A chance meeting with a friend yesterday, which would not have happened had I been sticking to my preferred schedule, was, unbeknownst to him, an answered prayer (more on that later). For now, I’d like to take a moment here (we’re a little less than halfway through this “series” from what I can tell right now) to thank those of you who have expressed both sadness and empathy for me. On one level it makes me upset that the Church (and even Scripture) has so many victims; still, it’s invaluable to hear “you’re not alone,” at least for me personally. It may feel like “not enough” if all you can say is “I’m sorry and me too,” but say it anyway. I think solidarity – which is the fancy word for not being alone and knowing it – is how the world changes and how voices that need to be heard are.
My unwillingness to commit to a church is not something I can totally put on the church. Nor can I wholly blame seminary. I was so excited about the small groups and the mentors each first-year student were assigned (they claimed with much prayer and consideration) that it was all the more painful when neither of those worked at all for me. I’m wary and weary of things seeming to work for others and not for me but that tiredness, and the suspicion born of it, is on my side of the fence, to say nothing of my perceptions of other people’s lives! To expect a church to be awesome enough to win me over isn’t any different than this late-capitalism, consumerism-tinged culture that is obliterating some 200 species a day and making us addicted, alone and insane. To expect the Church to be the Church, though, is not me “having high standards;” though even if it were, I wouldn’t apologize for that, either.
That we live in a society where it’s inconvenient to treat people well and as the miracles of God they are is something I’m deeply sorry about but not something I’m going to apologize for wanting to change. That we have a church where we’d rather uproot and make a new denomination than work out our differences (that is what Protestantism has become, after all, though that is not how it started) than stay with these people we call “family” is even more upsetting. I suppose that, given that context, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the response to my church situation, especially of the elders and leaders. It almost feels like they did – maybe subconsciously – a cost/benefit analysis and decided it wasn’t a big deal to lose me as opposed to what they might have had to lose were they to stand up to the power as opposed to for power (more on this later).
That whole ‘least, last, lost’ thing is very difficult to do. So difficult, in fact, that it’s easy to throw out when something you care about may be on the line. But I was surprised. I was surprised that people who call themselves Christian leaders abandoned someone who could veritably be called “least” (that’s what victims are, and that’s how they’re treated by church and culture alike), that they apparently believed I was enough of a monster to intentionally attempt to dismantle the church (as one rumor spreader “warned” about me)…or at least sufficiently difficult to not even try to pursue or follow up with. After all, 99 sheep are enough, right?
It’s been pointed out that I’m difficult to relate to, which I fully admit is true. Does my difficulty relating to others matter? Either way, though, does Jesus give an ‘out’ for people who are experiencing others as ‘difficult’? “Being difficult” – the phrase itself – can imply a level of intentionality that is not there (as the rumor spreader did to me), which excuses others from looking deeper into what exactly is difficult and why. There may be – and generally are – very good explanations for someone’s “difficult” behavior – when it is truly the other person “being difficult.” Not everything is excusable even if it does have an explanation, of course, but does someone being “difficult” justify treating someone poorly, especially if you’re a follower of Christ?