Questions (un)Welcome

Posted: September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was reading on another blog earlier today about how shallow and superficial our culture has become in our conversations. The writer was pointing out how people will talk about the trivial ad nauseum but rarely enter into discussions about deeper topics. My husband and I were always amazed when we attended church that almost all of the male conversations focused on sports and for women, it was the usual blather about clothes, shoes, their children – and all of their activities, health issues, etc. Even the rare discussion about religious issues (faith was often too deep a topic) were superficial and saccarine.

When I first began teaching back in the early ’80’s, we could discuss creation versus evolution with students and give our position. We could talk about whether or not we attend church and which denomination. We could even invite kids to vacation bible school. Lots of topics were open for discussion and students would debate very passionately with one another and the instructors.

When I returned to teaching in the public school system, I quickly discovered that controversial topics are a “no-no” at school unless they follow a certain agenda. No one – students or teachers alike – should express a dissenting opinion on pretty much any topic, whether it’s politics, culture, science, or religion. Express an opinion and you are likely to be labeled a bigot or hate-monger. Even my 10, 11, and 12 year old students will immediately cry foul if I hint that a music video might be inappropriate for sixth graders if it has two men kissing in it. It’s better to say, “Some people might be offended,” than to say that some people think it’s “wrong.”

I was raised in a household where debate was welcomed and encouraged. While I wasn’t raised in church, when I became a Christian in college, I and my peers, several more mature church members, the pastor, and the seminary intern we had every year would have stimulating and oftentimes intense conversations about everything: religion – in its many facets; politics; community/society – pretty much anything was fair game. Including and probably especially the weekly sermon by the pastor or intern. We could speak freely and with great energy and no matter what our position, we walked away with a heightened sense of camaraderie. We seldom agreed completely, but we enjoyed delving into one another’s thought processes and never left a discussion angry or upset.

Ah, how things have changed. My husband I and were told last December that we were to leave our church. For many years, I was told that I could not participate in ANYTHING in the church – no classes, no serving, NOTHING. I could attend services but that was all. But no one would tell me “why” I couldn’t particpate. (I was never told I was under church discipline and I was never given any evidence of wrong-doing.)

It wasn’t until over a decade later when we were told to leave that it was insinuated that the reason was because of emails I had sent the pastor. These were emails that questioned him. Not his integrity or his character, but simply some of the things he said in his sermons, his apparent support of my ostracism (he was not the person who told me I could not participate, but for years when I asked him to help me – to tell me why I was being ostracized and to help work toward reconciliation and restoration, he absolutely would not meet with me or respond to my emails). All of this despite the fact that every Sunday when he knew he was saying something that might be controversial or arguable, he would say, “My email address is kk_____@t__p____.com. Please email me.”

When we first came to the church, I had told the pastor that I am a person who asks lots of questions and he encouraged me to do so. “Ask me anything, anytime,” he said. Apparently, he really didn’t mean it.

And it appears that there are many leaders in Christian churches who are the same way. Don’t ask questions. Don’t delve deeper into what they are saying from the pulpit or the way they are governing or the way that they are treating certain people. Asking questions or expressing concern is taken as an indication that you are critical and negative. In other words, never question and be sure to cheer and support everything the leadership says and does.

I pointed out to the pastor of our last church that if I sent him an email about something trivial, he always answered – and promptly. But, when I sent him emails expressing my deepest thoughts, feelings, questions, and struggles, he ignored me.

Every. Single. Time.

Talk sports and he was all in. But I cannot recall him ever saying the name “Jesus” except when he was preaching or teaching in front of a room full of people. In those rare moments when he would actually speak to me, never did he speak of faith or God or even offer a scripture reference. Had I not known better, I would not have been able to guess that he was a pastor in those conversations.

Not that I expect pastors to only and always speak about matters of faith, but even in those conversations when a family member had passed away or when my son was in a very worrisome place or when my heart was simply breaking over the treatment I was receiving in the church, he had nary a thing to say about God or Jesus or a comforting or encouraging scripture.

I doubt that I can be the kind of person who doesn’t ask questions or encourages deep discussions on any topic. So I don’t think I’m cut out for church. Because I’m going to talk Jesus and not too many folks – especially leaders – can handle that.

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