To see why I wrote this, look at: http://www.threewordwednesday.com/
Religion. It’s an interesting topic for me to discuss of late. You could actually say that I’ve been ‘abstaining’ from religion – or church – lately. More on that later.
Faith has always been something very big in my life but it’s also been something I’ve struggled with from time to time. I guess that’s why they call it faith right? Faith is fluid, and like any fluid, it ebbs and flows. But it’s always been important to me.
I was born and raised a Catholic. I had for many years thought I’d be a priest. It was something that just seemed right for me. I admired many, many priests in my growing up years and really thought being one of them would be the perfect thing for me.
That was, until I found out about girls, or at least realized that being a priest meant that girls were “hands-off”! While my faith was strong, my spirit was definitely weak when it came to the fairer sex. So being a priest was put to the side.
Then while I was in the Marines, I had my first real spiritual challenge. I was working for the Chaplains Office in Camp Lejeune, NC and I worked for a Baptist Chaplain and a Catholic Priest. And I worked with one of the most obnoxious women I’ve ever known. To be truthful, I was young and some of it was most definitely my fault, but the lady was just worthless at the job.
I had come to the office first and when she came we were both of the same rank. However, shortly thereafter she was promoted above me, which made her my boss. But like I said, she was just no good at the job and we fought constantly.
The final straw happened after I showed her that she was incorrectly doing some administrative work. I was right, but I was also wrong. I was wrong because it wasn’t my place, being her subordinate. I know this now, but at the time I felt the justification that all youth do.
The Catholic Priest had me moved out of the job. While I was still a Marine, I had been technically “fired”. It’s the one and only time in my life I’ve been fired, so in my mind it had tarnished that halo I was sure was above my head. I was moved into another office and the Warrant Officer who told me (because the Priest couldn’t be bothered) made me feel like I had been worthless myself in the job.
At that point, I stopped going to church. I blamed the priest to a degree and took that blame out on the church and so I just stopped going. No one could talk me out of it. Until I was sent to Okinawa, Japan. At that point, I met some incredible young people and I started going back to church and had reconnected with my faith.
Shortly after I got out of the Marines, I met a young lady whose father is a Baptist minister. It was through him that I learned about the Salvation of Christ and asked Christ to save me. Six months later, I made a conscious choice to leave the Catholic faith and be baptized in the Baptist faith.
This decision was undertaken with much thought and prayer. See, by now I knew I was in love with this young lady and I did not want to make this decision unless I was sure it was not solely based on my feelings for her. And I believe that I made the right decision. 17 ½ years later, I am still convinced that the decision was right. While I have fond memories of my time in the Catholic faith, I am more and more convinced that the teachings of the Baptist faith are truer to what God intended for us.
But by no means is this religion perfect. There are some people in this faith that simply are not good people. Considering I am not perfect myself, I know that people fail all the time. I’m the number #1 person who fails! But sometimes the things I have witnessed just scream to me that these things cannot be of God.
When we moved to Sioux Falls, we joined a church here that was exceptional. The preacher was probably the best preacher I had ever met and the families seemed to all be connected and caring for each other. I felt at home in this church in a way that I had never felt anywhere.
But slowly I started noticing things that disturbed me. There seemed to be an especially strong trend in this church to treat women/girls as 2nd class citizens. I understand and agree that the Bible talks about different responsibilities that men and women have, but the extremes I was seeing made me very uncomfortable. I would push it to the side though as these beliefs didn’t seem to extend towards the pastor and so I chalked it up as just some people exposing their sinful, human side.
It got worse and worse as the time went on. And while pastor didn’t condone it, it became evident to me very quickly that he didn’t condemn it either. I would look at my girls and think, “Do I want them exposed to this?” And the answer kept coming back as a resounding NO.
The final straw for me was my wife. She worked for the school in this church as an assistant for the high school teacher. This meant she did whatever this high school teacher needed her to do. The high school teacher (who was actually the youth pastor) asked her to handle some subjects and he would handle others.
This didn’t sit well with a young teenage boy in the class, who had been taught by his father that he did not answer to women – despite the fact that he was a boy!! So this boy would be disruptive, get into trouble and the father would come and cause issues for my wife.
At one point, this father wanted to have a private discussion with just my wife. I then stepped in and called the youth pastor and said that isn’t going to happen. The youth pastor was my wife’s boss, he’d given her a job to do and if the father didn’t like it, he could take it up with the youth pastor and not my wife.
This last year, that boy’s sister was a senior in the high school and had fallen behind on many of her subjects. My wife tried to work with her but the girl was not very responsive. The father – who had issues with my wife doing anything with his boy – now blamed my wife completely for his daughters’ inability to get her work done. The Pastor’s response on this behavior? NOT. ONE. WORD.
My wife – who was born and raised in this faith and is probably the most spiritual person I’ve ever known – started becoming nauseous at the thought of even going to church. That was the final straw for me and we stopped going.
I am struggling with this, because like I said before I know that churches are filled with imperfect people. To me though, there is a big difference between being imperfect and striving for spiritual perfection and completely ignoring imperfections because you either don’t care or don’t feel they are wrong. While I understand that my earlier decision to not go to the Catholic church when I was in the Marines was done in haste and was a poor decision, I don’t feel like my decision to not go to this church was done for the same reasons.
My wife and I have taken the summer and have been doing services with the kids ourselves. I try to give them some sort of biblical lesson each Sunday. But I know that eventually we should consider looking for another church. I don’t think we can go back to the previous church unless or until their house gets in order. Finding another church frightens me though. While I am convinced of the truth of my faith and that faith clearly states that church membership is an expectation of God, I am no longer as convinced that any group, church or body of people are truly building the church of believers that God expects of us.
Is it arrogant of me to think I know more than older, more “learned” people in my faith? Probably. But I look at my little girls and I am determined that before I set my heart on another church that will become one of the spiritual guiding forces of my girls lives that it will and must be held to a higher standard than I’ve done in the past. God put my wife and I as the protectors of our girls both physically and spiritually and I am taking that job very, very seriously.