Saturday, August 8, 2009

Progressive Church Exclusion: A Crisis of Faith

I am not sure when my crisis of church turned into a crisis of faith. Sometime in the last six months, after choosing to halt attendance, I realized how effective a church can be at destroying spirituality. I have not written about it until now, for fear that I might put my former church in a bad light. After all, maybe after seven years of faithful service, I just now figured out that Country Club Congregational just isn’t the church for me. Not every church is for every person, and I wouldn’t want to discourage others from attending this church because of my own personal battles.

By admitting that this church, a progressive church, is operating in an exclusive and abusive way, I am admitting that even liberals can be winged into religious hatred. I have not hesitated to be critical of conservative churches but so careful of criticism of my own, even after I quit going. I like liberals to be united and I believe, just as should churches, we should be in covenant with one another. I get angry when democrats don’t vote for their own cash-for-clunkers extension. Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same team, here?

But I am now coming to the painful realization that we are not on the same team. Just because LGBTQ people are discriminated against, doesn’t mean they can’t also be the discriminators. Just because I identify as a progressive Christian, doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes and hurt others. In fact, for several years, I have known about the exclusion in our church and have said and done nothing. In essence, I have become part of the problem.

Recently, CCCUCC has tried to add “Transgender” to our now “LG-only” Open & Affirming statement. I say recently, but really, this has been three years in the trying and many years in the “too late”. I wonder, why wasn’t “T” included in the first place? And then now, after having several identifying “Ts” in our congregation who have rewritten the statement, why is this not happening? Why do we have a choir director that, and I quote, “doesn’t always like those negro songs,” and refuses to consider new music, or music written by People of Color? Why is it that every time we are asked to do something charitable, the answer is “no” unless followed-up by liquor, food, and entertainment? The only mission trip of the church in many years was almost cancelled because it did not benefit enough of the congregation. Why aren’t we a green church? We didn’t we actively oppose the war? Why aren’t we rallying together to support health care? We can’t we be involved in the gay-marriage movement? We DO sign straight people’s marriage licenses…but float over the marriage issues of our gay couples without consequence.

I think the hardest part of all of these questions is that I have seen this work. I have seen more than one church work in covenant, progress, and mission. I do know that not all churches can be all things to everyone, but we cannot keep claiming to be something we are not. We are not a progressive church. We are not in covenant with one another. And we are actively contributing to the exclusion and discrimination of others.

I resigned my membership from this church this past week, a thought-to-be conclusion to several months of hard discernment. It was just in time, too, because a day or so later, my family was basically asked to not come back. The tactics used here are classic bully tactics and, just like in middle school, the witnesses are standing by and saying nothing. Though only a few church leaders are perpetrating the injustice, only one person uses the “n” word here and there (yes THAT “n” word), only a couple people voice disagreement with the transgender movement of equality, and only a few wish to have the all too liberal Highfills out of the congregation for good, the bullies in power will always stay in power as long others are silenced into consent.

So, it’s done. I’m gone, and I do feel better. But this is still affecting my family, as their entire system of support is being cut-off as they are being cut-down. This is what is irking me now, other than the realization that I have participated in a system of oppression for the past seven years: the crisis of church is finished, but what to do now about this crisis of faith? Why not just be a liberal, an activist, of only political discourse? Who needs this religion anyway?

I know that I need this religion and I believe it is still a possibility. This church that has now tormented and angered me, at one time, helped me find my faith. Do I need to find another church to find my faith again?