Tone-deaf with perfect pitch: A new plan to chase young people away from the church, one-by-one

So last week I posted a link to a terrific Open Letter to the Church by Dannika Nash.

Nash warned that her generation of young people were leaving the church in droves because the church was pushing them out the door with an ultimatum in which they were forced to choose between staying with the church or loving their LGBT friends:

The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70 percent of 23-to-30 year-olds who were brought up in church leave. … My generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.

And how was this open letter received? With the church doubling-down on its ultimatum, as Jill Callison reports for the Sioux Falls Business Journal:

That stance also cost Nash her summer job as a counselor at a church camp.

She was sitting in a coffee shop with her boyfriend when the camp director called to politely, regretfully dismiss her.

“I just cried in public,” Nash says. “People probably thought (my boyfriend) was breaking up with me. The place and the people are really, really important to me, and even though I knew I was risking that a bit with the blog post, it hurt to have it taken away.”

If you’re going to be a moronic asshat, I suppose it’s better to do so “politely” and “regretfully,” but that doesn’t change the fact that the director of this church camp is a moronic asshat.

His first reaction to reading Nash’s explanation of why so many young people no longer feel welcome in the church was to pick up the telephone and personally inform a young person that she was no longer welcome in the church. Faced with Nash’s eloquent complaint that young people were figuratively being forced out of the church, his first reaction was to actually force a young person out of the church.

Maybe this church camp director just couldn’t resist the rare opportunity for a moment of sheer perfection. We’re often given a chance to do the wrong thing, but how often is any of us given such a golden opportunity to do something so precisely and so utterly wrong? There’s almost a kind of beauty in how exactly wrong this particular response was to this particular open letter. It’s like his tone-deafness has perfect pitch.

Or maybe this the some new church-growth strategy. Instead of sitting idly by and watching the Millennials drift away from the church en masse, the new plan is to call them all one-by-one in order to “politely, regretfully” inform each young person in America, individually, that he or she is no longer welcome in our congregations.

Or maybe the plan isn’t to push away every young person personally. Chase enough young people away publicly like this and the rest will get the message.

But whatever their strategy, the end goal is clear. These folks will not be satisfied until every single young person leaves the church and vows never to return.

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  • Magic_Cracker

    Indeed — it was too perfect. I think this camp director is an agent for the KGB (Kissy Girl-Boys) doing his part to heighten the contradictions and bring down fundamentalist Christianity.

  • Hexep

    Hey, yo, the KGB was serious, evil shit. They may as well call themselves the Gay-stapo or the Tontons Ma-cutes or the… the… I can’t think of a good pun on ‘Ustaše’ but I’m sure there is one.

  • normandyso

    You’ve already done enough damage! -:)

  • Kubricks_Rube

    But whatever their strategy, the end goal is clear. These folks will not be satisfied until every single young person leaves the church and vows never to return.

    It’s the corollary to the Clarence Jordan story that Fred has shared many times, only with no second act:

    In the 1950s, an old hillbilly preacher invited Jordan to come and speak at his church in rural South Carolina. Jordan arrived to find, to his surprise, a large, thriving and racially integrated congregation — a remarkable thing in that time and place. (Sadly, it’s actually a remarkable thing in any time or place.) So Clarence asked the man how this came about.

    When he first got there as a substitute preacher, the old man said, it was a small, all-white congregation of a few dozen families.

    “Once I found out what bothered them people, I preached the same message every Sunday. It didn’t take much time before I had that church preached down to four.”

  • LL

    I think it’s about time some of you acknowledged that you’re in an abusive relationship. When the people who supposedly love you hurt you and make you cry and blame YOU for your unhappiness (or their unhappiness), it’s time to leave. Not sure what more they have to do for you to see this.

  • normandyso

    Some people never know when to get out. It’s mostly a girl thing. (Go ahead, call me sexist. But, this has been my lifetime experience. Sad to say.)

  • Tapetum

    Not exactly surprising, given how carefully we go about training our girls to put up with anything and everything.

  • JarredH

    Don’t forget the gaslighting.

  • Jay in Oregon

    But whatever their strategy, the end goal is clear. These folks will not
    be satisfied until every single young person leaves the church and vows
    never to return.

    And they’ll insist that it was the temptations of the sinful, secular world that destroyed their church; not their own un-Christian behavior.

    Maybe once thier stunted, timid idea of a church has died out then something better will take its place.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    In fact, quite a few of the comments on Dannika’s blog post were from self-declared Christians informing her that the problem with young people today was them expecting the Church to suit them and their sinful, secular world-infected values.

  • guest

    I spoke with a nun last month about how we as Catholics are supposed to respond to what the Church has become, and she flat out said ‘the Church is dying. Watch the young people, they’re the seed.’

  • Fusina

    My Mum-in-law was Catholic all her life. In her opinion, and I was shocked and delighted when she said it, the best thing the Catholic church could do, and the only thing that would save it from oblivion, was to elect as Pope a woman. This was some fifteen years ago she said this, and she has been gone for three, so it didn’t happen in her lifetime. We will see if it does in mine.

  • guest

    Agreed, absolutely. Though to be fair…I didn’t go to Catholic school, but have heard some horror stories of brutal nuns. I didn’t remember this until after I’d spoken with this sister; I’d gone to see her because I’d thought ‘I can trust a woman’.

  • Hexep

    The first female pope’s most important accomplishment will be paving the way for future female popes. In all likelihood, she herself with be a total Margaret Thatcher-type – it’s that sort of stone-hearted bravado that really pushes people to achieve power in adversity.

    In fact, I predict that this first female pope will actually be remembered, on her own merits, as a bad one. It’s the second female pope that will make things better.

  • Ross Thompson

    The problem with that is that if the first female Pope (Mome?) is a bad one, then the cardinals will say “well, we tried a lady-pope once, and you know how that ended” and it’ll be a long time before the try that experiment again.

  • phranckeaufile

    I think Hexep was predicting that the first female Pope will be a bad one from the perspective of rational people, which means, of course, that the cardinals will be delighted with her.

  • Hexep

    Oh, very likely that will be the case. But once the door is opened, there will be no closing it again.

    But this is not a suggestion, it’s a prediction. How do you wager it will come about?

  • normandyso

    When hell freezes over. -:)

  • Scott Elliott

    Look at how the first Black female Senator worked out. (I’m from Illinois, so I can say that)

  • FearlessSon

    Heh, I am reminded of how in Medieval: Total War, some of the Catholic priests can have the trait “secretly a woman”. If you can position them carefully and pull the appropriate political strings, you can actually theoretically make a woman the pope (secretly, of course.)

  • Ross

    According to legend, the Vatican employs a guy whose only job is to verify the pontifical genitalia, specifically to prevent that sort of thing from happening.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wouldn’t catch a pre-/non-operative transgender woman.

    Seen on Tumblr, a gif set from fuck knows what (if anyone knows please tell me): two little girls visible from waist up. One girl is changing clothes. She notes her friend staring. “That’s my girl penis,” she says. “It looks just like a boy penis,” says the friend, and the girl responds, “But I’m a girl, so it’s different.”

  • Ross

    No they wouldn’t. But as the people involved would not consider such a thing to exist, it hardly seems worth mentioning. If the pontif is a woman who happens to have a penis, then I am quite sure that the cardinals will maintain that she is in fact a man until the day she unexpectedly dies under mysterious circumstances.

  • The_L1985

    That sounds like the most awkward job ever.

  • Ross

    Second most. “Official Pope Sexer” is second to “Duck Fluffer”

  • normandyso

    Shades of Joan!

  • BornBlue

    A female pope in our lifetimes? I don’t have any faith that my children will even see a female PRIEST in their lives.

  • Lorehead

    I’m not a Catholic, but if they want to save their church, they’ll turn power over to the nuns. I’m serious; they’re the only group of clergy left with any moral authority whatsoever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think nuns are clergy.

  • Lorehead

    I’m not Catholic, so please pardon me if I used the incorrect word.

  • Alan Alexander

    Define “young people.” I’m 43, I only attend church on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and after my mother and father pass away, it is my intention to never set foot in a church again except for weddings or funerals.

  • The_L1985

    I’m 27 and I already decided that I wasn’t going to darken the door of a church unless said occasions take place.

    I decided Christmas was too often.

  • Geds

    And how. I’m 31 and I’ve been out of the church for six years. Before I left I was planning on going to Seminary. Admittedly, my reasons were far more involved and complicated than, “Wow, what a bunch of jerks, I’m out of here.” But it’s the realization that I can’t intellectually assent to the whole thing and I can’t fathom going back to an abusive place like the church for any reason that will keep me outside the doors now.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    I’m 45 and 2012 was the first time I’d set foot in a Christian church in about six years (prior to that it had been a special choir concert). There was some confusion among my 4 pagan children as to whether we were supposed to take communion and we did a Keystone cops routine trying to gt out of the pew, to my father’s chagrin. I whispered “Cakes and ale” and it passed down the line.

  • c2t2

    I want that welcome mat.

    That is all.

  • Marc Mielke

    I have long wanted one with the familiar English two-fingered salute, accompanied by “BUGGER OFF” in large text. (The bird and equivalent Americanism is too crude for my tastes.)

  • konrad_arflane

    My cousin gave me a welcome mat (for Christmas, years ago) with the text “Oh shit, not you again”.

  • Lori

    It is an actual thing (not photoshopped) and can be yours for roughly $30.

  • Angelia Sparrow

    We got one for my mother, years ago. She was a night nurse and felt it expressed her general sentiments to anyone coming to her door by day.

  • JustoneK

    There’s that emotion-driven intent thing again. They’re totes sincere about the regrets but by God it had to be done. I mean, what other choice did they have?

  • James Jarvis

    I think it says a lot that the one place that people are most afraid to speak out in favour of marriage equality is church.

  • Persia


  • Valancy Jane

    Makes me wonder how many Christians support equality and women’s rights and all that properly egalitarian, MYOB stuff, but fear the fallout if they speak out. I’ve got a lot of Christians in my FB feed who are scared to put up the equal sign because of the backlash they’ll get over it, I do know that. And I remember how the GOP thought they had Christians sewn up in their back pocket last election, but it seems clear to me that a number of them *said* they’d vote for Mittens, but got in the booth and followed their own consciences. It’s going to be interesting when the fallout from supporting and embracing progress gets low enough that all those Christians finally feel brave enough to speak out against their religion’s various offenses against humanity.

  • llamapower

    I have to admit to being one of those people. I’d love to put that equal sign on my facebook page, but am honestly not emotionally steeled to deal with the awful back-and-forth it would cause between my secular friends and my uber-conservative religious friends. I have fellow Christian friends in the same boat; we all sit and silently fume through certain sermons, but can’t say anything because absolutely nothing will change.

  • Valancy Jane

    I hope you find the courage to speak out one day. I’m sure Jesus found it difficult to overturn the tables of the money-lenders too! Christianity was originally about social justice, and it’s going to have to re-find those roots if it hopes to survive. The more people claw their way to progress, the less power the toxic Christians will have. I genuinely think they depend upon people staying silent for the same reasons that sexual harassers do! Even so, I know it’s hard to cause waves; please know that I don’t judge you for doing what you must to preserve your health, safety, sanity, or family. You definitely sound like you’re in enemy territory. I just still hope you find a way to be authentic to yourself. This is the only life we get that we know for sure about, and at the end of mine, I want to look back and know I did everything I could to help humanity progress. Don’t you?

  • Tim Lehnerer

    The people trying to keep church membership high might as well have been hand-picked by Satan to fail at this job.

  • Jonathan W. Hendry

    My guess is that they were terrified about what would happen if word got out that a counselor at their camp didn’t loathe gays.

  • Jennifer Thorson

    Oh, Dannika Nash, The Episcopal Church (and several other denominations) Welcomes You. There is room for you in the church. There is room in my pew. Come sit by me.

  • Fusina

    Hey, I attend an Episcopalian church, and we had a Thorson in our congregation. Her sister is still there. Are you related to Ginny or Mary?

  • MartiansAteMyCat

    It’s just not young people who are being politely asked to leave. Once my mother became fully embracing of me as her only gay son, she didn’t hesitate to speak up in defense of the GLBT community whenever someone said something disparaging against gay people in a Bible study group or Christian ladies’ meeting. The “friends” she would make in those groups would eventually stop calling her, stop inviting her to social events, and whenever she needed a ride to the church, no one was ever available to take her, even though her apartment complex was on one of the main thoroughfares in the area (she was older and didn’t drive).

    Eventually, my mother became unable to make it to any church in her local area, and not for lack of asking. I remember she had so much guilt about it, feeling that she was not fulfilling her obligation to “gather together” with other believers. But it’s hard to make it to church when no one will take you.

    I can’t believe I didn’t finally put two and two together until reading this article just now.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Wow, I’m sorry your mother had to deal with that. All the churches in her area? I hope there’s some sort of tolerant local denomination she can find. It’s hard to lose connections like that when you’re older. I hope she can make some better friends.

  • MartiansAteMyCat

    All the evangelical ones, yes. She’s since passed away, so it’s a moot point now, but it really made me angry. She was a wonderful, kind, and deeply spiritual person.

  • Trixie_Belden

    I’m sorry to hear your mom passed away. Losing her must have hurt.

  • lisa

    And being a wonderful, kind and deeply spiritual person and standing by and loving her son, she is most certainly held in the arms of God.

  • Valancy Jane

    My condolences. I’m glad that you found reconciliation with her before she passed, and share your grief and anger at those who mistreated her for doing exactly and precisely what Jesus told Christians to do.

  • Lorehead

    I’m very sorry, but glad she gave you so many warm memories of her.

  • Fusina

    I am so, so sorry this happened to your Mom. It stinks. I drive older people, from my church mostly, but others too, those without cars, to where they need to go and I don’t hold them hostage to their religious or political views. Your story hurts because it is such a simple thing to do to help people.

    To put it another way, “Jesus Wept.”

  • MartiansAteMyCat

    Thank you to you, Fusina, and all the others who posted such kind words. My Mom was an amazing person and a real loving Christian who cared about people.

    I normally wouldn’t have mentioned this, but it seems to be appropriate, given what everyone has expressed. Before my Mom passed away late last year from cancer, I had saved almost 175 of her voicemails to me over the period just before her diagnosis, all the way through her treatment (which didn’t work) and up until the end. I want to honor her life by helping others who may be going through the same journey.

    It’s at if anyone is curious to know more. Thanks again.

  • Dan Hetrick

    I think it might be too little, too late. The young have been leaving the church in droves for a long, long time. It’s just getting noticeable now because the church has already lost a huge number of people, and the loss of a sizable percentage of the people they have now sticks out. I left the church when I was 20, not because of gay rights (although that helped), and not because of the hostility to other religions (that helped too), but because it was made clear to me that being able to think and reason for myself simply was not acceptable. Reading the Bible with a critical eye, and trying to figure out what it was saying in the context of the age in which it was written in, was looked at with suspicion. I was kicked out of the church I grew up in, and kicked out of two more before I got the message: non-conformity was not welcome.

    When I was 18, I was attending an Assemblies of God church. I was on a youth retreat, where we drove six hours out into the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan. On this particular retreat, the pastor wanted to introduce the kids to “speaking in tongues”, and how it was an integral (and necessary) part of our growth as Christians. Eventually, all the kids joined the pastor up on the stage, babbling in their made-up languages. When I didn’t join them, the pastor very pointedly asked me why (into a microphone, from the stage). I pointed out some scripture that said that what he (and the children were doing) was wrong; I remember using Matthew 6:5-8 and a couple of others. Before I knew what was going on, one of the chaperones took me aside, and told me to gather my belongings. At 11 o’clock at night, and without letting me say anything to my friends or the pastor, the chaperone drove the six hours to get me home. The next day the church called me to let me know I would not be welcome back into their youth group. I wish I would have been smart enough to leave the church then, but it took me a couple more years.

    The only reason why the church is noticing the lost of the youth is because it is accelerating, not because it wasn’t happening before.

  • FearlessSon

    Reading the Bible with a critical eye, and trying to figure out what it was saying in the context of the age in which it was written in, was looked at with suspicion. I was kicked out of the church I grew up in, and kicked out of two more before I got the message: non-conformity was not welcome.

    Altemeyer had this to say on young people who eventually leave very authoritarian churches:

    Their families will say it was Satan. But we thought, after interviewing dozens of “amazing apostates,” that (most ironically) their religious training had made them leave. Their church had told them it was God’s true religion. That’s what made it so right, so much better than all the others. It had the truth, it spoke the truth, it was The Truth. But that emphasis can create in some people a tremendous valuing of truth per se, especially among highly intelligent youth who have been rewarded all their lives for getting “the right answer.” So if the religion itself begins making less and less sense, it fails by the very criterion that it set up to show its superiority.

    Similarly, pretending to believe the unbelievable violated the integrity that had brought praise to the amazing apostates as children. Their consciences, thoroughly developed by their upbringing, made it hard for them to bear false witness. So again they were essentially trapped by their religious training. It had worked too well for them to stay in the home religion, given the problems they saw with it.

  • Dan Hetrick

    This! A thousand times, this! Thank you for that, I had never read that before.

  • Fusina

    I used to attend an AG church. I was a member, and left. After six months of never hearing from anyone from the church, I went in and told the head pastor to remove me from the membership roll. He wanted to know why I was leaving.

    Leaving? I left six months earlier and NO ONE noticed. Why would I want to continue to attend a church that didn’t care whether I was there or not. And to make matters worse, a few weeks before I left, they started an attendance sheet–sign in to services, if you didn’t sign in for a couple weeks, someone was supposed to call you to see how you were. I didn’t attend for six fucking months. And no one called.

    Damn, I had no idea I has so much anger still left from this incident.

  • Valancy Jane

    Many, many good and kindly thoughts from a random internet stranger, Fusina. I had a similar experience. When I deconverted, nobody noticed except my then-husband, who, being a preacher, had a very personal stake in my attendance and at least my outward show of conformity. Nobody called, or visited, or tried to talk me out of it, or even spoke to me a on a friendly basis. People I’d thought were friends for almost a decade just acted like I’d been blipped out of existence by some Elder God playing a practical joke. It’s an incredible insult to realize that all that love and adoration you get as a new convert vanishes when you leave. Just as TV and cell phone companies value new customers over longtime ones, churches make a big screaming orgasmic deal over new converts but quietly avert their eyes from those who leave and then cluck among themselves about how we just didn’t do something right, weren’t TRUE Christians. And we deconverts are driven even further away from their religion because of such treatment. It’s not hard to think that the current loss of membership in Christian churches has to do with them alienating and irrevocably hurting so many people. The most potent criticism I can level at Christianity is the behavior of its adherents.

    Years after my deconversion, I would re-read “Watership Down” and cry my eyes out when I got to the story of Strawberry’s sick, diseased warren. I understood those rabbits, understood why they stayed there, lived there, and ignored any sign of anything wrong, any hint that anybody was missing or what might have become of those who were gone. Such mindgames are essential to maintaining the warren. Even knowing that, I’m still angry too, and it’s totally reasonable for us both to be angry. It’s infuriating to be used and tossed aside. It is our human right to feel anger over such treatment. At least for me it ensures I’ll never let it happen again; I view love-bombings like what churches do with a very wary eye now.

  • FearlessSon

    You have it right, it is a mind game, a social and psychological thing. Being in a church helps bring happiness by the knowledge than one is in a wonderful company of like-minded faithful, and everything is rose-colored and beautiful. But that happiness comes all from perspective, you have to maintain the belief that the community is as great as you think it is to get that happiness. When the image starts to crack, when details do not add up, the construct you have in your head begins to fall apart, and the happiness shatters with it.

    This is why they celebrate new congregants, it shows the community is vital, growing and reaching out and expending the breadth of the Good News to all fellow travelers. That is why people who leave go unremarked, it undermines that imagine of expansion and perfect unity of faith, reminds people things are not as ideal as they think that they are. The imagine they want to send only works if enough people believe in it, and doubt begets doubt, so the vocal doubters are silenced and the quiet doubters are ignored.

    I do not mean to say this as an attack on religion, by no means am I implying that, but it is a pattern I have seen not only in second-hand experience of people in churches but also first-hand in sales. I worked, very briefly, for that Vector marketing company that recruits college students (and I doubt I am the only one here who can say that.) They do the same thing. Rush people through the recruitment process, tell them about all the success they can have if they stick with it and have a positive attitude, silence anyone who questions or doubts this (especially if they do so in front of more junior sales clerks.) People quietly drop out of the company usually in a few weeks on average. This attrition rate never goes remarked upon, ever, and there are always a new crop of recruits who come through every week to take their place. A few people find success there and stay for months or years, but the vast majority are just sifted through to find the few with the personal ambition, inability to take no for an answer from customers, and the fortitude to endure shilling products onto people who are not in the market for them. The company needs the mind-game to maintain that, just as the church does.

  • Valancy Jane

    It’s okay to attack that which deserves attack. Religion is not a sacred cow any more than MLMs are. I hadn’t noticed how similar they are, but you are absolutely correct–new blood’s the only way they can both say in business. I also got involved briefly with one (Amway, no less, post-lawsuit but pre-Quixtar) and it was just eye-opening how entwined it was with evangelical Christianity and how similar its leaders’ daily/weekly exhortations were to sermons.

    It’s probably no coincidence that my very Christian-heavy state is also one of the bigger ones for MLM involvement–a shockingly high percentage of my county was involved in one or another of these a couple years ago according to an article about tax reporting I read. Not a single one of these “businesses” reported a profit, however. Not a single one! But you know how the “survivors” look at those who quit MLMs, right? They did something wrong. They didn’t work hard enough. Didn’t talk to prospects the right way. Didn’t do enough presentations, buy enough tapes, go to enough events, didn’t BELIEVE enough. The message was always pure and unassailable; the person who left was just doing something horribly wrong that the remainder were all positive they were doing right (which they could tell because they were still in the “business”). And neither religion nor MLMs are truly ethical with regard to their product. So well said, well said, an excellent point, and thank you for making it. Definite food for thought.

  • The_L1985

    I would recommend The Authoritarians to anyone. It’s about 150 pages, so it’s not something you can easily read in one sitting, but it’s still shorter than the average novel.

  • Redwood Rhiadra

    And it’s free!

  • FearlessSon

    It is indeed as TheL_1985 and Redwood Rhiadra said, I drew that quote directly from The Authoritarians. Here is the link where you can get it on PDF if you are curious. It is a good book, and it let me make a lot more sense out of some very illogical ways I have seen some people act.

  • Dan Hetrick

    Thanks for the link! I’m reading it now, and, even though I’m only 10 pages in, I’m amazed at a lot of this stuff. It’s been very eye-opening.

  • The_L1985

    Not to mention, speaking in tongues is supposed to be like that story in Acts 1. “Are not all of these men Galileans? Then why does each of us hear them in his own native language?”

    The very first time I heard someone’s babbling described as “speaking in tongues,” I decided on the spot that I would never become a Protestant of any denomination.

  • Lori

    The very first time I heard someone’s babbling described as “speaking in
    tongues,” I decided on the spot that I would never become a Protestant
    of any denomination.

    You do realize that the vast majority of Protestants have nothing to do with speaking in tongues, right? I’m obviously not arguing in favor of being a Protestant, or a member of any other religion, but that doesn’t mean that tarring with such a broad brush is in any way fair.

  • The_L1985

    You’re absolutely right! However, I was also 7 at the time, rather sheltered, and the only other Protestant church I had for reference (other than the CoG where the aforementioned “speaking in tongues” happened) was the Baptist church my aunt went to at the time. I didn’t like that church either, because it felt like the pastor was yelling at me the whole time, and I have an extreme phobia of being yelled at.

    I’m not saying I made a smart choice evaluating Protestants on the basis of 2 denominations, but sometimes some of the knee-jerk decisions you make as a kid tend to stick around long after you’ve learned better. Even when I left the Catholic church, even though there are numerous churches nearby in every denomination under the sun, it never once occurred to me to go to any of them.

  • JustoneK

    That is an excellent analogy. You don’t want to get sick again and you rly don’t want anyone else getting sick from it. You think it could be fine but somehow it gets screwed up in a lot of preparations.

  • Dan Hetrick

    You saw speaking in tongues at at CoG church? If you don’t mind me asking, which CoG? I was raised in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), and speaking in tongues was viewed with suspicion, if not outright declared to be heresy. When I left the CoG, one of the reasons why I joined the Assemblies of God was because a lot of their teachings were “forbidden” when compared with my upbringing.

  • The_L1985

    I don’t remember the name of the church, but it was in Enterprise, AL.

    The woman who did it may have been a visitor from the local AoG, but either way, it was creepy to watch.

  • Scott Elliott

    “… it’s like trying to eat food that you got a bad batch of and got sick from the first time you tried it.”

  • Cathy W

    I’d also thought it was something that happened when the Holy Spirit had something for you to say (rather than “on demand”), and only when there was someone with the gift of interpreting tongues present, but I’ve never been a churchgoer of any sort…

  • JustoneK

    Having been in megachurch(es) and other southern fundie churches of a few stripes, I can tell you it does vary, along with interpreters. I am remembering somewhat that being able to do it on cue meant a rull good connection to the Holy Spirit in general, and doing it _not_ on cue meant it was a particularly important spiritual message.

    YMMV, as with anything.

  • Charity Brighton

    I guess for some people, their solution to seeing things like this is to double down and consolidate. They may drive away a lot of people, but those who are left will have often been asked to sever ties to nonbelievers (that is, anyone outside of that one congregation) and will increasingly be pressured to adopt non-mainstream views such as speaking in tongues that will isolate them further. The congregation will shrink, but the leaders of the remnant will have more power over the part of that group that is afraid to leave because they don’t think they will fit in anywhere else.

  • twhite6878

    Left the church when I was 30. Best thing I ever did.

  • FearlessSon

    Do we have a name of this camp? A name of the camp director? Something from which we can derive an address? I get the feeling that they are in for a wash of negative feedback regarding this if it was publicly known.

  • Dan Hetrick

    No, she refused to identify the camp. I wish she had, but I can understand the reasons why she didn’t.

    “It’s a beautiful camp, and I want people to go there,” she says. “If they offered me my job back right now, I’d think about taking it even though I’m hurt.”

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    To me, at least, that’s just sad :/

  • LL

    This. That’s sad as shit.

    When people treat you badly, esp. when you have served them faithfully, that should make you angry enough to say, essentially, “You know what? F*** you. I don’t need you people and I will make it one of my life’s goals to make sure other people know they don’t need you, either.”

    Sometimes you need to be and act angry. Not wounded or disappointed. There’s a time to forgive, but in my opinion, it’s not when somebody is unrepentant about doing something wrong. She did at least take a good first step by writing about it, instead of slinking away in shame and letting them get away with it.

  • FearlessSon

    There’s a time to forgive, but in my opinion, it’s not when somebody is unrepentant about doing something wrong.

    As Fred once said, genuine forgiveness requires the offender to surrender power to the offended before it has any meaning. When the powerful ask for forgiveness without actually surrendering any of that power, it becomes a coercive gesture, used to reinforce that power and the “forgiveness” is made into a bludgeon to keep the offended at a disadvantage.

  • Marc Mielke

    It might just be one of the folks in charge who has a problem with her, and everyone else is lovely. Worked for a college LRC like that; director was the most high-strung, perfectionistic stepford-wife type ever but my co-workers were all pretty awesome.

  • Trixie_Belden

    That reminds me of LL’s comment up thread about this situation resembling being in a an abusive relationship. What the hell is it about that camp that’s so “beautiful” that it couldn’t be found in a dozen, other, better camps? When the camp director is the kind of person who fires a counselor pretty much on the spot, hurts them enough to make them cry, for writing a thoughtful, respectful article about what she sees as a serious flaw in their church, we know the camp director is a jerk. The “politely”, “regretfully” stuff is just so much BS. If he’s the director, and he’s one of the ones who hires people, it’s a pretty safe bet he’s not the only jerk in a position of authority at that camp. I know I don’t want anyone to go to that camp, and I’m at a loss to see why she does.

  • Persia

    I suspect it’s a camp she has deep and good memories of. Hard to judge her for still caring for it. And cynically, naming the camp might end up with her suffering even more backlash/hate mail.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Oh, I’m against naming the camp or the director: my comment had more to do with the idea that I think it’s better for someone in an abusive situation to be able to identify and acknowledge that something is abusive. I wouldn’t judge her for caring about the camp, but it’s good to acknowledge there are better camps out there.

  • Persia

    I hope she’ll get to that point, but it’s pretty recent for her.

  • Fanraeth

    Backlash against the camp won’t just hurt the director, it will hurt the other people who work there who may very well be good friends of her’s. I imagine she doesn’t want to do anything that would hurt them.

  • FearlessSon

    For my part, my desire to send negative feedback had less to do with the general camp itself, and more to do with the director specifically. If the camp is indeed otherwise a good and valuable place, then the director is clearly a bad fit for it for the way they handed the backlash against Dannika Nash and that camp should be solicited to ask for the director’s resignation and apology for something like this.

  • Dave Jones
  • Enopoletus Harding


  • JustoneK

    the heck? this reads a little like the Time Cube page. thankfully less font changes.

  • Randy Kopycinski
  • Randy Kopycinski
  • The_L1985

    Markuze, do you really want to get arrested again?

  • JustoneK

    the heck is going on dude I don’t even
    who is Markuze?

  • Cathy W

    Dennis Markuze, a man from Quebec with mental-health and substance-abuse issues, who made a habit of coming to atheist blogs and posting strings of nonsense interspersed with threats – and he seems to have decided that Slacktivist counted as an atheist blog. Last I heard he was on probation and not supposed to be on the Internet…

  • EllieMurasaki

    Dennis Markuze, otherwise known as dmabus and a half dozen other things, has previously been arrested for Internet harassment. Slacktivist on Typepad is one of the places he hit; I forget if he got Slacktivist on Patheos.

    I’m not sure this is him. Too coherent.

  • Randy Kopycinski

    It was just a corny sight gag mocking his fly-by hate rants. :-(
    (Randy shuffles his feet…)

  • Randy Kopycinski
  • Randy Kopycinski

    (Wait for it…)

  • Randy Kopycinski

    Who would thumb down the Crash Test Dummies!? :-/

  • Redwood Rhiadra

    Probably Dennis…

  • Randy Kopycinski

    Who would thumb down the Crash Test Dummies? I mean, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” sounds like a Campbells soup jingle, but it wasn’t that bad a song… :-(

  •Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

    Well, if they think they need a leaner, meaner church, who we are to argue? I wonder what the end result of it all will be. Conservative churches are composed of bigoted asshats, liberal churches aren’t, but they sacrifice doctrinal rigidity and self-assurance, which has its own set of problems. Is it possible to have a doctrinally rigid, self-assured liberal church?

  • lowtechcyclist

    Speaking as a liberal Christian, the last thing I’d want is a doctrinally rigid church. The Nicene Creed is enough non-negotiable doctrine for me; the rest we can talk about.

    And I don’t think doctrinal rigidity is a precondition of a self-assured faith; it’s a precondition of a brittle faith that will shatter once the rigid doctrine doesn’t make sense, but, being rigid, can’t bend so it breaks.

  • BringTheNoise

    I only wish I had more than one upvote to give to this comment.

  • Fusina

    “Speaking as a liberal Christian, the last thing I’d want is a doctrinally rigid church.”

    Yes! It is scary to live as an adult. But better all around that remaining a child all my life. And that is what they are, children. We give children rules that cannot be broken without consequences. And we need to teach them how to be free–how to choose rightly–to love and welcome all–oh hell, I like what Paul allegedly said on this subject, so here it is,

    1 Corinthians 13.11: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

  • Baby_Raptor

    People who either don’t want to think or are afraid to hide behind rigid doctrine.

    And what with the myriad of ways the world has changed in the ~2000 years since Jesus was here, I would think that the Christian god would want a “living document” type of guidance. it makes more sense for his followers…Some rules just need to be thrown out as society and technology evolve.

  •Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

    Rigid doctrine can also give you conviction.

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  • Fusina

    I am convinced that all people, whatever their beliefs, should be treated with respect. I am convinced that all people should be allowed the same freedom that the bible states is given to man by god, that of totally free will, to do what they want. I am convinced that other belief systems have truths in them–for instance, I adore the Wiccan doctrine of “An it harm none, please yourself.” Succinct restating of the ten commandments there, even more so than Jesus’ restatement.

    Conviction + passionate intensity is a neutral thing–can be used for both good and evil. and IMO, anything that leaves people with more freedom is a good thing–except when they use it to harm others. This world is a tricky one isn’t it.

    Oh, and I have a sis that lives in Cambridge Mass. Am a bit worried as that is right near to Watertown, where everything is pretty much, last I heard, shut down while they search for one of the Marathon bombers. Nice thoughts/prayers/whatever your religion or non allows/encourages would be appreciated.

  • Fusina

    And just heard from her, Cambridge is also on lockdown. So the above def. applies to her. Bit worried about them. Yeah, Cam. is pretty biggish, but they live near a park–with trees–as in, good hiding place for fugitives.

  • AnonymousSam

    Blind adherence to unchanging rules is not conviction; it’s the assumption of having no responsibility for one’s actions so long as they’re in line with a set of rules — the emphasis is on punishment and consequences, rather than observation and compassionate response (it’s also spoken of quite negatively in the Bible itself). Progressive Christianity teaches ethics, which are far more rigorous, demanding, and rewarding than a list of rules.

    Fred addressed this kind of issue here:

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but certainty in an uncertain world can easily lead one to make the wrong decisions and believe oneself to be TOTALLY RIGHT.

    If I never see a small dog, but only large ones, for many years, and thus have the conviction that all dogs are large, then the first Chihuahua I see is going to totally baffle me. It’ll seem wrong in almost every way for a dog to be that tiny. I may even harm the dog in my attempts to make it look and act like a Great Dane. Chihuahuas can’t jump up into the bed of a truck; they can’t eat nearly as much food; they can’t fetch Frisbees or large toys; they are hopeless at pulling loads that large-breed dogs have successfully done for centuries. Treating a small dog as a large dog because I HAVE CONVICTION AND A DOG MUST BE THIS CERTAIN WAY blinds me to benefits of small dogs, like fitting comfortably on your lap, costing less to feed and groom, or being able to live happily in a small apartment.

  • The_L1985

    As a person whose conservative-Christian upbringing made her thoroughly miserable due to deep-rooted guilt issues that have still never gone away, I’d have to say that “meaner,” as in “more cruel,” is definitely a good description of a lot of these churches that are getting “leaner and meaner.”

    What’s the point of being “saved” if you’re not actually going to try to be a better person?

  • Pat

    Well, I hope whatever city she’s in that some church will reach out to her and gladly welcome her in.

  • ReverendRef

    Nash warned that her generation of young people were leaving the church
    in droves because the church was pushing them out the door
    . . .

    The problem I have with this statement, and most of the comments about this topic, is the reference to “the church,” as if it were one, big, monochromatic institution. There are a number of Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, American Baptist (to name a few) congregations who would welcome these young people AND their lgbt friends.

    To say that they are being forced out of “the church” isn’t correct — they are being forced out of conservative, right wing, evangelical congregations. Many others of us in “the church” understand and live by the concept of love, welcome and inclusion.

  • Elizabeth Masters Hiatt

    I think that for many of us, it doesn’t work like that. It starts with the political and social things but once you start asking questions about things that you were taught are gospel, the questions don’t stop. I think for many of us the whole thing comes toppling down.

  • FearlessSon

    Maybe when we are referring to this context, we should capitalize it as The Church, like we do Real True Christians or The Man (which are distinct in turn from churches reality, truth, Christians, and men, and we know not to confuse them.) We are not referring to any particular church or any particular set of churches, but rather the abstract concept of a church as an institutional authority. Naturally, some churches are less authoritative than others (and I doubt that they have this problem as much as more authoritative churches do.)

    That is a distinction which should be made.

  • Deird

    I would prefer you not to make that distinction by using capitals like that.
    In a lot of Christian circles, people will refer to “the church”, meaning that little building down the street, and “the Church”, meaning Christ’s body of believers, united in Christ even though we’re currently divided into hundreds of warring denominations.

    It’s kind of like the “Catholic” vs “catholic” thing. (I am catholic, but certainly not Catholic.)

    As someone who would definitely consider myself part of the Church, and identify anything using that (capital C) term as referring to a bunch of people that includes me (whether I like it or not), I would really appreciate it if that term did not become the derogatory one.

  • FearlessSon

    My apologies, I was unaware that such a distinct identifier already had a particular inferred meaning.

  • Scott Elliott

    See the comment from The_L1985 on the previous post:

    … the only other Protestant church I had for reference (other than the CoG where the aforementioned “speaking in tongues” happened) was the Baptist church my aunt went to at the time. I didn’t like that church either, because it felt like the pastor was yelling at me the whole time, and I have an extreme phobia of being yelled at.

    I’m not saying I made a smart choice evaluating Protestants on the basis of 2 denominations, but sometimes some of the knee-jerk decisions you make as a kid tend to stick around long after you’ve learned better. Even when I left the Catholic church, even though there are numerous churches nearby in every denomination under the sun, it never once occurred to me to go to any of them.

    I know now that there are some Christian denominations that might have fit me OK (Fred’s pretty cool, and everything I’ve heard about Episcopalians and the liberal branch of the Lutherans has been pretty good), but it’s like trying to eat food that you got a bad batch of and got sick from the first time you tried it. Intellectually, you know there’s nothing wrong with it. You see other people enjoying it, and you’re very happy for them, and part of you also wishes you could enjoy it. But the thought of actually doing so in a non-hypothetical way feels very, very wrong.

  • The_L1985

    But in some areas, the only churches around are those conservative, right wing, evangelical ones, so they are, in effect, being forced out of The Church.

    My childhood home was in the middle of nowhere, with nothing even remotely liberal, or even moderate, nearby.

  • lawrence090469

    Reminds me of that saying about the Palestinians: They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  • girlie234

    It is not our right to judge others. Not at all. God would want us to love them regardless and let him decide between the right and wrong.

  • ShifterCat

    So by your logic we should never call out injustice, because that’s judging someone? We shouldn’t try to make the world a better place, because the being who decides what “better” means is inaccessible or possibly non-existent? We should just sit on our thumbs and not do anything except pray and make vague warm-fuzzy gestures towards everyone in general?

    You can sit on the sidelines and do nothing but shake your finger at us if you like. Don’t speak for the rest of us.

  • banancat

    Choosing to be neutral just means siding with the more powerful party. I’m sure girlie234 thinks she’s being profound and above it all, but she’s really just taking the easy route and siding with the oppressors. It’s quite unfortunate.

  • Alice

    It is sad that she lost the summer job because she had the courage to speak up. I hope she finds a much better job where she doesn’t have to work with people like that.

    I am another young person who is soon going to leave the denomination I grew up in for a GLBT-affirming church. There are many reasons why I am leaving, but the bigotry against my friends is the main reason. I hope more churches will wake up in a decade or three, but it will probably be like watching a glacier move.

  • Manetta

    When I was about 17 I left the church. That was 21 years ago. I was attending a Baptist Church, and I got my brother to go. He was a long haired head banging kid, who wore Metalica t-shirts. They got upset about it and after a month or so of his going, they asked me to ask him to clean up.They said it was Satanic, and treated him poorly for it. It made me mad because if they truly were loving and wanted converts, they would have jumped for joy that he was there. It wasn’t long after that I left. I still consider myself Christian,in that I love and honor Christ and believe He died for us, but the bride of Christ has become dogmatic and unloving.

  • Lorehead

    This reminds me of the latest announcement from the Boy Scouts that they will allow gay boys, but not gay or lesbian adults. (“I am proud to bestow upon you the rank of Eagle Scout, and to ban you for life.”) The explanation is that some religious organizations that sponsor troops objected more to gay adults than to gay teens. They also will continue to discriminate against atheists. If they think this will satisfy anyone, they are sorely mistaken.

    Those churches provide nothing that anybody else couldn’t, but the Boy Scouts of America depend, for their survival as anything more than a pariah rump, entirely on two demographics: parents aged thirty to forty and teenage boys. They cannot survive with a policy that actively offends both. The old men with veto power cannot have things the way they used to be; they can only destroy the institution.

    Is there any reason the Girl Scouts couldn’t become the Young Scouts and organize troops of boys?

  • Carstonio

    The organization probably still believes in the twin myths of orientation being a choice and of young people being recruited into homosexuality. Even more heinous is the claim that gay Scotmasters would prey upon boys, just as straight males leading Girl Scout troops would allegedly prey upon girls. Sounds more like an argument for keeping all men in solitary confinement.

  • Lorehead

    The Girl Scouts do allow men to volunteer, although I believe that a woman must be present whenever they’re with the girls themselves.

  • Carstonio

    True. The difference is that the Girl Scouts don’t ban lesbian leaders and try to justify the policy by making broad and unjustified assertions about females’ sexual impulses.

  • Gordon Duffy

    I went to volunteer at my local Scout group. The very last question on the paperwork was Religion. When I told them my answer: “None”, they politely showed me the door.

  • Dan Hydar

    (eyeroll) Hysterics aside, ‘Fred Clark’ simply doesn’t like it when people disagree with him.

  • ShifterCat

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    Not quite sure that is accurate. Pot. Ocean. Black. ?

  • Amber Lawson

    That is so. Mess up

  • banancat

    As a youth over a decade ago, I felt unwelcome in my church for many reasons, and the lack of support for LGBT equality was only one of those things, and didn’t even register as a specific from what I remember.

    There were tons of issues that I just couldn’t agree on with the most vocal adults of my church. Evolution, genetic engineering, a young woman aspiring to go into a STEM field. But mostly I just felt that youths weren’t appreciated or valued in any way. As I was becoming an adult and looking for a community, I felt that I had to hide my true self and pretend to be something I wasn’t just to fit in at church, which seemed to me to be the place I should feel most comfortable and accepted.

    The way it seems to me is that young people always have a decent amount of power and influence in the “real world”. Every generation has to take over at some point. And the older people have had to accept e-mails as professionalism, the switch to business casual, and professionals addressing their “superiors” on a first-name basis. They’ve had to accept ubiquitous cell phone use and changing language and different social cause changes like wearing seatbelts or not smoking in restaurants. Things have changed so much in their professional and social worlds, and they feel like they have no control over it. And I’d bet that every generation feels this way.

    But in my church, they dealt with this by ruling over the church and trying to keep it as the one little place where newness couldn’t take over. Because they only viewed us as potential usurpers, they never listened to or valued our ideas and opinions. They never outright told us to sit down and shut up, but any time we tried to participate we were immediately shot down or talked over.

    Now the church is hurting. They are near bankruptcy. And it doesn’t surprise me at all. I was there recently for Easter and one woman, not old but late middle age, tut-tutted about how she doesn’t trust the current youth and suspects some of them of being thieves. This remark was unprompted and I realized nothing had changed. They’re not getting new members because they don’t want them. They don’t reach out to young people and make them feel welcome. When younger people, now counted as pretty much anyone under 30, starts visiting, the church regulars try to convince them to become members out of obligation.

    I suspect many churches are like this. They are full of people who no longer have control over everything and want to hold tight to the control they wield in the church. And in some churches, marriage equality is the thing they make the biggest fuss about, but a similar attitude shows up even in places that don’t a strong stance against the currently controversial issues. It’s a symptom of just not valuing younger people.

  • Original Lee

    This very succinctly describes a church I attended 10 years ago. Most of the Founding Families had things set up the way they liked them to be and actively resisted any change that didn’t occur to them. Some of the Founding Families did try for some minor changes, and one or two of them did eventually trickle in. But anything related to the youth and young adults tended to get short shrift – if any (relative) newcomer pointed out that having the youth meet in a dusty basement furnished with random castoffs was problematic from several different perspectives, they were ignored. If someone with small children pointed out that the wiring in the Sunday School wing was getting old enough that maybe it should be replaced, they were ignored. If someone tried to set up a youth band to play contemporary music during the service, nobody wanted to be in charge or people complained about the song selections. Not exactly inviting or welcoming!

  • Mike Mayer

    It is amazing what actually reading the message of the bible reveals…. and what pointing that message out to those who are unwilling to hear it may cost you. (Luther is a prime example of this nearly 500 years ago.)

    I am fortunate enough to have found a congregation that has for at least 20 years been called to be a refuge for the LGBT community. I myself am straight, but I take great joy in knowing that there are (growing) pockets of Christians that are trying to follow Christ’s simple (yet often so hard to follow) commandment to love one another as ourselves.

    For all of those of you who have given up on the church, but feel a void in your life because of this decision (to leave the church), I pray that you might find a congregation like mine that will take you as you are. More importantly, a congregation that will not simply tolerate you despite who/what you are, but will accept you with open arms as an equal and where the question of sexual orientation is irrelevant.

  • squashed

    This sort of sideshow is really getting distracting for those of us who have found welcoming homes in truly inclusive churches. We know it’s important not to spend too much time on how dumb some of the other churches have been. Because criticizing other churches is not *technically* one of the great ends of the church. That said, if there’s an accident on the highway involving multiple firetrucks and a crane, I’m not above gawking. I wish I was–but I’m not.