Faith in God, Not the Church

-This blog will be finished on a later date

This is a very hard one to write because it is very personal to me and I held on for so long and I fought for so long too.

I have participated in Annual Conferences and witnessed how voting occurs, church law, church politics etc.

I have been to many different churches throughout my life too.

I have had good experiences and bad experiences. I have had overall what I would consider an equal amount of good experiences and bad experiences at church.

If I truly allow myself to acknowledge the racism and homophobia I have witnessed, the classism, the elite-ness, the sexism, the misogyny etc.

Church experiences may slightly outweigh bad to good by a 60% vs 40%.

But again it’s very difficult to acknowledge these things because I grew up one, not even knowing the word misogyny until tumblr in my 20’s.

I grew up not fully understanding what sexism was either or really racism in the sense of the power imbalance. I simply thought for the longest that it was either people of any race hating people of any race or people of any gender (when I was only aware of two exiting ones) hating people of any gender.

In fact I considered myself sexist for the longest. I had some toxic attitudes about men and boys and I truly did feel that women and girls were superior because I felt that they were smarter because from my observations in school it was a majority of girls who were in Honor Society, it was girls who graduated, it was girls who seemed serious about their academics.

I was basing my thoughts on that reality. I wasn’t aware however of what boys were fighting against, the concept that being smart and being male is a “wussy” thing to do. I wasn’t fully aware of how much pressure boys are under to be aggressive and full of braun rather than brains and the teasing and shunning that smart nerd boys get. Smart boys don’t get pus*y apparently.

But I digress.

If I really sit down and think of every time I felt uncomfortable, sad, depressed, anxious, nauseous, attacked, excluded, unwanted, vilified etc. in church, that would be a lot of times and honestly, of all the societal separations, the one that stood out to me the most was actually the ageism.

I felt plenty of times that the older adults in church literally hated that we were there, and truly were annoyed with out presence. Anytime that youth proposed new ways of worship, new concepts of what God is to us, new anything, change for anything it was met with hostile criticism and condemnation.

In fact, I was so used to this I was afraid of proposing new things for that very reason, but I felt so full of new, exciting possible ministry ideas bubbling over I got very tired of them getting shot down simply because it wasn’t tradition and it wasn’t what people were used to.

This is not to say that there weren’t times that people did accept my new ideas, there were, all I am saying, is that is was much less than when they weren’t.

Some of the ideas that were accepted by churches I attended I will list below and these times meant a lot to me.

There was a book called, “The Christian Atheist” by Craig Groschel that I thought was an excellent read and really allowed for Christians to analyze our own spiritual doubts. It is a book about Christians who fully believe in God but not aspect like prayer or have faith in earthly things like money. It is a book about Christians who worry which makes no sense because we are supposed to have to reassurance of Christ in our lives, worry has no place for us.

The church took on that book for bible study and had a reading of each chapter each week. No book I have ever proposed was ever studied by older adults in a bible study before. I felt incredibly validated in that moment like my ideas were honored and were respected. Even though I was a young 20’s something, I was still an adult and being young doesn’t mean that we have nothing good to offer. Also I will say, I am quite wise for my age actually. Anyone who meets me realizes that within the first five minutes of speaking with me. I’m not your ordinary basic cup of tea, I am robust espresso.

Another time church allowed me a space was a church that let me decorate their entire basement with Christmas decorations. These weren’t any ordinary church decorations. These were multicultural church decorations. These church decorations weren’t simply the nativity but focused on illustrations about giving and generosity. Theses are values that we ought to be celebrating during the season of Christmas and really all year. I had illustrations about people giving different gifts like the gift of respect, the gift of kindness, the gift of love. It’s the intangible gifts that matter the most, not the material ones.

One more time I will share is when one of the Latino churches I attend let me do a praise dance in their church. This was a church that never did praise dance and each church has it’s own church culture.

Another time was when one of the churches I attended had a jazz vespers night and they allowed me a space to do my spiritual poetry. I have spiritual poetry but it’s not light hearted at all. My spiritual poetry is pretty robust and calls out crimes within the church and is honest about spiritual struggle. I have even been invited twice to perform this poetry at Annual Conference twice. It has been on their website and recorded to reach thousands of people online and during the event.

So why am I saying I no longer have faith in the church? It’s not all bad right? Of course not. Church is not all bad but it’s certainly not all good either. That is due to the face that church is run by humans and like any institution, religious or otherwise it will not be perfect. However not perfect is an understatement. The church has some SERIOUS work to do. To me it’s a broken, dying child that I feel very attached to that I want to rescue.

But I also want to birth a new one. Some things and some people with old thoughts have to die for new things to grow and that’s just the truth. Old ways and old people will eventually pass and it will be the youth who takes over and will decide what church will be and what it will look like.

I certainly hope that it doesn’t die completely and it’s hard being young, Christian, liberal and isolated. I only have a handful of friends who are still walking with me and participating and fighting. I don’t think people want to go to church to fight for it, fight with it or fight against bad practices. It gets very exhausting, trust me.

Church is supposed to be a body of human beings who love on one another in a sacred sanctuary space of fellowship, of family, of support.

It’s sad to say but we are too far from that far too often. Am I in love with an unrealistic idea? Am I in love with what the church should be, could be, would be?

I even thought of becoming a minister or deacon for the longest, but it’s the sort of thing you should only do if you are called to do it, not simply out of desire. I have felt spiritual stirrings to do things but perhaps not that route specifically. My spiritual poetry is already a ministry right there. My art is a ministry too. My language classes are a ministry as well. I am bringing people together.

The reason I want to give up on fighting the church is because I am tired. I am weary. It’s exhausting. Every time Annual Conference votes on things, the proposals and resolutions and amendments are shot down. I get hopeful all over again just to get let down again and reminded just how conservative, how rigid and how firm that systematic structure is. I have performed my raw poetry before audiences of people whom I know do not want me to speak and say what I am saying. I did it with fear and with bravery and I had many people give me very positive feedback for saying what needed to be said and hasn’t been.

I did the hard things, but I do not want to wait. I do not want to act at fifty years old when the old people and the old ways are dead and it’s easy. I want to be a trailblazer and I want to be part of the group of people who started a movement to change for the better. I want to be one of the ones to begin the new church, the new birth of something beautiful and inclusive.

But I am very, very, very tired. It is hard to stay motivated, especially when I am one of the few youth left. Our numbers are so low and they drop and drop. Even if the new church ends up becoming a small minority I think it is worth fighting for.

But I am tired and I want to be honest. Sometimes I really want to quit. Sometimes I really want to leave. I can love and follow God without going to church. I know that. Still however I believe that strong community and fellowship with our Christian brothers, sisters and non-binary family can make a lot of difference. Christian organizations and churches can do a lot of good and I have seen it on mission trips, code Purple housing the homeless etc.

I recently went on a mission trip and translated Spanish to English and English to Spanish for the American staff in Guatemala. That meant the world to me and we complete 50+ surgeries in less than a week. We were able to physically heal people. We were able to see the results of that love and care and people were eternally grateful. Everyone on the trip was not Christian, and I know that people don’t have to be Christian to be good loving people. However I found it interesting that our pastoral leader said that it was the non-Christians on the trip that asked him so many questions about God and Christianity rather than the ones who were.

But I think if we really want Christianity to mean something authentically, that we ought to deeply explore it. We ought to deeply explore what God means to us, what church means to us, what humanity means to us.

Too few people do that and so many are afraid to but Christianity isn’t a default. It may have seemed to be in society for a long time, at least, here in the United States, but it certainly is no longer default now. We are still in the majority but people are beginning to ask questions: What does Christianity mean to me and does it mean anything or is it something I did out of obligation, cultural pressure and anti-Christian shaming?

Anyway…I will finish this blog on a later date, but just some thoughts to share. Hope you enjoy.