Monday, January 18, 2010

Foot-n-Mouth At Church . . . Once Again

I'm still thinking about this issue of self-denial in Christianity.

Meanwhile, I stuck my foot in my mouth again at church yesterday. Our pastor sometimes ask questions during his sermon and he really wants people in the congregation to shout out answers.

Yesterday he was talking about the biggest mistake people make when they go through crisis . . . they stop going to church.

Then he asked, "So what happens when people in crisis do come to church?"

In reflex, without even thinking, I shouted out, "They are blamed."

The pastor was stunned and the congregation silent. "Oh no." Was his response. "That's the answer we don't want to hear. No . . . when people, who are in crisis, comes to church they are part of the body, protected and loved."

I have to say that the pastor and I are on the exact same page when it comes to ideals. What he said is what "Should" happen. But then I look around at the congregation. I think of one family who were key, and who no longer come because they are going through some very rough things that they want kept secret. Then I think of a couple more couples who have serious problems going on . . . but they would never, ever mention within the doors of our church.

I do remember too when I was an elder going on visitation with the chief elder at the time. I was assigned the job of praying while the chief elder did the talking. We went to a couple's home who had disappeared from church for months. The elder (who is the pastor's right hand man) started to lecture the couple on why they should be in church and how God wants them there and by not going they are disappointing God. I wanted to scream! I wanted to be their friend and ask them how their lives were going. If I had been given the speaking role, I would never have brought up the issue that they had not been in church, unless they did first. I wanted them to know that they were loved and church attendance was not an issue for me. I have the feeling that a private crisis in their lives is what kept them away, but we will never know.

3 comments:

Teresa said...

ah, blame. i totally agree with your comment, but my blood runs cold when i imagine saying it aloud. in church, i mean. of course that kind of honesty is a GOOD thing, but i'm a bit of a coward. do you mind if i use your forum to vent?

this past sunday was our annual "sanctity of life" service. i'd forgotten, so i went. every year i swear "i'll remember next time", and every year, i forget.

having it on the calendar ensures that we will be intentional about addressing the sin of abortion, in case we may have neglected to make the church's position clear during the rest of the year. (i've never felt we were in any danger there.) the message always focuses on what an abomination it is, and on the selfishness of those who engage in it, and then ends with a reminder that God loves the sinner, and even those who have killed babies can find redemption. fine. but i often wonder about those who HAVE found redemption, who yet have to suffer this same beating year after year. i also think it's interesting that we always hear from broken women still struggling with decisions they'd made years earlier, and these testimonies are always "anonymous"...either a letter found online or in a magazine, or a video produced by a "pro-life" group. i don't know of anyone in our congregation (of about 800) who has ever acknowledged being party to an abortion. and why should they? i'm sure we'd love to hear about it, so we can mourn together, and feel good about ourselves for being so accepting. but do we actually want people to move on? or are we going to continue to judge them whenever we suspect they're drinking too much of joy, and not enough of shame?

anyway, this week's sermon proposed that we are as guilty as the israelites were when they made child sacrifices to molech and other canaanite gods. aborted children today are also given over to idols - the idols of convenience, reputation and money. our pastor (and i like him) lambasted mothers who are too concerned about what others think to welcome the gifts God has provided. ha. is that the attitude we take? he neglected to point out that it is primarily RELIGIOUS people who attach such a stigma to single parenthood. we all bear a measure of guilt.

MJ said...

Teresa,

I don’t know if there is much to add from what you’ve said. Yes, while many of us are pro-life, the whole question and issue seems to have been (erroneously) separated from the flow of human sin, as a “special sin” . . . a political hot potato and litmus test of a degenerate society (along with gay marriage etc.) To support that paradigm (of how awful the sin is) the Evangelicals have often promoted it as the, psychologically-unpardonable sin.

They tell stories of women who had abortions in college, but now, 40 years later, grieve ever time they see a baby.

But sin is sin. If the blood of Christ can’t wash away the act of abortion . . . completely . . . then it can’t wash away the white lie I told in kindergarten, nor the ones I tell every day even now. If these women continue beating themselves up over and over, and having ownership of “permanent psychological damage” (and some in the prolife side celebrate this permanent damage because it proves their point that it is a hideous sin) then something is wrong here.

The church well-versed (pun intended) in using guilt manipulation to get people to do certain things . . . attend more church often, vote a certain way, give more money. Maybe guilt manipulation is the real unpardonable sin. There is something about a millstone around the neck. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Yes, while many of us are pro-life, the whole question and issue seems to have been (erroneously) separated from the flow of human sin, as a “special sin”...

There are actually three Litmus Tests on the Official Christian Hate List:
1) Abortion
2) Evolution
3) Homosexuality
Any time anything suggesting one of these three comes up, the Celebrity Deathmatch begins.
To. The. Death.