#FFFF: Andy Gill

I used to be a pastor, a youth pastor to be exact, but I quickly came to find that church wasn’t for me. The churches I attended felt more like country clubs for the elite, where we learned how to appear moral and nice, it was the message of, “Be everything but who you are.”

I was tired of pretending. I was tired of lying. I was tired of feeling forced to put on a mask every Sunday morning.

I grew up in a caucasian conservative evangelical church, and have worked in only conservative evangelical churches, and went to a conservative evangelical college… this was all I knew, this was my family, my heritage.

I just couldn’t do it anymore, so I stopped doing it. I packed my things. Moved across the country as far as I could get from the church.

I was “lost” but I was free.

For the longest time I’ve been trying to figure out why I had such an issue with the Church. I think I figured a piece of the puzzle out:

It was all about us. I know, not rocket science – who doesn’t feel this way about Church sometimes? But it was so vacant of Jesus, of justice, of mercy…

I think it’s also the conflation of justice and niceness. For instance, someone not being nice is not someone being unjust. We can be really nice people who ignore really unjust things. 

See, we as people have expectations constructed by the society we’re surrounded by, and when these expectations are not met, it’s incomprehensible. For instance: an Asian American who’s athletic (#Linsanity), a female in power, an African-American living in the suburbs.  Or in this case: A church that does not revolve around us.

We know enough about racism, sexism, and oppression so that we don’t appear to be any of these. Don’t ignore them, but don’t acknowledge them, just do nothing about them, and you will be just fine. You will be, but they won’t be.

We’ve training ourselves, our churches to become unaware of these prejudices. Which is why many People of Color within academia equate racism with “ignorance.” 

It’s the conscious or subconscious act of ignoring ones given contextual reality, and we’ve done this by creating our own contextual reality that is a picture perfect lie. Every body is happy, none of us look at porn, and Syria, Trayvon Martin, patriarchal oppression…we’re not even going to go there.

We must excoriate an exploitative sociopolitical system (i.e. the Church) which shuns the idea of diversity while oppressing females, disregarding historic injustice, and keeping the poor powerless. I by no means wish to draw on my own ethical agenda, but I do want to draw upon a traditional and consensual Christian ethic, i.e. the life of Christ, to prayerfully hope for reform.

Take figures like Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus Christ, Ghandi even: Mandela was imprisoned for decades, Malcolm X murdered, MLK shot in the head, Ghandi almost starved to death, Jesus Christ was crucified. To acknowledge injustice is to upset others, to acknowledge injustice and then as a result enact justice is arguably masochistic. 

All these men had to do was blend in. Stay quiet, keep there mouths shut, and the pain, the suffering, the antagonists… they would have all gone away. These men might have lived a little longer, had a couple more decades with their families, wives, sons, daughters… who needed them.

Instead of choosing comfort, they chose justice. As the Church, instead of choosing the status quo should we not choose Jesus?

If I’ve learned one thing in my short life here, it’s that you can stand for justice to the point where you solve world hunger, and there will still be someone out there who wants you dead or silenced.

The fact is, justice will not be had without blood. Not our enemies blood, but our own. To seek justice is to seek out and bear the weight of the cross which we will inevitably be nailed to. 

To be clear – the goal is not to hurt the enemy back, but to love our enemy regardless.

This might not always seem “nice” – but it’s good.

And we ought not forget: the “enemy” of Christ was not the prostitute but the religious elite. 

Love Fierce as the Grave…and Better than Death With Dignity
Sermon in Honor of MLK: “The Voice of Vocation” – With Audio [Brandon Wrencher]
Learning to Make Disciples…AA Style [Fr. Tony Bleything]
Sunday Feeds and Reads: Abusers, Grooming, and Innocence Doctrine
About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Find him on Twitter & Facebook!

  • Todd Williams

    Good post. I must say that I’ve been feeling much the same way. The same old sing a few songs, hear the announcements, and listen to yet another sermon on whatever. I feel like I’m sitting at a feasting table of the most bland food possible, having fattened myself to the point of wanting to regurgitate it all.

    What really is the point, other than meeting together as a body? I mean, my friends and I do this better and with more freedom on our own, having much more meaningful discussions about our faith. I learn more from a little studying or quiet reading than I do from 100 sermons.

    The protectors of the institution would not be happy with me.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Todd, I wonder if you and Andy are both pushing against the consumeristic empire business that church often becomes. Are there other ways?

  • Todd Williams

    It seems like there has to be another way, Zach. I didn’t grow up “churched,” so the other way for me would be to actually observe the sabbath for my own sake by spending a day on the lake with family or friends. I need something else to “do” like I need a hole in my head.

    But there was a time when I felt like I needed the “institution,” if not for anything else except to meet other believers. So, it’s difficult to say. What do you think?

  • lmalone

    For those of us who grew up in church this is especially heart breaking. I loved church growing up. I was not in fundy churches but very open integrated SBC churches as my mom was an interim music minister. I saw women preach, teach men and my first real SS teacher was a precious African American woman who always had me sit by her to “help” because it kept me quiet.
    No celebrity pastors. We were always in and out of each others homes. When my mom died as many of those pastors who could were hobbling into her funeral on canes and walkers to pay respects to their “friend” and co worker.
    I do not recognize most churches today as “church”. They are commercial enterprises and the “leader” is a CEO or sorts. He (always a he) is set apart from people.
    I don’t want to settle but now I look for a church where the pew sitter can actually see and vote on a budget. Where the members actually run the church by committee (yeah, Iknow but better than CEO pastor) But these are harder to find in my nck of the woods. SBTS Calvinism is even infiltrating most Methodist churches here. And I thought they might be a hold out.
    I would ditch the whole thing if I did not have children. But we have cut back and we are pursuing some fellowship outside the institution. I am praying for more of that. I am even pursuing some community projects with unbelievers. Why not? Many times they are more transparent and honest than the believers at church.

  • http://livingliminal.blogspot.com.au/ Living Liminal

    We’ve “ditched the whole thing” for the sake of our children! They’d spent a year watching their mum get brutalised by the institution, and we decided that was enough trauma for them (and us).

    I love that you are involved in community projects outside the institution. I suspect that will give your children a much better understanding of who Christ has called his body to be :)