to tell that she didn't "approve of my church" (I had started attending an MCC congregation since I wasn't accepted or didn't feel accepted elsewhere at the time)... and I was just left thinking, "I disagreed with your politics and beliefs for yours but never made it an issue worth throwing into conversations with you." I don't really think they understand how divisive their thinking and approach is, creating unnecessary rifts in the name of creating distinction, nor how they might be excluded if others would treat them similarly.

It's hard, I still love "my people" and want to be involved in those communities, but I get wounded a lot in the interaction; it helps now that I have found myself and feel secure in God as who I am, and honestly my faith now is stronger than it ever was when I was trying to allow the church to fit me into a false box. Looking at things as "gay/trans evil lifestyle" vs "straight/godly lifestyle" is a false dichotomy, I think.

Anyway thanks for sharing yourself so publicly with everyone.

~ Jen

shapenotesinger said...

Eric,

I've not visited your site in a while, but this post just pierces the heart. Having been in a denomination that felt it had all the answers and having felt like one of those answermen, seeing it played out from the other side, now that I've been away from that for 15 years, is jarring and disheartening.

We had a minister much like this man in years gone by ( thankfully, long gone! ). His nickname among other ministers in the denomination was "the Hun." Needless to say, love and compassion were not high on his list. Now I look back and wonder what drove me to think that was acceptable to God. Was it low self-esteem, fear of judgment, fear of uncertainty, and just plain fear? Probably something of all of these. It makes me examine myself when I'm reminded from whence I've journeyed. I'm not there yet, but thank God I'm not stuck in the past either.

You're in my thoughts and prayers, Eric. ((hugs))

Bill aka Gur Tus