Sometime near the end of what I now call World Vision Week I had a dream.
As the blackness of slow-wave sleep dissolved, I found myself in the completely mundane and peaceful kitchen I once shared with my ex-wife. As we puttered around, putting away the evening’s dishes, I sensed a shadowy presence swooping past the windows barely visible beneath the nearly drawn shades. I inched closer to the sink to peek out into the purpling sky. Just as I leaned in, great wings beat against the glass as a large bird of prey screeched past. No, not a bird of prey – a scavenger. Vultures! Dozens of them. My heart raced and in a flash I found myself standing in a strange and ornately designed chicken coop surrounded by hens and roosters of every plumage imaginable. All were cooing and clucking kindly, quietly preparing for a long evening’s nap when I noticed, huddled in a corner, a massive vulture surrounded by gentle, golden Buff Orpingtons. The vulture peered at me around its jagged beak that was perched atop a lumpy red face. No matter how I cried and tried, I could not move the tender feathered flock from under the wings of this menacing creature. As I coaxed and called, the beast began to unfurl its withering wings and arch its nasty neck preparing to strike a savage array of skull crushing blows and shred the sinew of the innocent.
I awoke to a wail that was escaping my own throat. And I wept. And I knew instantly that I was weeping for the church.
Y’all, this post ain’t about to get any shorter so if you need to go tinkle or grab a whisky I will wait…
As a woman born in the mid 20th century of the American south to generations-deep Baptists, I have always and only understood myself as a Christian. Sure, there have been many iterations of the tribe I’ve explored and claimed (each foolish enough to claim me) but today I stand before you at yet another crossroads on my journey.
I love Jesus. I love every cotton pickin’ (well, fig tree killin’) story about the Divine Light of Galilee. I cut my teeth on Noah figurines and just loved to pieces every felt-art, donkey-sprinkled bible story served with butter cookies and Kool Aid. I looked forward to vacation bible school with the same obnoxious anticipation I now feel for a pilgrimage across the pond. I was dunked in a baptismal pool at the front of the sanctuary of Confederate Ave. Baptist Church right along with all my gangly friends and experienced my first kiss on a youth group retreat to Panama City. I’m all learned up real good in religious studies in the universities and divinity in the seminaries now. My theology has changed dramatically over the years and if I could, I would claim a crazy mix of liberation, feminist, queer and process theology as the closest thing to understanding That Which Cannot Be Understood.
Still, all this time later, I buy the narrative. Something in my core tells me there is an eternal truth to be found in the Gospels (as we now have them). No matter how I try to be otherwise, I’m a believer.
But y’all, to be blunt, Jesus’ fan club sucks. NO, not all of it and not for all time, but for me, right now, it really kinda sucks.
Non-denominational wagon circling
Cult of personality
Blood sacrifice theology
Cherry picked legalism
Willful ignorance rather than biblical literacy
Passionate about the words of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley or even Paul yet only a passing flirtation with the words of Jesus.
Families being taught the Christian discipline of turning their backs on their children
Christian formation in fear and lies
Friends great at leading bible studies but not clue what to do with the mourning
Classmates turning their backs on the meek
Churches turning their backs on the poor
Communities turning their backs on the hungry
Nations turning their backs on the peacemakers
Wives, shut the fuck up and learn to give a decent blow job
New carpet in the million dollar sanctuary while the hungry stay hungry, the nekkid stay nekkid and the prison industrial complex sprawls
Hate the gays and starve a child
Most of all, hate the gays to get the golden ticket past the pearly gates
As much as my core tells me there is truth to the Jesus narrative, there also flickers along the same fibers in my core the pulsating, unavoidable thought that the last place I am bound to encounter Christ is in the dark and decaying catacombs of Christianity.
Now hold on, I know. I know there are so MANY beautiful examples of love, peace, truth and justice that come from the faithful who have and still do claim the name Christian. Yes, I know there are examples of thriving communities who claim the name Christian who are the antithesis to all the above named. Are they the rule or the exception to the rule? Y’all, right here, right now are probably the most tangible examples of gospel gilded love that I can name. Y’all and a little UCC congregation in Kirkwood.
But I am tired. I am tired of begging for scraps from the table. I am tired of begging to borrow an ounce of grace from the money changers in the temple. I am tired of being a pawn in the Christian culture wars.
And there is a deep and oozing wound in my soul. I am devastated by a system set up to ensure and celebrate the failure of my marriage. The decimation of my family.
Leonardo Boff once wrote, “Grace and salvation are always expressed in sacramental form. They do not come like a bolt from the blue. They find their path to the hearts of human beings through all manner of mediations. The mediations can change, but grace and faith cannot.”
I believe in grace and I have faith in the Incarnation but I need to step away from the riot gear clad protectors of the faith who are pretending to be mediators of truth. It is time.
So, Holy Week this year looks a little different for me as I take the first steps of a detour in my quest searching for Christ, seeking Sophia. It is with a heavy, conflicted heart and a sea of foamy worry that I am called to lay down the name Christian.
I love you.