The final installment in this series of introductory blogs.
How I became a cynic....
A dysfunctional church
Several years ago I read a book entitled: Toxic Church. It could have been written about my home church. The church I grew up in was a family run outfit. (Not my family, though we got into the middle of several clashes along the way.) The church would grow for a while until someone threatened to show talent for leadership, then we would see a sudden decline. It was also a very closed and judgmental place. I remember one fellow who began to attend church that had a tobacco habit. I overheard a couple gossips taking about him: “He can’t wait to get out of church so he can light up. And now, there are cigarette butts on the sidewalk!” I say, put ashtrays where the communion cup holders are if we can get more unchurched people to follow Jesus! In fairness – the church wasn’t a complete disaster – I had a great teen class Sunday School teacher and a couple humble, beat up and persistent pastors who loved me and influenced me greatly.
I arrived on the Marion College campus (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in the midst of the tongues crisis. I’d never heard of such a thing and was too naïve to really understand what was going on. The denominational leaders came on campus had a meeting and outlawed speaking in tongues. They said it was a dead gift. I wasn’t very sophisticated nor educated at the time, but something just didn’t seem right about that. And it wasn’t. We have now modified our statement to a “don’t ask – don’t tell” level. An improvement of sorts. I become more and more disillusioned with the hierarchy of the church as I see those in power exercise their influence to stay in power. So, why stay in this church – because the bride has spots and wrinkles wherever you go and I am called and compelled to be a steam-dry iron right here if I can make any difference at all.
My world view shifted considerably when I began taking classes at Eastern Michigan University. I got my MA in counseling from there in 1993. The classes I took there and the many experiences as well, challenged many of my simplistic view of life. I did not lose my salvation. I did not come out an atheist. Rather, I had to come to a much more mature and fuller understanding of my faith and my walk with Christ. It helped me undertand that morality was much larger than the subject of sex. It helped me see why many reject the American/Republican version of Christianity. And it shaped me for what I am doing now.