Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Okay, One More...

Just when I thought I'd run out of things to say on the subject of the church, I've found myself over the last few days thinking often of the recent events at Revolution Church as recounted on SCP.

The fact remains that I still have a powerful, almost physical response to the idea of attending church and I think that this Revolution Church experience has helped to crystallize it for me.

You see, here is this man, apparently quite talented and charismatic, who builds a successful congregation and in the moment of doing what about half of all Americans do--leaving their spouse--ends up traumatizing his entire congregation. Not just because of the thing that happened, but because it happened there. To them. By him, of all people!

People talk often of the powerful sense of community in church, but what I experienced even more strongly than community was a sense of unreality. As in, what happens in church, how people often behave, can simply be unreal. A thoroughgoing dishonesty brought on by an intense pressure to be a certain way, to say the right thing, to be who it is that other people think a person who is a Christian is supposed to be. Church is so painful to me because I simply can't take the pressure of not feeling like I can be who I am, warts and all.

For instance, if I'm having a bad day when I show up for work and a colleague asks how I am, I can shrug my shoulders and say "I'm here, anyway." Then they can either ask for details or shrug and go back to their work. I can fart at my desk or say "Fuck all" if I feel like it. The mask is off, and the only things I keep to myself are those things that I think are none of my colleagues' business.

When I was in church, the one thing I wanted to say more than anything else was, "Bullshit!" Bullshit on people acting a certain way and expecting other people to act the same way too. Hating on their neighbor while they hug and kiss them. Pretending everything is okay when it damn well isn't. Wearing their finest masks in the one place they should be the most real and human. Whatever your experience in church is, I won't devalue it at all. But that's what church ended up being for me.

So David Trotter was full of shit. Probably still is. He's apparently quite passionate about helping people have religious experiences and become personally successful and content, and sees no conflict between that and abandoning his wife and children. I will be the first to say that any one of us is capable of being both great and an asshole, often at the very same time. That's just human. To be human is to be broken and fallible and a mixed bag of goods. But that's just not okay in church. Oh, it's okay to acknowledge it in the abstract, but not to act it out in the presence of your neighbors. Sure, people sin. It's just not supposed to happen here.

Not to us.
Not in our church.
Not with our pastor.

Years later, I'm still angry about the bullshit. Weird thing is, I'm just as angry with the people at Revolution as I am with Trotter. I don't know any of them, but I've been in enough churches to understand the bullshit culture. They just suffered a major, traumatic reality intrusion into their make-believe, happy-talk culture and nobody knows what do to about it.

So let me tell you what they are going to do. I can say this, because I saw it over and over again.

They are going to pretend it never happened. People will cry and hold hands and pray, and notice that within weeks it will not be discussed from the pulpit. When people bring it up to the leadership, they will suggest that the appropriate response is a small prayer and to focus on other things. References to Trotter will disappear from websites and printed materials. Maybe they'll even change the name or move to a new location. The wife and family will move to a new church. The history of Revolution will be cleansed of this painful event so that everyone can go back to pretending that these things don't happen here. Not to us.

I don't know. Call me a cynic. But let me know if I'm wrong, because that would be interesting to see. I hope for Revolution's sake that they break the mold.

I really don't like feeling this way, so seemingly cynical and angry, but I wonder sometimes if the very title of this blog--One for Truth--ends up keeping me honest in ways I never contemplated when I started it, which at the time was when I was fully engaged with the culture. This is the truth as I see it, called out as plainly as I can call it out.

I am already without a congregation because I didn't want to hurt them by trying to stay, to take off the mask and break the mold. I don't want to hurt anybody, and I don't want to find myself without faith. But I can't and won't be a party to the bullshit any longer. Just can't tolerate the dissonance.