Loving Church


Since I was 19 or so, the church has been a hugely important part of my life, so when church isn’t going well, it wrecks me a little bit. It’s probably the equivalent of family not going well for someone else, partly because I’m a single woman living in a city without family, and partly because I’ve known the church’s potential for both good and evil. I’ve lived my life in the church, intimately connected… I’ve served, attended, hosted and led Bible studies, prayed corporately, eaten dinners, and sang together with the church… it’s hard to describe how much my sense of community and security is attached to the church, regardless of which church I attend or who is a part of that community.

My current church is not wrecking me.

With all of the rest of my life in an uproar – moving towards selling my house, taking the LSAT, looking for scholarships for Law School, losing friends, being without roommate Kendra, etc… – the church is an enormous comfort to me.

I’ve been attending Midtown Church for something like two ish (maybe three ish) years. When I landed there, it was after a long stretch of feeling like there might not be a church in the entire city of Tucson that was a good fit.

I’m a firm believer that churches are broken, and no one should expect to find the perfect church, but I’m also a firm believer that there are a few foundational elements that have to be right, and I feel completely blessed to be at a church where those foundational elements are right.

Midtown Church is prepping to merge with another church. Having been through a failed merge previously that sort of thrashed me around in the waves, you’d think I’d be worried, but it’s really nice that I’m not even remotely stirred up over it.

In large part, I’m not worried because I don’t feel like it’s my job to make it work. There’s a wonderful freedom in knowing that there’s someone else whose job it is to make it work, who is well-equipped to make it work. I’ve always struggled with finding the sweet-spot of church involvement, oscillating between over-involvement and under-involvement, but right now, I’m running a nice, sustainable pace.

I think about Mike sometimes (he was my pastor during the previous merge), and I feel a raging sadness at him, because he wasn’t ready, but couldn’t let go of it enough for anyone to help him. I’ve learned from watching my adoptive parents, my cousin, and Mike how difficult it really is to be a pastor. I have a great respect for the position. And as Brandon, Kira, and I were talking about the merge a few months ago, I realized how much peace I feel in entrusting myself to my current pastor.

Strong, humble leadership is a gift of unmeasurable worth

Thoughts and Prayers Ring Hollow in the Presence of a Corpse


John Scalzi wrote a blog post in response to Orlando, and his basic thesis was that it’s not enough to offer thoughts and prayers after the fact. He cited Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:21-23, and even though I’m fairly certain he labels himself as something other than a Christian, I thought his point was right on.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to post on Facebook that your thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and families affected by tragedy, but I do feel a grating on my nerves every time I see one of those posts.

I had my first Victim Services call where I was in the presence of a corpse. It was a man who had gone out in his backyard to garden and whatnot, and instead, he ended up collapsing face-first and dying there in his yard. By the time his wife found him, ants were crawling on him and the blood had settled into his front half and toward the ground.

I stood with the deceased’s brother-in-law while law enforcement checked the body for personal items.

It was a humbling experience.

As I stood there, I prayed. I always pray when I go out on calls, because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God hears me even though the people around me don’t hear me. So don’t take this the wrong way, but my prayers would have been hollow if I hadn’t also been there. If I hadn’t stopped what I was doing and gone there.

Right? What if I had received the call, decided there wasn’t anything I could do to be of help, and just posted on Facebook, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family of the man who died in his backyard…”?

If I posted that, you’d think I’m a lunatic. You’d probably be like, “Wtf?”

And yet, that’s what we do with tragedy. We (by we, I mean Christians… not all Christians, but a lot of us) are conspicuously uninvolved when it comes to the broken world around us. We offer our thoughts and prayers, and then we go about the business of living.

I’m feeling particularly stirred up about this right at the moment, because it has been non-stop questions and weird comments since I started volunteering with Victim Services.

Why did you decide to do that? I’m so sorry you had to see that.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to know why… I think they thought they were asking me why I chose Victim Services rather than something else, but it took me a long time to think of it that way. I honestly thought they were asking me a question with a self-evident answer: I decided to do it because it’s good to help people.

That’s honestly the only answer I have. I didn’t exactly choose it over something else. There wasn’t a profound epiphany or a message from God. There was an opportunity to help others. Roommate Kendra had been talking about it, and I thought I was probably capable of doing it, so I decided to do it.

I don’t believe helping people is a choice. I believe it’s an ethical mandate. I believe it’s about saying yes when an opportunity is in front of you, rather than sidestepping it and hoping for something that’s a little less daunting. I don’t think the Good Samaritan just happened to find exactly the opportunity he was looking for; I think he was walking along and came across someone who needed help. Well… I was walking along and my roommate told me about people who need help.

It’s not about Victim Services; it’s about being what we pretend to be. I can write a status update that says, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Orlando,” or I can take an extra shift on the crisis unit and I can donate blood.

As far as saying things like, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” or “I’m sorry you experienced that…” I’m sort of at a loss. You’re sorry I had to see… the brokenness of the world, up-close? You’re sorry I had to experience being there for someone who’d experienced great loss? I just…

Volunteering for Victim Services isn’t an unveiling of the world for me. There are calls that haunt me, for sure, but the world is as it always was. People are sinful and they wound each other. People die. Limiting my interaction with tragedy to New York Times articles and status updates doesn’t change the world… it doesn’t help anyone. It honestly doesn’t even help me sleep better or feel safe.

I stood next to a stranger this weekend and talked to him while his brother in law laid in the sun under a tarp. We talked about all of the losses he’d seen in his life. We talked about God, family, history… we talked. And a police officer went through pockets and struggled to get jewelry off of hot, swollen fingers and a swollen wrist. The stranger I was talking to was there because that’s what he could offer his sister, the spouse of the deceased; he could stand outside in the 115 degree heat while she cried inside. I was there because that’s what I could offer them both; I could stand in the heat and talk so that this stranger didn’t have to be alone when law enforcement put the rings, wrist watch, and pocket contents of a beloved corpse into his hands.

I hope and pray that when tragedy strikes me you will offer more than a Facebook post.

The Oh-so-Desirable Man on Christmas Eve


*Names have been changed, though I suspect those of you who will enjoy this post the most know exactly who I’m writing about.

I’ve known Aaron for quite awhile.

In fact, my strongest memories of him involve the many times I told Jacqueline that he wasn’t worth pining after. I’m fairly certain I even went so far as to call him an idiot, in the hope of jolting her out of liking him. And yet… the heart wants what the heart wants, so she went after him with the enthusiasm of lonely youth.

He didn’t really say no to her. He just said, “I’m a coward.”

And she kept pining until someone else came along.

That’s why this conversation on Christmas Eve was so funny.

I gave Aaron the obligatory hug, and asked what he’s doing with his life. We hadn’t seen each other in at least a year, if not longer.

“I’m a grown-up now, with a grown-up job and everything.”

Aaron is in his late twenties, I believe, and used to wreak of brooding depression and self-loathing when he shamefully admitted to still living with his parents and working entry-level, part-time jobs. Now, there’s something about his posture and his silly sweater-vest/tie combo that wreaks more of douche-baggery.

“Oh, really? Congratulations!” I said. “What sort of grown-up job do you have?”

“Oh I’m doing [insert techno-babble here].”

“That’s cool,” I said.

“Did you find the man yet?” Aaron asked.

I didn’t understand what he was asking at first, or, once I understood the question, why he was asking; all I’d ever talked about with him was video games and his self-loathing. Still, I thought I should be polite.

“Oh. Was I searching for one the last time we talked?”

“I don’t know. All Christian women are desperate for a man, aren’t they?”

I’m fairly certain I gave him a look of despise.

“I don’t know. Are they?”

“I’ve noticed there’s something about the late twenties that makes me incredibly appealing.”

I put on my best mock-interest I could muster: “Oh, really? What is it about you that makes you so appealing?” I asked.

“Well,” he started counting off on his fingers while he listed his desirable attributes. “I’m a Christian man, in my twenties, intelligent, single, I have a grown-up job, relatively charming, I’m not quite physically attractive enough, but that’s an obstacle easily-overcome.”

I must’ve been blown-away by the charm, because all I could think to say was, “I see.”

Maybe a change of subject could save this conversation.

“Play any good video games lately?” I asked.

“Yeah – I’ve been playing [insert obscure new game title here]. I’m 100 hours in.”

I had to hold in a laugh at this man’s shocking desirability.

We were joined by some of our other friends, and I was mercifully swept away from him…. had I stayed any longer, I fear my female desperation and his charm would have led me to do something foolish right then and there. ūüėČ

The Persuasive Techniques of Christian Robots


I’m unfairly angry at Christians right now.

While we were in Peru, Steve and I had a slight tiff, that was entirely my fault, because I’m angry. He’s not mad at me – it’s not a thing, but it does bother me that I was a walking anger ball, ready to be loosed.

I’m sitting in Starbucks right now, having some pre-church Sabbath that was entirely disturbed by two college girls who couldn’t shut up about all of the drama in Young Life right now.

In fact, I’m blasting THE FRAY through my headphones at this very moment, even though I was enjoying the Starbucks ambiance prior to these girls coming in.

And you know what bothers me? They aren’t talking at all about God. They are Christians, loudly and obnoxiously letting everyone around them know that they’re Christians.. and their legacy is in-depth analysis of how Sophie shouldn’t have posted _______ on Twitter or Mack is going to have to sit Sophie and Gina down and talk to them. Their legacy is how important they are within Young Life because Mack is having them watch his kid while he talks to those other “idiots.”

It was all very self-important and self-righteous. All-knowing, as if these two girls have it all figured out.

And it would be really easy for us to excuse them because they’re kids and we’re older and wiser than that.

But we really only think that because we’re also self-important and self-righteous.

I had a fairly decent conversation with a non-believing friend this week, and I think the thing that most impacted him was when he asked me if I thought Hell would be more fun than Heaven because all the partiers are going to end up there. I told him that I actually thought Hell would be heavily attended by church folks.

On the one hand, he laughed and knew we were just talking. On the other hand, I think he liked that I didn’t pretend the “saints” are better company than everyone else. I didn’t get offended or pretend that the church is what she ought to be or that I am what I ought to be.

Another good moment was when he said he thinks God is messed up for sending people to Hell even when they try to be good and decent. He asked me what I thought about that… shouldn’t decent people get to go to heaven… and I said, “I think all people fall short of the glory of God.” He gave me an, “Amen to that.”

I didn’t try to persuade him or to make him more like me. I just said what I think. I think he respected that. I think he also respected that I didn’t talk down to him. I was just his friend. Talking.

I think the church forgets to be human sometimes because we’re so caught up with saying the “right thing” and persuading people into¬†Heaven… because it makes us feel important when we’ve “won someone over to Christ.”¬†We’ve got all sorts of gimmicks and lines for handling exactly the moment I encountered. We talk and prepare, and then we get our moment and the goal is conquering that other person. Then we panic about what we said and whether it was right or not.

The lines and gimmicks piss me off, because I want this man as a friend regardless of his religious affiliation. I care about him and enjoy him. My prayers for his salvation are founded on a deep affection for him that extends beyond religious affiliation. I think that’s missing from the church nowadays.

I don’t understand what’s happened to us that we don’t just talk to human beings like they’re human beings. I don’t get why being a witness has become this thing where we have to have the right answer, and we only tell non-believers what we think they need to hear in order to be saved. We are incomplete friends with ulterior motives.

It’s not within my power to make God redeem this man, so I can’t see a reason to be anything more or less than his friend.

It doesn’t matter how many anecdotes I give him or the persuasive techniques I use. I just need to care about him, talk to him, and trust God.

———————————————————————————————–

In Surge, we’re wrapping up the first quarter, and I got pretty mad at one of the things we read this week.

Basically, the writer is trying to persuade me (and the rest of his readers) that the resurrection is going to be a bodily one on a renewed Creation, as opposed to some non-physical, mystical¬†existence in the clouds… which I already agree with him about.

However, he went about his persuasion by making a lot of unsupported claims, rather quickly. I get that he did this for the sake of time and space, but I wish he’d slowed down and quoted the Bible on every. single. claim. he made.

Then, I came to a part where he was about to support one of his claims. He wrote that some people read the Bible and come to a different opinion than his. Then he referenced what some other dude wrote.

“David Lawrence has offered a paraphrase of this text [John 14:2-3] that fits much better Jesus’ words to his disciples…”

He proceeded to quote Lawrence’s rewrite of John 14:2-3.

Prior to that, I was annoyed. However, there is very little in the world that pisses me off more than folks thinking they can somehow better communicate God’s ideas than God Himself communicates them in His own words.

First of all, anyone¬†reading this book¬†had better be fairly literate, because it’s a book that applies the five-act structure to the Bible. Additionally, I suspect most (if not all) of¬†the readers of this book¬†have also¬†read John 14 a time or two previously. Even those who haven’t read it before live in a time and nation of¬†literacy, and I’d hope they can read the passage and comprehend it without someone dumbing it down for them. It bothers me a lot when authors assume their readers won’t understand something, so they provide an Idiocracy loop, just in case.

Second, I’ve had pastors paraphrase the Bible to me before, and it blew my mind how much was lost in translation. Romans 8:28 can be altered so that it’s more about obedience than it is about God’s work in our lives… God works everything together for those who love and obey him… ? All of a sudden, my behavior forces God to give me what I want and I’m saved by my own obedience. That’s good theology, right?

Call me paranoid, but I’m incapable of trusting folks who paraphrase the Bible in order to make it more accessible. The only valid reason I see for replacing a passage from the Bible with a paraphrase is an inability to access the actual Bible… if you don’t have¬†a Bible nearby, can’t recall where to find the passage to which you’d like to refer, etc… I’m also okay with showing someone a passage, as is, then helping them comprehend it through explanation, but that’s something¬†that requires extreme caution, because, as a teacher, I know how easy it is to push my beliefs onto those who are vulnerable, gullible, inexperienced. It is a requirement of my job that I teach my students how to read passages and comprehend them for themselves rather than just filling their heads with my comprehension of what we read.

Third, the Bible is the word of God. You don’t approach the word of God with¬†the belief that He didn’t communicate well enough in the language He created, to His creatures. By all means, tell me why you interpret that passage a certain way. Explain your reasoning. Give me some background that I might not know. However, DO NOT CHANGE THE WORD OF GOD. That’s messed up.

One more step, and you’re Winston, working for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting history to suit the whimsy of Big Brother.

———————————————————————————————–

I don’t know how to stop being angry. I think these two particular angers are related because they both deal with the choices people make in how they persuade others about God, and they both include Christians making conscious decisions to present God in a way that’s different from how He presents Himself.

We are not an ad agency, “handing tickets out for God.”

It bothers me that the church seems an awful lot like that to me. It bothers me that we expect believers and non-believers to be idiots, “who can’t handle the truth!” It wasn’t okay for Jack Nicholson to make decisions about how much truth people can handle or how to frame that truth, and it’s not okay for Christians to make¬†such decisions either.

Witnessing¬†shouldn’t be¬†about persuasion; nor should theological debate. It’s not the charge of the Christian to talk others onto their side.

Our charge is to be images of the Almighty. We are to walk around reflecting Him. We are to tell people what He’s done for us. It’s God’s charge to persuade them.

Because rewriting the Bible and building friendships on a win-loss record are just little bits of my frustration.

Both are wrong.

And no amount of conceding that the church is full of imperfect people makes me feel better about that wrong. It doesn’t make me feel better that we’re becoming a society that hates lines and gimmicks except for when we’re afraid of what we might say without them… except for when we have to exist in this world saying and doing things that reflect who we are and what we believe rather than what someone else told us to be and believe.

We hate lines and gimmicks except when we’re afraid to present God and ourselves with honesty, depth, and trust in the Almighty.

With all my heart, no… but yes?


Do you remember that part at the beginning of Gladiator where Marcus Aurelius tries to get Maximus to take over the empire after his death? That moment has been with me ever since I first saw the movie as a teenager. It’s beautiful because Maximus responds to an offer of great power and glory by saying, “With all my heart, no.”

I always thought that was a lovely statement about what a heart should be.

Of course, a heart shouldn’t be power or glory-seeking, but I also look at that scene with fresh eyes as an adult, because our General Maximus was far more self-seeking than he seemed to be at first glance… it seemed like he was this dude with a great heart, who was turning away from selfish gain, but I’ve begun to think that he was actually incredibly selfish because he intended to go home and let the empire fall into the hands of a terrible coward and despot.

A long time ago, I wasn’t asked to join Surge Tables, which is this training thing that churches use sometimes to prepare leaders of Bible studies. Part of the reason I wasn’t asked to join was because of my singleness. Part of the reason was probably lack of resources. And, finally, part of the reason was that I wanted to join and said so. Me wanting to join looked to others like I was grasping for position and power. However, in reality, I was really afraid of not filling my week with community, study, and the church because I know what a brain does when it’s not occupied with Jesus. I spent a fair amount of time after the not being asked to join, making sure I hadn’t been grasping for power and that it was all just a misunderstanding, which, while I certainly feel judged and misunderstood for it, it was.

When I think about Surge now, I get wonky in my brain because I sometimes really don’t want to give lead anything in the church ever again. I learned from experience how difficult ministry really can be, and I’m not sure I’d wish that on even the best-equipped and most committed Christians I know. It’s a blessing, under which good men often crumble (as evidenced recently in Mark Driscoll).

Since Surge was the only small group/bible study available at that church at that time, I was disappointed in being excluded because there wasn’t anything else in which I could participate instead. So, I was jolted out of living my life completely in the church, every night of the week, hosting events at my house more than once a week, going to two Bible studies a week, praying with people, getting coffee with them, discipling them, etc… I went from that to realizing that the church didn’t want to train me, saw my voice as obnoxious, would have preferred I focus on finding a man rather than on God, etc… I did a lot of work establishing a solitary relationship with God, enduring without the church, and I discovered that I did okay.

I still wish she’d been¬† inclusive, though. Because her tendency to exclude those who are too liberal, too single, too wicked, too different, too alternative, too whatever, often makes her “an enemy to conversion, rather than its friend” (Matt Chandler – “A Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep”).

Then, I got an email from my pastor encouraging me to participate in Surge. Different church. Different circumstances. Same leadership training program.

It’s been four (ish) years now, since I was painfully disconnected from the church, and although I believe the church can and should be so woven into my life that it hurts when I’m amputated from it… I’m also intimately familiar with the slow and torturous recovery process that comes after being involuntarily removed from a body to which I thought I belonged.

So I know the right answer is yes – of course I want to be a part of Surge. Of course I want to be grafted back in. Of course I want God to use me completely and uninhibitedly.

But I find my heart wanting answer something more along the lines of, “With all my heart, no.” With all my heart – I’d rather stay at home, far-removed from the front lines, comfortably maintaining the relationships that claimed me even when the church judged me unsuitable.

Is there anything in this world that’s harder than trusting the church? Being intentionally vulnerable with her, for her, and in spite of her?

My life recently has looked an awful lot like it did before that whole mess. I’ve been writing and reading the way I did before, believing I might get my book published, for real. I’ve been drinking coffee. I’ve been running and even fitting into my clothes from back when I was five years younger and the smallest of my life. I’ve been taking notes at church – not just on sticky notes that I throw away because they’re meaningless when I go back to them after a week or so… but rather, in the margins of my old NASB, in ink. I’ve been energetic and looking forward to each new day. Work has been a means to an end, rather than most of what I do and who I am. I’m not quite to the point where I can listen as well as I once did, caring more for others than for myself, but I’m getting there. I’m still, “God, please just hit me with a car,” every-once-in-awhile, but not nearly so often or despairingly as I had been.

And I’ve been praying that God would provide some things for me… things like new accountability, new people and their opinions – to challenge my beliefs, etc… things that all seem to be inherently embedded in Surge.

So, how could I say no? How could I even reluctantly say yes? Where’s my Christian Hedonism?

After our first meeting, I walked away un-intimidated by the volume of reading and study required of me, the time I’ll have to commit, or the long, weekly drive I’ll be making in a car that really has no reason to continue running… I find that the most difficult part of this whole thing is the prospect of letting others know me –> making my prayer requests personal, avoiding vagueness in my weekly goals, and saying what I actually think. There are folks to whom I entrust myself because they are closer than family and my friendships with them have withstood the tests of time and trial. These folks, I’ve got to entrust myself to without any assurances. With all my heart, no! No! NO NO NO!

… but yes.

Of Dating and the Church


Excuse my tone… I’ve been reading too much academic non-fiction.

 

I’ve been dating rather a lot lately and I’ve also been struggling to find a church that I can make my own. With both, I’ve started taking a three strikes approach to my thinking, and while there isn’t a perfect strategy for making these sorts of decisions, my glory days of being a softball pitcher have served me well.

With dating, there seem to be three categories around which my thinking revolves: complete deal breakers, frustrations, and whatevers. Deal breakers include things like he’s-not-a-Christian, he’s-hideous-looking, he’s-illiterate, etc… Frustrations are more along the lines of he-doesn’t-believe-in-predestination, he’s-mildly-unattractive, he-confuses-there-their-and-they’re, etc… Whatevers are he-thinks-all-images-of-Jesus-are-idolatrous, he-refuses-to-run-Ragnar-with-me, his-favorite-book-is-Twilight, etc… All of those things are on my radar, and enough of them combined makes breaking up a pretty good idea.

Real-life Example

Strike 1: Divorced (not quite a deal-breaker, because I don’t know why he got divorced, whether he had any say in it, or how he’s changed since… but still a little concerning).

Strike 2: 5-yr-old kid (not quite a deal-breaker, because I wouldn’t mind being a step-parent if I loved the guy, but I’m not one of those chicks who walks around believing I was made to be a mommy, so parenting someone else’s child wouldn’t be my first choice.)

Strike 3: Sat by while another dude hit on me in front of him (borderline between deal-breaker and frustration… I really want a guy who is going to make sure I don’t feel physically threatened… However, I understand that not all girls want a guy to step in in those situations, so maybe he was just trying not to get me mad at him… either way, at least a frustration and possibly a deal-breaker).

So… this whole thing might seem a little silly and overly-structured, but I honestly don’t have confidence in my ability to make life decisions. I know that I make pretty good ones, because I’ve never gotten myself terribly off-track, but it’s still nice to have a frame of reference that can reinforce my gut-feeling about a guy.

Church, now, is a similar thing.

Real-life Example:

Strike 1: All of the women’s events include pinterest, scrap-booking, babies, or all-three (not a deal-breaker, but certainly frustrating for a woman who doesn’t really enjoy pinterest, scrap-booking or babies very much).

Strike 2: Topical Sermons (not a deal-breaker, if well-executed, but definitely a frustration because it seems like the pastor is trying to make the Bible support his ideas rather than taking his ideas from the Bible).

Strike 3: Woman preaches sermon (not always a deal-breaker, because I’ve seen churches have female guest-speakers, but I am a Complementarian and oppose women being in leadership over men).

When I move on from a guy or a church, I often blame myself for not being able to make it work. I start thinking I’m being too harsh/judgmental and when am I ever going to settle down? But I think looking at things this way and even putting my thoughts into writing sometimes has helped me to see that I do have valid reasons for not choosing this guy or that church.

That all being said, I was thinking just now about how I don’t really take official note of the positives in the way I note the negatives. And maybe I should. Because the three-strike thing isn’t a forever tally of judgment; it’s just a way for me to figure out if it’s even worth it to invest time and energy. And what if a guy or a church has enough positives that it would be worth it to keep trying? Also, what if I am just being an overly-negative person and should have a more positive outlook on dating and churching?

The reason this came up is because I’ve got a date on Saturday with a dude who totally asked me if I tithe in our first-ever conversation. That is a HUGE positive. That shows some real commitment to obedience that tithing is so important to him and it shows he’s at least a little gutsy.

Also, this Sunday, I’m trying out a new church. This one was planted last week by a pastor who I knew while he was going through seminary. He led a Bible study I attended and he even recommended the PERFECT book for me. I’m only now getting around to reading it, but I was taken aback by how GOOD the book is and how relevant it was to the conversations we were having in that Bible study and the stances I was taking. It’s still incredibly relevant because I continue to think about the discussions we had and I’ve never quite come to a settled place in how I think about them. More generally, I read a ton, and it’s uncommonly important for me to be able to talk to my pastor about books. I’ve unfortunately passed by most of my friends in the reading category (not in the sense that they can’t or don’t read good books, but in the sense that they’ve often never heard of the theologians I read and can’t quite geek out about the books that are my current favorites), so I really like being around people who’ve read more books than I’ve read.

Shouldn’t that guy and that church receive +15¬† to defense, or saving throws or something? It seems a shame that I don’t have a way to account for the awesome positives I sometimes come across. ūüėČ

Making People Feel Shitty… Valid Easter Evangelism Technique???


For Easter, I decided to go to a HUGE thing that a church I’ve never been to puts on. Evidently, it’s a yearly thing for Calvary Chapel Tucson to take over the Tucson Convention Center on Easter. They also fly in a band and do the whole thing up pretty fantastically.

So, there were the Newsboys, who I should evidently know, but I didn’t. And evidently the lead singer is actually from DC Talk, who I only know because of a book I read that they sponsored. And the lead singer was pretty spectacular because he was unashamedly enthusiastic. Also, he asked everybody for a Hallelujah and an Amen… then¬† said, “That’s how we do it in the chocolate church.” I’ve since learned that that’s a thing he’s pretty fond of saying. Still, it made me smile.

And through the whole thing, I was pretty jazzed because the convention center was packed – significantly more so than I’ve ever seen it. You might be thinking, “Well, she’s probably only been to one or two things there.” Actually, when I was a softball superstar, I had to work the concession stands to fund raise for my travels and whatnot. So I was there for WWE (although it¬† was still WCW at the time) and it wasn’t nearly as full as it was for the Resurrection Celebration.

Sermon was pretty standard. Which I like. Easter is one of those days throughout the year when everybody goes to church regardless of whether they believe or not.

Which is what I was thinking about when it happened.

Let’s back up.

Easter morning, I woke up and did not want to get up. I’d thrown a baby shower the afternoon/evening before, so my hair had been straightened and gelled, so I certainly wasn’t going to shower and wash it all out. And I’d worn a dress the day before, and received various compliments on my beauty… so I didn’t feel the need to wear a dress. Instead, I got up and put on an Easter-colored shirt, cardigan and Walmart jean shorts. I thought about wearing long pants, but Tucson is already pretty hot and I didn’t want to be in the middle of a packed arena, sweating through the sermon.

Evidently, that means I’m immodest.

Culturally, Tucson is the sort of place where you should really expect to see some flesh. I don’t say this to suggest that we throw modesty out the window (which some folks do) but I do say it because it’s the desert.

So there I am, all enthused because I’ve just been to a large Christian event that I actually liked, and there’s a dude standing outside waiting for us, holding a sign that says we’re all going to Hell.

I was pondering the oddity of the choice to stand outside a church service that would likely be attended by all manner of believer and non-… when he singled me out, yelling that my shorts were too short.

At the time, I gave him a thumbs up and said something like, “Great.” Steve was madder than I was. Now, I can’t stop being pissed at the guy – not even for what he said to me. I’ve made it past the decade mark in my faith, so while I’m not invincible, I am well-established, and his JA remark didn’t shake my faith in God so much as it pissed me off at Christians. Which, by the way, is one of the WORST thing that can probably happen to a non-believer.

Why do Christians spend so much time trying to make other people feel shitty?

That’s all he was doing.

He wasn’t truly trying to teach people about Jesus. His sign didn’t even mention Jesus in spite of the date on the calendar. What he yelled at me was pharisee-esque and not intended to edify me, him or anyone around us. He wasn’t trying to glorify God or help me. I think his goal was actually to make me feel shitty about myself.

But really, I just feel shitty about religion and that particular dude. I feel disappointed that I can’t honestly tell non-believers that they’ll like going to church or that they’ll be welcomed in. I’m not sure I actually enjoy going to church or feel welcomed in, and I’ve been a part of the church for 12 years now.

Really, dude?

You couldn’t have said something about how Jesus overcame death? You couldn’t have sung about how Christ has risen from the dead? I know a song or two that seems pretty appropriate for Easter. You couldn’t even have stayed home and worshiped Jesus from your closet where you wouldn’t turn people off to Christianity?

I know that everyone reading this knows that guy was a Westboro wannabe loon. But I’m still pretty disappointed that anyone made it his goal on Easter to make another person feel shitty…. especially when she took the time to get up when she could have slept in, fight the traffic when she could have been drinking coffee and reading the paper, put on an Easter-colored shirt and cardigan, and sit amongst sweaty people in long pants (because they haven’t yet submitted to the heat).

Lesson of this year: Don’t try to make people feel shitty at church.

And yes, I’m a Christian who just used profanity and wears moderately short shorts to church. Both seemed pretty appropriate to me.