Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Church is a Safe Place for Awful Beliefs

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So I went to a church small group this week. And basically I want to know if I can be honest there, if people will accept me, if people will believe that I am a Christian.


I don't see how that could even be possible. Because we have such fundamentally different ideas of what church is, and what Christianity is.

Basically, for many evangelical Christians, the church is the one place they can go where people will encourage and support their prejudiced and unloving beliefs.

Say you're a Christian who opposes marriage equality. People will call you hateful, bigoted, homophobic. But you know you are not those things. You LOVE gay people! You just believe that the bible says people of the same gender aren't allowed to marry each other, and trans people don't exist.

You tell your friends, acquaintances, and coworkers that you believe marriage is just between one man and one woman, and they'll wonder what the heck is wrong with you. But you go to church and say it, and you'll find people who understand. They'll agree with you about how our society has lost its morals. They'll say "nowadays, people think that if you love someone, it means you agree with everything they do. But we have to speak the truth in love."

And I'm over here, looking for a church that accepts LGBT people 100%. No "we love you, but..." That's an impossible dream, I tell myself, maybe I can at least find a church that believes it's okay for Christians to have different views on this. Maybe I can at least find a church where people believe that my 100% acceptance of LGBT people is firmly rooted in my understanding of Jesus, the bible, God's love, etc, and has nothing to do with being "led astray by the world."

But how could that be? How could I be accepted in a church which is also considered to be a "safe place" for people to express their anti-LGBT views without being challenged?

Or we could look at sexism. Some Christians believe that a wife is supposed to submit to her husband; the husband is supposed to be the leader. And women shouldn't be allowed in the highest levels of church leadership. Because, the bible. You go out in public and say things like that, and people will be like "do you think it is the year 1950? Take your sexism and GTFO."

But you know you are not being sexist. You love women! You believe men and women are equal, but God made us for different roles. And it hurts that people would call you a misogynist when you're just trying to obey God.

So you go to church, and you find people who treat these issues as very important. They preach sermons on what wifely submission looks like in various situations. They have long discussions on the difference between "teaching" and "sharing." Maybe some of the church people don't think women should be barred from church leadership, but they still see your opinion as a legitimate view for a Christian to hold.

In Samantha Field's post, The Pitfalls of the Middle Ground, she says this:
At the church we left, by “compromising” on women in leadership, the flashing-neon-sign of a message they’re sending their congregation is that being misogynistic is an acceptable position that can be supported by Scripture. By embracing a false “middle ground,” they are implicitly endorsing a view of the Bible that subjugates women while simultaneously telling us that women are not important enough to fight for– or even take a damn stance for.
And I'm very sadly realizing, how could I expect anything different? How could Field have expected anything different? She assumed that caring about women would obviously be something very important for this church, but no. She believes that love and equality are central to the mission of the church, but members of her former church did not share that view. No, they saw the purpose of the church as providing a refuge for those who hold conservative, sexist interpretations of the bible.

In that same post (I totally recommend you go read the whole thing), Field says this:
The “middle ground” is nothing more but a retreat into fear. It’s the concession that something else is more important to you than defending oppressed and marginalized people.
And yes, OF COURSE something else is more important, in that church, than "defending oppressed and marginalized people". I believe that "defending oppressed and marginalized people" is the main point of Christianity, Field does too, and she believes it would be unacceptable for a church to NOT value "defending oppressed and marginalized people".

But for so many evangelical Christians, that's not the purpose of Christianity at all.

OF COURSE something is more important than "defending oppressed and marginalized people". That "something" is the bible- or rather, the correct, Real True Christian, conservative interpretation of the bible.

The church is a place Real True Christians can go where they won't have to defend their indefensible views. Where "because the bible" is seen as a legitimate argument, to support an opinion that has absolutely no basis in logic, reality, or love. Where people can empathize with how "the world" is misinterpreting your faithfulness to God and calling you "hateful."

The church is where you go to find people who affirm your belief that the bible is more important than the actual lives of actual people.

The church is a refuge for those who tie up heavy loads for others but are not willing to lift a finger to move them. The church is a safe place for those who shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. The church is a support system for people who give a tenth of their spices- mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law- justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

The church is a ministry for those who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. 

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