I think this letter is going to be short and to the point. I’m writing this for me. I hope it helps you too. If you need it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
If I could summarize why I left the ministry and the church as I did in just one word, what would it be?
That’s why I left all that behind. Because it was exclusive.
In what ways?
- Exclusivity of thought: I like thinking outside of the box. Not just for the heck of it, but because I want to understand. I want to be wise. When God told Solomon he would give him the one thing in all the world that he wanted, he said “wisdom”. Because God was so pleased, he granted him everything else as well. So from a very early age I wanted to be wise. Unfortunately, the church I experienced was exclusive in its thinking, very narrow, constricted, and confining. Limited. As a result, when I did cross intellectual or theological boundaries, I was disciplined and punished for it. Corrected. Rebuked. My experience of this exclusivity of thought was not only local, but global. I noticed that generally speaking the church teaches its blend of orthodoxy and demands that you believe likewise.
- Exclusivity of lifestyle: I love diversity and I always have. My experience and observations of Christianity has lead me to conclude that it has a very certain idea of what our lives should look like, and if our lives differ in any way from that norm, then we are trespassing. Sinning. It used to be things like drinking, smoking dancing, movies, and things like that. And it was also things like dirty jokes, swearing, pot, things like that. And it was also things like sexual orientation, church attendance, premarital sex, things like that. It seemed to me that no matter what kind of differences emerged in the lives of its membership, it was always moving the goal post to make it more and more difficult to belong. U2 calls Christians who are included the “squeaky cleans”. I wasn’t one of them. I was excluded.
- Exclusivity of membership: The result of all this is that in order to belong you have to be a very certain type of person. You have to fit the mold. I never fit the mold. Never. I always had a hard time belonging. People always had difficulty figuring out where to slot me. Where to put me. I was always an enigma wrapped up in an anomaly. I was absolutely terrified on the eve of my ordination. I couldn’t understand why then, but now I think I intuited that I was walking into a trap that I would not come out of until 25 years later. My whole ministry in the church was tumultuous. In an effort to be free and free others, I was what many people considered a “shit disturber”. In fact, just this weekend a friend told me that’s what I have always been. Finally realizing that my struggle with the church’s exclusivity of membership was futile, I left.
Now that I’ve left, I want to be very careful not to enter into those very same attitudes again. Why would I want to leave the exclusivity of the church to enter another brand of exclusivity elsewhere? Why would I just jump from one exclusive tribe into another exclusive one?
- I am careful not to feel I know better than anyone else.
- I am careful not to feel I am better than anyone else.
- I am careful not to feel I am in a better tribe than anyone else.
In other words, it’s not Christianity or the church that is the problem. It’s not atheism or agnosticism. It’s not Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or New Age. Rather, it’s the attitude that these systems foster. The system of Christianity and the church, like all systems, encourages exclusivity.
Exclusivity is the problem. That we’re special.
Thinking that we are the right. The best. The preferable.
I refuse to embrace that value.
I always have.
I always will.
Much love you guys.