Tuesday, March 20, 2012

15 Reasons I Stayed in the Church

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?


Michele said...

Awesome sauce. Especially like #12.

Meredith said...

It's a great list. I also grew up with a pretty positive, healthy church experience, and I resonate with a lot of your items. For sure I stayed because of #4, and variations of #13. Some other things, too, but those were biggies.

Roy said...

Well said, Laura! Love the list

Eating as a Path to Yoga said...

I left because Christians I grew up with, & respected disappointed me. I came back because I ache for community, even though I'm terrified of it.

jamie said...

I appreciate that you refer often to the freedom you were allowed in growing in your faith. As I am a new mom and think about how I will raise my daughter, its a good reminder.
I have typed and erased 3 posts here. I have not heard of said blogger so I read her post as suggested. Any validity to her list seemed to quickly diminish upon reading #15. I know that's a whole other bag of tricks in and of itself, but aren't some things in the bible just black and white? I don't have the words to go on I suppose.
Looking forward to hearing more about your "big girl website"!

Laura said...

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for writing! I am glad that the freedom in faith piece resonated with you as a new mom...it's been such an important part of my life.

Regarding Rachel's post and your response, I don't know that the question is whether there are parts of the Bible that are black and white. I mean, things like "love your neighbor" and "turn the other cheek" are pretty black-and-white, but I do think that many of these commandments turn gray when we begin to apply them. That's not to say that their rightness is diminished, but that they will look different in different situations. How's that for a cagey response? :)

Snacks from the cruise buffet said...

What a great, grace-filled list. It's sometimes so easy to focus on the imperfections around us, especially in areas where our expectations are so high like church [after all, God's example sets a pretty high bar].

jamie said...

Laura, you said it better than I...many things turn grey. Your examples of turning a cheek etc. These turn grey in certain situations. There doesn't seem to be anything "grey" about anatomy and sex though. I mean, can a woman be called anything other than woman? Did God mean for marriage to be something different?
Clearly, this is not meant to be the focus of your post....I just wanted to say that it felt like a distraction. It feels like maybe there's more junk going on with someone who has this type of argument than one who, say, can't get past that a woman can have a spiritual gift of teaching and a place behind a pulpit.

Lisa said...

I like your list.

Carrie said...

I love this post.
Well said.

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