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I don’t want to go back to church.

I know I’ve said in the past that I did.  Or at least, that I wanted to want to.  But I don’t, not really.

My younger self would not have understood my present self in the slightest.  In fact, I think it is a remnant of my younger self that is the problem here.  You who know me or who have read my blog for any amount of time know that I was raised as a conservative Christian, that I went to Bible College and Seminary.  That I made faith my life until the last few years.  I never expected to not have faith be a full-time priority.  I mean, I used to teach Sunday School and a adult’s class for new believers.  I was basically the poster child for evangelical Christianity.

Except that I never quite fit in.  My feminist self was certainly not part of the deal.  Nor was my lesbian self (which, admittedly, did not come out until much after my abandonment of church).  I was not quiet or timid or submissive enough.  I never felt incomplete by myself (let alone without a man, ha).  For a time, I wanted and tried, desperately, to fit into the mold that was given to me based on the fact I was born with a vagina.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to fit that mold.

I resented being told I had to live a certain way based on gender.  And I hated that I wasn’t supposed to question things.  I hated that I wasn’t allowed to hate certain parts of the Bible, that I was supposed to just accept them as a good thing, even though there is no way they could be good.  Genocide?  Bigotry?  Misogyny? Patriarchal bullshit?  And so much more.  Theological points were sticky for me at times, too.  Early on in my academic career, I decided that I’d align myself more closely with neo-orthodoxy.  But even that isn’t where I am today.

I don’t miss going to church.  I miss the community, having easy access to friends.  I’m trying to find that in the queer community, and I think I’ll get there eventually.  But I don’t think I’m going to go back to church to find it.

I’m still not saying I don’t have some sort of faith.  I do.  It just looks so very different than I ever expected that I don’t know how to define it, or if it even needs to be defined.  Maybe it is okay that I don’t know where I am in regard to faith or where I’m going.

My life is not at all what I thought it would be.  But you know what?  It’s so much better than I could have ever dreamed.

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So I’ve been doing some thinking about church.

I’ve decided that I have to put forth a real effort to find one, and to actively engage with my faith.  The first part will mean that I try a new church every weekend (unless honest-to-goodness circumstances prevail).  The second part will mean that I get back into a habit of reading my bible and praying.  Even when I don’t feel like it.  (Which is always, lately.)

I just don’t believe that faith is something you do when you feel like it or when the notion strikes.  It’s a real, every day thing.  And I believe it wholeheartedly.  So why am I so unwilling?

I would still maintain that I have good reasons to sort of check-out.  But even if the reasons are good, they’re not good enough.  Right?  This doesn’t mean that I throw myself into a church with blinders on (heavens, no), but I have to try to get back to a healthy place, at least.

It sounds like so much work.  I remember when these things weren’t work, but delight.  I want them to be delight again.

While I know that I solely am responsible for my actions, I still hate that it has been my fellow (so-called) Christians that have brought me to this place.

Here’s to hoping.

I know one of my hopes for this year is getting on track faith-wise.  But does that necessitate church attendance?

I love how friendly everyone is at my current church.  But I do not love the theology (lack thereof).  My mind wanders freely during sermons.  I ache to hear a sermon that is based in good hermeneutics, rather than simple speculation from a cursory reading.  I want to be somewhere where I can interact with others about faith in ways that are meaningful.

I don’t know that I can attend a church that has an undercurrent of disrespect for women and a obvious disregard for homosexuality.  (This latter point is not from anything in a sermon–yet–but conversations I’ve had.)   And one that has a strong dislike of government assistance in any way–they are huge fans of the Dave Ramsey idea of accumulating wealth and being self-sufficient.  Side note: I hate this about most Christians lately–when did Jesus or his disciples ever preach about being self-sufficient?  Weren’t we supposed to help our fellow person?  When did Christians get so mean and stingy??  And since Christians have so sadly dropped the ball, I think it’s fitting that the government would step in.  Sometimes, you just need the extra help.  But I digress.

So to try to find a new church?  Again?  On the other hand… to not attend at all?  It is not for some guilt or compulsory reason that I would want to have a church, but a deep desire to be with others who are like-minded.  Hence the problem with this current church: we are not like-minded, and only have similarities on the uppermost level (identifying as Christians).  Why is it that I am so often more like-minded with those who do not identify as Christians?

It is just so… discouraging.

In matters of faith…  2012 was an awful year.  I could not wait for it to be over.  2013 was a little better, but I spent much of it trying to care again.  I want 2014 to be the year I can fully embrace my faith again–not just in private, but in public.  I want to fully participate with my local church body and be part of the universal Church in a way I haven’t for the past two years.  Little things give me hope: I’ve begun participating in musical worship at church again; I’m helping with their hospitality team; I’m considering attending a group (although might wait until the next go-round for better options?).  I’m attending church, and I’m enjoying attending.  But I’d like to start being disciplined again.  I want to be reading my Bible on a regular basis; I want to pray intentionally.

As always, I want to be more like Jesus.  I want compassion and caring.  I want to show love for my fellow human being.  I want to give the benefit of the doubt and to want the best for people.  I want to learn to reflect the heart of God.

I want this year to be a good year.

[Quick confession: I know I should be creative writing right now, not blogging, but I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and wanted to share.]

I went to a new church this last Sunday, as I mentioned.  (Side note: they sent me a $5 Safeway gift card in the mail!)  And one of the things the pastor said was that we should be listening to praise music more during the week.  He said that what goes in comes out, and I guess he has a point for that.  He also said that it didn’t matter if we liked it (I think he meant in comparison, not entirely).  He also mentioned that he likes secular music, too.  I think  his point is that secular shouldn’t be as steady a diet as, say, praise/worship music.

As it’s been so long since I listened to Christian music (except for rare occasions on my computer with my own preferences), I thought I might as well give his suggestion a try.  I usually listen to either country or pop in the car on the radio, but I’ve tuned to the local Christian station this week.

So far, I don’t hate it, but I’m not sure I like it, either.  I’ve tried singing along a bit, with songs that are familiar.  But I feel like a fake.  Of course, I don’t sing at church anymore, either.  If I’m feeling generous, I’ll stand up and not sing, but mostly I sit and don’t sing.  I’m not exactly sure why this is.  I can read my bible; I can talk theology; on occasion I pray.  But to sing to God?

I think I doubt the promises those songs speak of.  Even if in an academic sense I believe them, I haven’t seen them in my life the way that you supposedly do.  Or the way that I wanted, I guess.  And I am well aware that I’m not fulfilling my part of the bargain, so the whole thing feels like a sham in the end.

It’s not from a lack of desire; it’s from a lack of ability.  (Not speaking of faith in general; that is still mostly there.)  I guess I still haven’t recovered from realizing my ex-mentor is a lying, disgusting jerk, nor from finding out about being molested as a child, nor from everyone who has covered up for them or sided with them.  But without getting into all that again, the point is that I’m still broken, and I still don’t know how to recover.

I want to.  I just can’t.

I had one of those weeks… where you’re just angry… and it’s so frustrating.

I think a lot of it is that my folks have been gone on vacation, and I’ve had to do all those extra things that they normally do.  The biggest time sucker being that my sister doesn’t clean up after herself.  So I get home and there is a sink full of dishes.  And I wake up and there are more dishes.  And it’s not my mess.  She doesn’t contribute.  These are things that make me feel utter fear at the idea of ever being married.  Because thinking of the stereotypical guy, combined with societal gender expectations, who do you think the cleaning would fall to, regardless of work situations?  Me, the woman.  Screw that.

Anyway, it made me irrationally angry at times.  Or I’m just angry.  I’m not sure.  I think I broke one of our vacuums last night (unintentionally).  I’m not sure if it’s all the way broken or it just needs a little TLC.  But I was in no mood for it.

And the cats have ripped three holes in the bottom of my box springs and have enjoyed frolicking inside it.  Last night a friend suggested pinning a sheet on the bottom of it, so I am trying that, and I hope it is successful.  It’s so irritating that they’re ruining my stuff.  And in particular, I’m fairly certain it was my sister’s cat who created the holes, not that my cats aren’t above enjoying the destruction.  Damn cats.

And I’m lonely.  So entirely lonely.  I’m lucky if I manage to see or talk to one friend a week, and have often gone much longer than that without any significant interactions with friends.  And it is not for lack of trying on my part.  Although, I have recently decided that I’m done trying.  I’m not going to reach out to friends anymore–none of them–and maybe then I’ll feel better about being rejected.  Because I won’t be being actively rejected, just passively.  Which is always better, right?

God.  I just need to move and start over in a new area.  New friends.  New life.  New routines.  New, new, new!

I was thinking I’d try to go to church when I move.  Because I was feeling friendlier to communal faith again, but now I’m just not sure.  Maybe I should just give up and accept my fate as a lapsed Christian who lives a private faith.  I can get into heaven by the skin of my teeth, to quote whatever verse that is from whatever gospel it’s from.  If heaven even exists.  (That’s not anger speaking, that’s a true doubt.)

And my ex-work-crush (henceforth called “J”) is one of the kindest and caring guys I have met in a long time.  And I can’t help but think that if I had a good network of friends still, that I wouldn’t be so attracted to him.  Because I think one of the most attractive things about him is that he is kind and pays attention and enjoys my company.

So life is basically just discouraging at the moment, although I still have hope for the future.  if I can just find an apartment in a kind of bad part of town (i.e. where I can afford to live), then I’m set.  I just fear finding a place in my price range.

Damn you married folk who have two incomes. The only benefits I see to marriage are pragmatic.  Because I think I actually believe that the majority of people get married not because they don’t want to live without the specific person they married, but because they wanted to be married.  So they settled and compromised and got married to a person.  Not to any great love of their life, but to a warm body, essentially.

Perhaps I am just jaded.  J seems to think so.  But he has hope that eventually I’ll get better.

I think I’ve felt emotionally bruised lately.

I’m probably just lonely.

It’s hard when most (not all) of my close friends live far away.  We are simply not in each others’ lives like I wish we were.

The whole ex-work-crush thing was good in one respect over all: it really made me realize how much faith still matters to me.  To be honest, I was concerned that I didn’t care anymore, that there was nothing left in me to care.  I am gratified to know that it still is important and a vital part of my life.  That said, I’m still not ready to jump back in with both feet.  But I might be ready to stick a toe in.

The other main thing that made me realize I could never date a non-Christian was actually visioning the future with a Christian, seeing how different my life would be, and wanting it that way.  (Specifically, one person made me remember this inadvertently, but he does not know, nor should he, probably.)

Speaking so vaguely of the aforementioned person…  I can never tell if its him or the idea of him that I’m still attracted to.  And because of that, I can never tell if I should put myself out there in a real way or just let it be.  So I continue to do nothing.  But I miss having him in my life–we’re still friends, but never like we were.  He was comfortable.  He never took energy to be around (and for an introvert like me, that’s saying something).  He understood me in an inherent way.  And yet.

Today I posted an article on facebook about predator pastors.  I commented that it was almost exactly like my experience with my ex-mentor from bible college (minus the original attraction she described–my feelings were entirely platonic, as you well know).  But, oh my god, it felt like I was reading something I could have wrote.  I also felt bold about posting so publicly on facebook, where all of my college friends will know who I am talking about, even though I’ve never told them what happened.

Additionally, today I was again mourning being molested as a young child.  I fear physical intimacy as much as I desire it.  The only tool I have now is my knowledge, and I do not know how much that will end up helping.  I hope significantly.  But I really don’t know.  Again, I have to wonder how one gets over something they can’t remember consciously, but that their body remembers.

I don’t want to remember these things anymore.

I want to be well and whole.

I want to forget that it was the Church each time.  The Body of Christ, who should have protected me.

It’s no wonder my faith has turned inward.

I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.

I mean, I’m still a Christian.  I still believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.  My faith in the truth of the Gospel still stands strong.

But I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.

I don’t know how to associate myself with the Christian culture, nor am I sure I want to do so.  I don’t know how to interact with “normal” Christians, who haven’t been trained to interact with their faith in an academic way.  I don’t want to interact with the ones who are mean-spirited and close-minded.  I believe strongly in the integrity of the Biblical message, yet I am socially liberal in many ways.  I don’t know how to integrate this way of thinking into a church setting.

And I’m not sure I care.

————

Let’s talk about real stuff, in real ways.  Let’s stop answering every doubt or question with “You just need to pray about it.”  That is the most fucked-up answer you can give someone.  It’s not an answer at all.  It’s a superficial cop-out.

When I say I’m angry at the men who have wronged me in the past, I do not need anyone telling me I just need to pray more/harder about it.  God might be the healer, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to fix you overnight.  (Is this assumption another consequence of our microwave culture?)  When my friends have struggled with an aspect of their lives for most of their lives and have finally decided to embrace it as part of who they are, they do not need to be told to pray about it, in order to be “fixed.”

If I say I’m not sure I intend to date Christian men anymore, but would rather look for a person that I can be an actual partner with, I don’t need you to tell me to pray about it.  I need to be able to have genuine conversations about these things with like-minded people.  I need to be able to legitimately talk about the things that I am struggling to understand. I need it to be okay that I’m not sure.

One of my friends encouraged  me with the following: God is always faithful, always there, even though he (the friend) is not.  God doesn’t let us down, and surprisingly, lets us let him down.  Unconditional love.  His grace is fully there.  And his grace is still there, despite what path we walk.

So let me walk my path.  Let others walk theirs.  And don’t try to fix us.

 

I feel like something broke in me a few weeks ago.  And it just keeps breaking more and more.

But, unlike many times, this isn’t a good kind of breaking.  I’m not talking about when a wall breaks down or when our defenses break.  I’m talking about a belief in something or the capacity to believe in it.

And as much as I know, really know, not to base my faith on the humans around me who claim to have the same faith, I almost cannot help it at times.  So when I feel let down by every person around me who I previously did not think would/could let me down, there is a shift that occurs.  And when I read my Bible and realize the implications of my faith: that so many (the majority) of the world does not believe in what I believe is an exclusive faith, and thus will be reduced to the inevitability of hell, I wonder how it can be true.  I consider the attractiveness of a faith that leans toward or embraces universalism and open theism.  I wonder what I believe.

I find myself desiring more interactions with non-believers.  I want the freedom to consider ideas that I’m not allowed to consider within my faith.  I want the freedom to embrace that humans will let you down and have no higher calling which should, in many respects, help them avoid many of the ways they do let you down.

I’m tired of living in a world characterized by brokenness and with followers of Christ who remain just as broken, despite the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I’m tired of being broken myself.

And sometimes, I just can’t stand Christians.  The judgments, the duplicity, the refusal to be open and honest and real.  The holier-than-thou, the “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitudes.  I don’t want to be that, and I don’t want to be associated with it.

Part of this is the loneliness that I’m not sure I’m supposed to feel when I’m literally surrounded by those who are, in theory, supposed to be “brothers and sisters in Christ.”  If I’m part of a “family,” and my main social interactions are from seminary and church, why am I so alone?  Where are these people when I need them?

As I watch the rain come down, these are the questions I’m asking.  And I wonder if I will have any faith left by the time I am done here, or if I am merely grasping at straws for what isn’t actually there.

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