Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is the Way the World Ends

So some of you wanted to know what's going on with me. Well, for starters, my old campus minister gave me a ride home from the store today.

Those of you who remember my old campus minister might be cringing right now. You'd be right to do so.

I shouldn't have taken the ride, but it was raining, and...yeah, I shouldn't have taken the ride. Pneumonia is better than this. Still, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

His kids were in the back seat (the two oldest, Nate and Sam, and man, they've grown...they're so cute!) so he couldn't get too in-depth, but I know this drill. I used to meet with him for "leadership training sessions" and we'd run into people he's met before, and he'd talk with them, all nice, and as soon as they walked away he told me everything that made them leave the ministry, and all the sad sins that ruled their lives since they left...so I'm sure he had some choice words for his kids after I left. But while we were in the car he just asked me how I was doing, and he said he's seen me around town, and it's sad for him to see people who used to be active in the ministry now involved in things that could damage their souls and the souls of those around them, and he remembered what I was like back when the campus ministry was the center of my life, and he hoped I'd return to God. I said that I was happier and healthier now than I'd been in college. Then he just asked me where I worked, and the conversation was over.

So why am I sitting here seething now?

Because I gave SO MUCH of myself to that church, and I got so little in return. I got insulted, told that I wasn't a good witness, told that I shouldn't cry in church because it ruined my witness, that there was something wrong with me, and that he didn't want new people coming into the church to see me. And even after all that, I still stayed and served and tried to change whatever about me wasn't worthy. I never quite made it.

Well then the straw came, the proverbial one that breaks the camel's back, and some of my friends might remember it (my friend Rachel should remember it, since she's the one who woke me up and made me see how bad things had gotten the night I left the church...I don't know if I ever told her that). See, the campus minister kept giving sermons about how he was proud of this guy in our church for "sharing the truth" and how for the first time in his campus ministry career, he found a good reason to read the student paper. You know why? Because this guy, Aaron, was the editor of the student paper that year, and he had badly written an editorial about why gay marriage was wrong, and suddenly every week, the campus minister found time to have "let's all praise Aaron" sessions, and I was getting tired of it.

One week, someone from my hall, an RA that I knew named Zach, wrote a letter into the paper saying that he didn't appreciate the "anti-gay marriage" rhetoric, because he was gay, and it wasn't just that the article was wrong, it wasn't written very well and the arguments in it were stupid (which they were...gay people can't bear children, gay people don't have sex the way most people do, the bible says it's an abomination and Romans says it's unnatural, blah blah blah please shoot me now). Aaron wrote a "response" in his "letter from the editor" section about how it's sad that people don't want to hear the truth, but that's not his fault, and if they have a problem, it's a problem with God, not with him. So I sat there thinking every week, "Dammit...I hope no one who's gay is sitting here listening to this, because they might think God doesn't love them" (yeah, I was thinking that, never underestimate the power of denial). But it ate away at me, and I didn't say anything, and then I finally wrote a letter to the editor myself, saying that it was one thing to share an opinion, but it was quite another to spout off without any love or respect for those on the other side of the issue. Aaron called me at home after he got that letter, saying it's unfair for me to attack the paper that way, and maybe I needed to talk to my campus minister if I was having problems with God's word. That night, I talked with some of my friends (Dani, Rachel, and Matt) and that's when Rachel told me that she hoped no gay people went to that church, because if they did, they must feel totally alone and unloved right now.

THAT hurt. I thought about that, and turned it around in my head, all through the church service that night. I thought about how before, the sermons were just hurting me, and I'd been hurt enough by this church not to really care anymore, but now I could see the impact their words and message had on other people, too. Zach was someone I really liked and respected, and he deserved better than that. I didn't want him to think everyone in the church felt the way Aaron did. That day, my letter was published in the paper (in spite of what Aaron said in his call) so I was prepared for someone to say something nasty to me at church, but no one did, no one even came up and said "hi" to me, and I had to hold back tears the whole time, because I knew what I had to do. So finally, after the service was over, I told my campus minister I didn't know if it was healthy for us to focus on "Gay = BAD" so much in every single sermon, because it's like we were losing focus on everything else (like, y'know, the gospel and other unimportant things like that). He replied that this WAS an important issue, people didn't realize how damaging homosexuality could be, even if it's genetic, that's all the more reason to fight against the temptation, gays are like alcoholics so why don't alcoholics get a parade. So I threw some really weak arguments at him (let him come at me today, I have way better things to say, but back then, I had nothing, and I ended up shooting blanks at every person who fired at me...I still have the scars, and I bet they don't have a goddamned thing). I told him that I don't think it's helpful to compare alcoholism and homosexuality, since even sociologists recognize that associating sexual orientation with sin can be harmful, and even some Christians believe that perhaps the bible verses used to condemn homosexuality could be interpreted differently, and that even if people aren't "born gay" that doesn't mean they shouldn't have equal rights, because people aren't "born Christian" but our rights are protected...

And he just said, "Lillian, it's sad what some people choose to believe" and walked away.

End scene.

Kind of anticlimactic for a conversation that put an end to five years of my serving in and giving all my extra money to his church, don't you think? Is this the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper? I thought I'd at least earned some yelling and screaming, for Christ's sake.

That's how it ended, and this is where it stands now, I suppose. I'm better off when I'm not in an environment like that, because I'll always be a freak no matter where I am, but it still stings (especially when something opens up the wound this way, and in a small town it's hard to avoid running into people who hate me...I know they still hate me even when I can't hear them saying it, but I can at least PRETEND it doesn't exist when I don't have to look at it).


I think a long bath is in order after I finish my laundry. Something to calm me down. I get my test tomorrow, so we'll find out what my cancer is up to in a few weeks. I'll just keep on trudging, I guess.


  1. Hi there,

    I'm really sorry you had that church experience. I had a similar experience.

    I invested a lot of my time and energy with this one church I basically grew up in. By the time I left that church there were more people debating whether or not I was a Christian then those willing to be in relationship with me. And I was on the conservative side and committing my life to walking out of homosexuality.

    Now I attend a church that has diversity as one of it's core values although still conservative.

    I think that there would be something wrong if like Sunday after Sunday the pastor feels it's necessary to speak against homosexuality in a way that's abusive and disrespectful. Jesus wouldn't have done that. And you're right there are other important lessons to learn in the scriptures then what the bible teaches on homosexuality.

    I hear the word love being thrown out there a lot in a way that makes me wonder what people define love as. I had this talk with a gay friend of mine who comes to church with me. YES, God loves everybody the same, no exception, for God so loved the world means that he loved the world and I don't see the homosexual excluded from God loves but does God's love require for God to approve of everything that we do? Why or Why not?

  2. You're right, a lot of people throw the word "love" around a little too much. I'm guilty of it as well, because I know for everyone, the argument might be different. It's not always about love. I mean, I see things splashed all over bumper stickers saying “love is not wrong” and blah blah blah, but at its heart, that's rhetoric and I know it...people who oppose same-sex marriage or whatever aren't really saying that LOVE is wrong, they're saying some of the ways people express love are wrong, or rather that it's wrong for homosexuals to express their love in physical ways. I get that. I may not agree, but I understand that the argument isn't what we always make it out to be and that this kind of polarizing language isn't going to help people.

    I don't think that God's love means that He approves of everything we do, but the trick is to figure out what he does and does not approve of (that was a whacked-out sentence...I am a bad English major today). But I hope you can see what I mean. I think different people will find different answers to the question, "does God approve of this behavior" and I think that God is big enough to cover our mistakes if we happen to be wrong in our opinions. It hasn't been an easy journey for me in discovering what I think is right or wrong about this issue, and I counsel people tp pray and study and think very long and hard about these things instead of reading one book or article and forming an opinion based on that.