Is it weird to have Internet Friends? Sometimes I think so. Like they're not much more real than the imaginary friends my sister was always going on about when we were younger. Rachel Held Evans has become one such I.F., although I am led to believe that she is, indeed, a real person. Her blog is a fantastic resource for all kinds of issues, from Biblical authority to church culture to interviews with Christians of all stripes.
Earlier today, she shared a great post with 15 reasons she left church. She and her husband have been looking for a new church home, she writes, because staying where they were was no longer an option. Reasons like wanting to "help people in my community without feeling pressure to convert them to Christianity," or knowing that she would never see a woman preach in the church where she grew up. Reasons that would make me wrestle with the goodness of God and the purpose of the church.
When I read things like this, sometimes it makes me wish that I had things harder. I know, it's a weird thing to say. But I'm a weird person. Sometimes I think that, I don't know, it would have helped me develop a sense of solidarity with people like Rachel that goes deeper than mental assent, or maybe it would have helped me form stronger opinions? Because that's an area where I'm seriously lacking. (NOT, as the kids say.)
But I didn't have things too bad when it comes to the church. In fact, I've had a pretty fantastic experience in the church. So, here are 15 reasons I've stayed.
1. I stayed because I saw fantastic expressions of creativity. Dance, art, plays. They weren't always great, but they reminded all of us that there is a place for every gift in the life of the church.
2. I stayed because there was room for my doubts and questions as I grew up. I was allowed to grow into my faith, and still am.
3. I stayed because I found some of the most authentic, vulnerable community that I've ever known in a small group of friends.
4. I stayed because I have never been told by someone in my church that I cannot do something because I am a woman. I haven't always seen it modeled perfectly, but I've seen men and women working so hard for equality played out.
5. I stayed because one time my dad totally, embarrasingly mis-read Psalm 150:6 as "Let everything that has breasts praise the Lord." And people laughed and laughed and laughed and then they showed that video at the going-away service.
6. I stayed because when one of my dear friends killed herself, no one suggested anything other than that God loved her deeply and that she was with him. There was space for our confusion in the vastness of God.
7. I stayed because of my mom, whose capacity for awe and wonder at the world and whose incredible gifts of leadership have always had some kind of place in the church. She has been tenacious.
8. I stayed because of my dad, who said not too long ago that if Jesus could trust the news of his resurrection first to women, we as the church could damn well trust them to teach and preach. (I don't think he said 'damn well' in church, but you get the idea.)
9. I stayed because of my best friend Kaitlin, who has a heart-achingly sweet love for the church unlike anyone else I have ever seen, and who has shown me that even the worst and ugliest parts of the church are not outside of redemption.
10. I stayed because my ongoing struggle with anxiety has been met with compassion, grace, and listening.
11. I stayed because I spent holidays with my family at soup kitchens and shelters all over the city of Chicago on trips organized by our church to serve, even when I really didn't want to. And I'm so glad I did.
12. I stayed because my husband and I got married in the sanctuary of the church we attend now, and every time we walk in I remember that funny, strange, wonderful day that we spent with all the people we love.
13. I stayed because our church works with local community partners to further public education in under-resourced areas, which is really the gospel in action.
14. I stayed because most of the people I talk with refuse to give pat answers to complex questions.
15. I stayed because I've found freedom in these remarkable places.
Make sure to read Rachel's post if you haven't already. Have you left? Stayed? Why?