I got into a church a non-christian in 2009, got “saved” twice in that time and I eventually left it, I suspect, as a non-christian in 2018. I had come full circle and gotten to a place, though somewhat familiar, felt like I was getting there for the first time.
Never mind, that I had gotten saved several times before where the main driver of the decision was fear of being left out, or the fear of not belonging or ultimately, the threat of going to hell. Never once, in the context of christianity, have I made that decision to get saved because I desired a deep and meaningful experience of God, or I discerned a loving call from God.
I struggled to leave church this time around because there had been really good and meaningful times that included a wedding and the opportunity to be of service to my fellows.
Before I decided to ditch the church organization, we were frequently getting to the church services later and later despite living only 15 minutes away. The last time we attended a service, we arrived with about half an hour to spare. I, later that afternoon, sat my family down and shared my personal struggle.
“Son, one of the reasons we have been going to church is so that you can make it to the young adults’ service. I did not want you to blame me for not showing and leading you to church. Going there with 30 minutes left is disrespectful and dishonest. The least I can do is share my truth with you. Church is not working for me. And I will understand if you want to keep going. I will be happy to drop you on time and also come for you when you are done. That I am willing to do.”
“Sweetheart. I am not going back to that church. I am not sure what the complete issue is and I want to find out. And no, I am not willing to look for another church. This struggle has gone on long enough for me to understand the issue is not out there but in here [pointing to my heart] and I want to know what it is. I am willing to take the risks and time in finding out.”
“Curtis, I was concerned about who’d conduct the service when I die, and I thought of you. You’re there!”
Never mind that Curtis, the realest man of God I ever met, is older than me, yet, all of a sudden, he has no permission to die before me.
I was choosing to leave at a time when I couldn’t reconcile the bullying, mannerless and irresponsible behavior of men of god in my circle and the appeals that they were making to us on the need to have healthy christian beliefs. Their cruelty, indecency and insensitivity were often followed by the instruction to touch not the anointed and forgive them where they were wrong.
I acknowledged my unresolved dilemmas, and despite a plea by a professor to read the bible for myself, I stopped reading it altogether. I just couldn’t shed off the filters that seemed permanently stuck to my face. I couldn’t see anything good or loving of this god of the bible. I saw an insecure and disempowered god who seemed to need validation from his creation. Either I or this god needed some growing up to do.
Yes, I kept asking why was I taking all this stuff so seriously and worse, so personally?
Was it my codependent personality that seeks to see the good in everyone, and in missing it, dismissing them entirely?
Was it my lonely, hurting self who was desperate for healing, validation and acknowledgement?
I recently attended a Church conference primarily because my crush was presenting a paper. The conference was convened to discuss the place of the church in a post-COVID19 reality.
I listened to the keynote speaker at the conference and I couldn’t believe my ears when he was talking about the violence and abuse by the church. An African man. Here was a man I hadn’t heard of before laying out my trauma in the open. It wasn’t me after all. He talked about whether the African church as I knew it, was suited for Africans.
He talked about the need for the African church to rearticulate the place of Christ and the church in post-COVID19 Africa. He asserts that the post-COVID 19 African church needs to rethink its function as a life-giving instrument in Africa, a social equalizer of Africans, and the need to redeem its moral authority and release Christ from the shackles of consumerism and capitalism.
For a moment, that kacodependent little child wanted to step out and ask the good professor to come out and play with me because he was now my new best friend. But I have had some growing up to do, and could now take the message without the messenger. I felt so liberated and light. I was enlightened. Yes, I may read what more this good prof has had to say. And I pray I don’t get weighed down by the need to like, or, God forbid, worship him.
I am also listening to another man who dechristianizes christianity so well and continually reminds us that Christ isn’t Jesus’ second name; it is a consciousness.
Back to the conference, I listened to the keen rebuttals by Bible scholars and clergy and in the presence of the new insight, that it was not my fault and that I was ok, I healed a little bit.
Even the voice of a senior university administrator who hadn’t listened to the keynote speech accusing Africans of arrogance and needing to come with brokenness (whilst thinking he was speaking in English) was not enough to dull my new found freedom. I almost got annoyed by the familiarity of that messaging.
Getting a resentment now would have been like being released from prison, hang out in its vicinity hoping for a chance to be thrown a #GetBackHereRightNow key. But I was free. I could rise up, walk, and enjoy the sunshine.
It is my take that people in authority, who really are in service to those they lead, should not accuse those they serve of arrogance. It was simply arrogant, actually.
If these servant leaders have issues about the behaviour of the people they lead, they can come and see me for referrals or counseling.
Though I am now sufficiently open-minded to inquire what it means to be a Christian, I am still not going back to church nor reading the bible as holy scripture for the moment. The seeking continues. The PTSD was and is real.
The shed weight has made it much easier to keep walking and doing good and understanding more. We possibly shall meet, God willing, in that postCOVID19 space. With new stories of care, compassion, courage. of Christ.
Oh. And on that death thing…I have since let it go after I came to terms with the fact that funerals are for the living.
“So, Curtis, ummm. No, it’s alright. Let me shut up.”