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.

15 Comments:

At 2:48 PM, Blogger lowendaction said...

zeke, first off I completely understand where you're coming from. though I do get the impression (I can only react off of what I read, I obviously don't know you and therefore have no interest in attacking or insulting you) that your view/opinion of church has been formed by one or a select few church experiences. I say this because I have been fortunate to have been apart of a select few churches that do not fall in to what you describe. And yet you speak as though this state of the church is universal. Please understand me, this is truely a very very small and unfortunate minority that I speak of, but they do exist. Are these places perfect...no. And I think that is the very basis of how we perceive church. I think we perscribe a certain unrealistic expectation on what church should be, and our humaness in tandem with reality never fails to shatter it.

These exceptions I speak of attempt to embrace their flaws and make little attempt at buffing up a shiny exterior. I have stopped going to Revolution, before any of this happened, but I must honestly say that I am very impressed at how they are handeling the situation. Are they talking about it/him at the pulpit to date? Probably not, but to what end would that benifit anyone? I also don't see them pretending it away. The church has been putting money asside to support the former pastors wife and kids so she doesn't loose her house. They have taken a hard look at themselves and have done away with those things they've determined to be useless (ie. elaborate sermon videos, unrealistic expansion to multiple campuses--he had proposed something like 8 campuses in 8 yeears or whatever...not including one in India), and embraced things that are worth while: elders, strong biblical teaching, just to name a few.

So when I look at a church I would like to call my home, I look for transperancy, honesty, love, and the bible. Are there going to be raging assholes there? yes. Are they going to do stupid church things? yes. But is their main goal, their foundational purpose, on track with the kind of church Jesus talks about? If the answer is yes...I'm in, for better or worse.

I think those of us who have been burned, had our eyes opened, or whatever drove you away from that churchy place, are susceptible to the very same symptoms that people with eating disorders suffer from. We feel our church can never be perfect (subjective) enough. The same can of course be said of many within the church as well, and after they have distorted their self-image and destroyed themsleves from the inside out--all in the name of making a "better church"--they have become stupid church people. But you can't write them off. To do so would be like living in that movie Wristcutters.

Sorry for the rant. I just get really passionate about this subject. something that i've been doing for a while, check out Rob Bell's Podcast from his local church, I think you might dig it.

great post.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

If you know of any churches in Orange County that aren't like what I describe, let me know. I would even go to Long Beach (I was on the board of a church in Long Beach for years anyway).

 
At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

start one.

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

No thanks.

 
At 12:54 AM, Anonymous BFC said...

Zeke, as someone intimately involved with Revolution Church and as someone who honestly strives for exactly what you are discussing...I can assure you we are doing the best we can. We have not hidden anything under the rug. We have been transparent about everything but the involvement of the other family. (Protection for them)

Also, it has been two months now and there have been at least 4 messages that have directly addressed the issue and ongoing issues. A part from that we have also held off site mid week meetings to give even more information to help people walk through this shitty situation.

I wish I could say that my ideal world exists where Christians don't try and pretend that everything is ok...but it doesn't. But, I think there are more of us out here that go for authenticity than you realize. What I can say is that David was surrounded by people who loved him in spite of himself. He was surrounded by people who always made it known that no matter what the struggle or frustration they would be the

re without judgment but with care. The sad truth is that he never thought he did anything wrong, he was always right...and anyone who gave him any kind of accountability, encouragement, or critique would be met with the same smart ass arrogance that alienated so many of the people he was leading...and that mentality continues now.

Ultimately, and by his own omission, David has no idea how to be in relationship with anyone. He is brilliant, creative, driven, and quirky however; in his own narcissism he sabotaged every relationship around him.

For me, it boils down to this…He did it to himself. No one put the pressure on him but himself. More people encouraged him to spend time with his own family then asked him to spend time with them. Again, by his own omission…and I quote, “I am not motivated by the expansion of the kingdom of God…I motivated by my two biggest fears…getting people to like me, and not being good enough. No one, no matter how hard many of us tried could change his perception…because it was always about him.

That being said at Revolution we continue to deal with it the only way we know how…with prudence for protection of the families involved but with honesty and authenticity.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger lowendaction said...

zeke, each church is of course like every other family...completely unique, and thus what 'fits' is completely up to the individual, and I think that's totally ok. Having said that, here are a few that I can vouche for:

in OC, depending on your gag-reflex to the upper crust South OC-types and aversion to large crowds (no, not Saddleback) you might check out Coast Hills Church. I used to play there, and despite there polished and shiny service, pastor Ken is incredibly real and super scriptually heavy. And though I struggled with the OCness of it all, I loved the people...well some of them;/

Or for the more 'hip' college type crowd-again a bit on the largish side-you might enjoy Rock Harbor. Funny little story about this place. Guess who used to be an associate pastor here? Yep, our buddy David...oh yeah, he got fired from there....hmmm. Some of the best teaching I've heard in a long time. They've got multiple teachers, and it seems they have perfected the blend of being young and 'relevant' (whatever that means) while not being watered down or uber-hip.

In LA I've been wanting to check out Mosaic for a while. I've been listening to Irwin McManuses Podcast for a while now.

And finally, and most definitly not least, if you're not afraid of a little hike, check out Christian Assembly Eagle Rock. I first went there because of there worship leader Tommy Walker. He may not be the emo-worship that seems to be all the rage right now, but for those that know, I can safely say he is hands down the best...you just gotta experience it to see why. Plus his church is the most unassumingly ugly and plain setting one would NOT expect from such a well renowned guy. No flash (meaning no fancy lights, videos, etc) and yet completely real. It's a little ways for me too, but it's totally worth it.

There ya have it....good times.

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

BFC, thanks for sharing and despite my bile, I really do wish the best for you and your church family.

Lowend, I'm familiar with the OC churches you mentioned, and thanks for the referrals.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger lowendaction said...

bfc, you're right on. What's funny is that I ran in to some friends from Revolution last night, and as we got to talking about all this, I mentioned that it is a rare thing for a church to survive after such an event. I think Revolution's youth (4 yrs) is in large part to thank for this. Most people had not yet had the opportunity to get too set in their ways, and so they are a bit more pliable as the church rebounds.

I can honestly not say if David can be given credit for the type and/or quality of people (whatever that means) that congegrate at Revolution, but wherever they came from and why, you are a unique bunch that is truely a rare find. So I guess what I'm trying to say is...don't screw it up....again. And yes, this implies that the blame can not be solely placed on douchies shouders. If the members of a family are not keeping those running the family accountable, they carry the burden of guilt. Having said that, he was great at keeping everyone at a double arms leangth distance...as you so accurately pointed out.

I look forward to seeing what lays ahaed for this rag tag bunch. Though I would just like to throw out this little suggestion....loose the name! I dare say he's pretty much jacked it for his new sideshow act, and thus pretty much Lewinsky'd it (stained, for those that missed the reference)!

 
At 6:24 AM, Anonymous John T. said...

I was just reading your blog, and a thought came to my mind. Words from an old Mentor of mine. Quite Prophetic actually.

"The world is 50% Shit, 50% sugar, you choose where you put your focus. But just remember if you stand in shit long enough it dries around you".

I think you need some new friends and such. :)

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger dorsey said...

But does shit rot your teeth? That's something to consider.

On the other hand, sprinkling shit on your cereal is not the best.

It's a tossup.

 
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At 3:40 PM, Blogger Dorsey Marshall said...

The last two comments really sum up the christian blogger experience, if you ask me.

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

It's like they're taking a whole other language. And don't even get me started on the Chinese.

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger Dorsey Marshall said...

Or the French. It's like they have a different word for everything.

 

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