A few months before my 40th birthday, we left the church we’d been deeply involved in for 18 years.
It was as much a conscious decision as it was a door that closed abruptly. It was shocking, jolting us awake and forcing us to see the world around us. When we really looked, we noticed things. We saw everything that had been distorted when filtered through the lens of evangelical Christianity. We saw people who were being overlooked and neglected by so-called caring churches.
I saw the division lines and noticed the discrepancies in the “love people” motto our church touted. Loving “everyone” didn’t include people who were gay, different, addicted, divorced, living “in sin”, from a different religion or with no religion at all. They weren’t people to be loved just because they were people. They were lost, sinful people who needed to turn to Jesus and if they rejected him they were worse than dead. If they rejected him, then we were justified in ignoring them. They were lost in their sin. We were compelled to do everything we could to win them for Jesus.
We were good Christians because we weren’t like them. We “had Jesus in our hearts.”
Even while still in church, working with the youth group, I constantly came up against things which didn’t set well. Speaking up too much made me a target for criticism and made leadership question my standing. The whole purity movement was at the root of my issues there, as they treated students as if they should be perfectly pure and anyone who wasn’t was like chewed gum; ruined. Especially girls. Once you gave up your virginity, you were forever deemed impure for your future husband. But boys, well, boys will be boys and if they were impure it was the fault of the girls. They dressed immodestly or behaved in such a way to make them lust.
But wait—I wasn’t always a “good Christian.”
I was one of those girls who listened to heavy metal, smoked cigarettes and pot and became sexually active way too young. I simply liked a guy who was too old for me and talked me into something I wasn’t ready for. He didn’t stop right away when I changed my mind, leaving me bleeding and no longer a virgin. And forever ruined, according to the standards of the youth group with which I served as an adult leader for nearly 10 years.
I wasn’t a promiscuous teen. I didn’t have sex with anyone for around 6 months afterward. Picking up guys at parties or have one-night stands were not my thing. I was a girl who fell for a guy with a good line. After a few months when he was done with me, he’d discard me, as most teenage boys do. I know 30-year olds with the same problem. I’m glad no one told me then that I was done, spoiled, ruined for life. It would have crushed me.
But to be a good Christian woman, you must view impurity as nothing short of filthy and those who are impure, likewise.
You “love them as Jesus did” as you try to convince them that everything they do and are is wrong and that Jesus has all the answers for their life. Then you disciple them to become… just… like… you.
But like Jesus, right?
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