Recently on One Hand Clapping Julie Clawson wrote a piece celebrating the journey Mary found herself on beginning with the angelic announcement that she had been chosen by God. Julie’s post got me thinking about the journey I have been on for the past several years. It started as a mental health journey, took on some social political overtones and developed into a fairly drastic spiritual paradigm shift.
Had you asked me before this adventure started if I had any travel plans I would have told you no. I felt pretty stuck and had no idea that asking myself: what other than suicide might end the hopelessness, anger, pain, and self-pity I was stuck in? would actually have an answer.
I need to admit, my marriage was in serious danger during most of this journey but it wasn’t until last spring that I shared that fact with my husband. You see, I realized something I think I always knew but in a way that I could no longer force myself to ignore. I had been trying to turn myself into a false image and the God-given image I truly was had been fighting for her life for years. That is why it was so impossible for me to succeed. Who God was calling out of me and who I was trying to be “in the name of God” were/are considerably different people.
Honestly, I do not “blame” the Church. The sad reality is that in most places in America the Church is as sick as I was. Not only is Christ’s bride anemic, she needs a lung transplant (an infusion of the Holy Spirit), a pacemaker (an outpouring of the love of Christ), cataract surgery (new vision), and hearing aids (a desire to recognize even His whisper). She needs to quit being so afraid of her environment (the world) and start remembering who she married.
In my own life, I am finally realizing who I was becoming before my stupid choices damaged that person and I began living in a place of fear and self-loathing. Soon after I got married I developed my own brand of penance by continually trying to squeeze myself into the “good Christian wife” role the lies I believed had painted in my mind. Some of the lies were handed down to me by well intended Christian leaders, mentors, and friend. Most, however, I constructed for myself through a skewed reading of scripture and an over zealous religious spirit.
Now, when I am confronted by one of those lies, pretending to be the truth, an anger rises up in me that is difficult to control. Whether in my personal relationships or my ongoing exposure to Building-based Christian thinking I feel the need to not only resist but to protest. The result has been many of these posts.
I understand most conservative evangelicals see the emerging Church (and I use that term loosely) as watering down the gospel, wanting to stomp on tried and true doctrine, and not holding to scripture. It is a normal parent-child relationship. You can’t honor your Mother and Father if you don’t look, sound, and act just like them. The criticisms which indicate the Evangelicals’ real problem is: Emergers do not function like denominations (with statements of belief and a clearly delineated leadership) are telltale signs. This also explains why so many strawmen are built: those who would never in a million years include themselves in the emerging group–define the group, choose leaders for the group, explain what the group believes, and then wage war against the group so that they can feel like they are defending the faith. The irony is most emergers could be right there with them (on most doctrinal points) if those “strawmen” really existed.
I understand too that many, if not most, emergers have played the role of the rebellious teenager pretty well. In order to feel like we are truly independent adults, some of us have felt the need to throw the baby out with the bath water (which is sad in my opinion), and most of us (including myself) have been highly critical of our “elders” and what they do for a living (to carry the analogy a bit too far). And, while much of the criticism is legitimate, a fair portion of it could and should have been done with a whole lot more grace (AKA: tact). Some of us are emerging (leaving the Building) after having painfully worked to try to change the system from within, others (like myself) have been frustrated by an inability to fit into or find a place within the system from which to work. So, we are simply choosing a different route.
I believe the journeys most emergers are on do not take them away from their faith. Certainly this is true for me. Most of us, I believe, are actually trying to find a deeper expression of our faith, one we can grab onto, wrestle with, see in the walking out of our lives. Many of us are simply tired of having faith in a creative God sound so much like being a patriotic American or a finger-pointing Pharisee. I for one, prefer to look at what I have been doing right and keep doing it. But, I also want to be willing to look at what I have done wrong and quit. I get that because I am no longer “in the building” my confessions about what I have done wrong can come across as finger-pointing. But the truth is I am still part of the Church–capital C. I still belong to Christ. As painful as it can be to try and tell my brother, “wake-up” it is even more painful to hear from my brother, “Go to hell.”