Severed, Amputated, Or Pruned?

Those of us who, having been born into new life in Him, worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, consider ourselves part of the organic, inter-dependent, functioning Body of Christ — as the Bible describes and as most Christians experience.  That means, at its most simple, that we gather together on Sunday mornings, believe the same things, more or less, and generally fill our lives with relationships gathered from the community of believers we refer to as our church family.  That’s what the Bible both prescribes and describes, and it’s been the case for Christians for more than two millennia.

And I have no idea what it’s like.  None at all.

I’ve been a Christian for 33 years — I was raised Catholic and was always religious; indeed, I wanted to be a nun for the longest time in elementary school, until, as I once said in a stand-up routine, what appeared to be the obligatory facial hair scared me away.  But I took my First Communion and Confession seriously, lived a rigorously disciplined life — in other words, no kissing boys, no swearing, no sneaking booze from my parents’ alcohol cabinet.  Then I hit college, went into a pretty significant tailspin, and heard the Gospel for the first time.  I was angry, angrier than you can imagine, with everything and everyone, but I came to understand that I had no anger towards, couldn’t have any anger towards, the One who died and rose again for me.  I’ve been going to church from the very beginning, attending, and leaving, more churches than I can count.

I’ve just submitted my letter of resignation to the church I’ve been attending for the last year and a half.  They’re a great group of people; it’s just that while I’ve gotten a lot of support for my decidedly left-of-center politics, I haven’t felt as though we’re on the same page theologically.  I believe that the political and social views I hold, which upset other Christians tremendously, come from my belief in Scripture and my desire to adhere to Christ’s teachings — meaning that I have embraced radical feminism, gay marriage, personal pacifism, evolution, democratic socialism, and the other “left-wing” positions that I hold to because I believe them to be the most coherent with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.  To say that that’s a minority view would be a tremendous understatement, and I have friends and family members who honestly love me just as they honestly disbelieve that I’m truly a Christian.

I am.  I would even say, if the sociological three-point definition of “evangelical” still meant something, that I’m evangelical.  I have had a personal experience with Jesus Christ, I believe in sharing and applying the Gospel He proclaimed, and I revere the Bible as God’s written revelation to us, although I am not a biblical literalist.  So, if those things still came to mind when people think of “evangelical,” I’d gladly claim the title.  But it isn’t, and I don’t.  Evangelicalism has become a carnival of immature, silly, insignificant, superfluous, and idiotic cultural conformity and a cesspool of bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, environmental contempt, and violence.  I no more want to be a part of that garbage — in Jesus’ name — than I would want to be one of those victimized by it.

By joining a mainline, more theologically liberal church 18 months ago, I thought that I was shaking the patriarchal, ignorant dust of current evangelicalism off my feet for good.  Jeff and I had already determined, after experiences that caused me trauma beyond what you can imagine and beyond what I can go into here, that we would never again be part of a complementarian church — a church that promotes the (anti-Biblical) idea that while men and women are ontologically equal, women are to be permanently subordinated to men in home, society, and church.  I am married, for almost 30 years now, to a feminist ally, and I don’t let misogyny outside of my home go unchallenged.  I am a radical feminist; I believe that the Gospel is the axe that is lain to the root of all evil — the patriarchy that breeds masculinism and masculinity, which begats greed, violence, hierarchy, and every social ill confronted by women and men across the world and throughout history.

I will not be part of a Christian movement, organization, church, or institution that belies the radically egalitarian message of the Gospel by embracing and enshrining the grotesque evil of patriarchy God predicted in Genesis 2.  It’s not mine to judge the hearts and soul-destination of complementarians, but I cannot accept the evil of patriarchy within the one place it should never be manifested — the Body of the One who rose from the dead to defeat it. And I cannot believe any longer that it’s a benign “secondary issue,” that it’s a mere difference in theological and hermeneutic understanding.  No mere disagreement among those who worship Christ can ever lead to the permanent subjugation of any of those involved, and I simply do not see it any more as something benign.

Patriarchy and misogyny are never benign.  And while it may, in the Church, manifest with a lesser degree of physical and emotional violence — and may very well not — it is no less evil.  What is Christ-defying outside of the walls of the Church is Body-killing inside, and when those who presume to call me their brothers, and who want me to call them my brothers, defend, benefit from, and rejoice in my subjugation and that of my sisters, it’s not just a disagreement — and I won’t be a part of it.  Indeed, I have chosen to be “apart” of it by never attending, never recommending, and never defending a complementarian church, individual, or point of view.  A sinful world presents opportunities for otherwise good men to revel in their dominance over others, even in the name of Christ.  That sinful world is what the Gospel is supposed to address and correct — not what it’s supposed to enshrine.

I went to a more liberal mainline church because it rejected complementarianism, but I found that, sadly, it appeared to also reject a clear embrace and teaching of the Gospel and the classic doctrines of the faith.  So here I am, 53 years old, in love with Jesus, 33 years into my walk with Him, and separated from the Body.  It is wrenching.  I cannot go where sin is enshrined; I cannot go where the Gospel isn’t.  And now, as I find myself alone, wondering if God wants me to start a new work here in Moscow, I have plenty of time to wrestle with the deeper things of life . . .

Such as this.  Have I been amputated from the Body by a Church co-opted by the Right and the Left?  Have I severed myself from the Body, sinfully ignoring the command that I not forsake gathering together with the Christian community?  Or am I merely being pruned, still attached to that organic Body of Christ’s people, but feeling the wounds of God’s work in my life?

It’s not what I wanted, nor what I expected, at this point of my life — but it is where I find myself.  I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart, soul, mind, and body; in fact, I find that my love has deepened as my disenchantment with — and, frankly, fear of — church has as well.  But there appears to be no place for me here, and I’m here.

Has Christ’s Body left Him?

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Severed, Amputated, Or Pruned?”

  1. Val says:

    Dear Keely,
    I can hear your heart hurting and I can hear your love for Jesus. Yes, we are to remain in fellowship with the Body. I am a bit confused at times just what theology you follow. What I can fetter out is you acknowledge Jesus and his teaching, but not in whole. And you do not read the Holy Bible as literally speaking. And where do you put sin in this mix?
    I know it is hard to find the right fit with church, been down that road a few times. I do believe all Christians need to do their own spiritual inventory being assured they are in right line with the Word. Continue searching the Word and He will be there.

  2. The above commentary reminds me of why I don’t go to church. There are too many things that go against what I believe true Christianity to be, in most of the churches I have attended throughout my life. I do however believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. I also believe that He is who He says He is. I just do not believe what, it appears, that most Christians believe in a lot of different areas. That is all I am going to say, for now. I am empathetic to your current angst, my friend. Maybe we should start our own Church!

  3. Normerlendson@gmail.com says:

    I sense your disappointment and sorrow. The Christian faith is about being part of a community based on unconditional love and acceptance of one another on the basis of our belief that Christ died to reconcile us to God and one another while we were yet selfish, clueless sinners. We are justified by faith alone, not by good works or right beliefs based on a literal reading of the Bible. American evangelicalism is a modern incarnation of Pharisaism that crucifies Christ again and again. It is legalistic, nationalistic, patriarchal, exclusivistic and triumphalistic. It is Laodicean and all-American. It sees itself as spiritually rich, insightful, respectable and the repository of truth and hope for the world. It is actually poor, blind, naked and hypocritical because it has lost touch with Jesus who subverted traditional biblical values and taught an egalitarian gospel of love, acceptance and forgiveness. Evangelicalism has opted to worship Jesus as a patriarchal faher figure rather than live by what he taught. You will find Jesus elsewhere in your search for the kingdom.

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