I wrote something to an acquittance of mine, Anna L Davis, in response to a post she wrote and it got me thinking. I thought about the degree to which being part of a church is not about Jesus. Anna spoke of a group of former prostitutes who know try to lead other prostitutes to Jesus. For whatever reason (My morals, of course, intrinsically compromised by my atheism) I don’t like prostitution and I think it is good for women to be lead out of it by people who have been there, regardless of motivation. She mentioned how she would like to see more of this sort of thing.
I don’t think she will. Christianity is dying in the west, at rate of about 1% per year. Do you know what the fastest growing religion is? Wicca. The number of people who identify as Wiccans is doubling every 30 months. (Ref) So, I offer to concerned Christians everywhere my little guide book to how to keep your church from going the way of the brontosaurus. You can get Wiccans and other Neopagans (people who believe a fairly arbitrary re-imagining of neolithic and bronze age paganism, only without the blood sacrifice.) to go your church and stay there.
Its profoundly simple, actually. White suburban does not equal Christian. Tell me which picture is a group of Christians….
I like how the photo of the Christian teens (it’s taken from the Youth for Christ web page) uses careful lens flash to make the token black guy the whitest one there. So tell, me what exactly have the goths done wrong here? They are dressed as modestly as the Christians. There is no more hair dye, and no more make up on the right then on the left. You can’t see any skin really, no naughty words, no pentagrams.
But you know, don’t you? You know instantly they aren’t Christians because they don’t look white bread enough. Wicca takes these people with open arms. Wicca says “Your uniqueness is blessed”. The Christians say, through a tyranny of frowns and subtle digs, that these people aren’t right, no matter how much they love Jesus. I know someone is reading this and saying “Oh NO! Not I! I would love these people into Christianity. How long could person come to your church dressed like this before someone felt the need to say something to them? If Christianity wants to exist in another 50 years, then it needs to stop acting like being a Christian means having a Christian image, and needs to start acting like the inside is more important then the image….
Or be content with young people leaving droves from the hypocrisy.
P.S. If you got this far without ever realizing that only God can see the heart and the group on the left could be Satan worshipers and the group on the right could be local Baptist teen group then you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is.
It is almost, but not quite, raining as I write this. The thunder is getting louder, and the lightening is striking closer. The glaring tropical sky, more silver than blue is hidden at last. The ubiquitous sand that coats the roads and sidewalks is swirling in tiny cyclones, and the birds are flying low, trying to get a last snack before hiding from the coming deluge. And as if on cue! As I wrote the word ‘deluge’ it begins. Rain drums the roof and the wall of my small shop. Huge fat raindrops are falling into the instantly formed puddles, the rings they would otherwise create torn to tatters by the falling of the next drop and the next. Visibility is fading fast now. Water is not nearly so transparent as air, and it is displacing the air around around me at a furious rate. I love this weather. I love the rain, the crashing thunder, the lightening bolts, and above all, the way the darkness transforms the landscape.
I am, after many years of failure by myself and the church alike, reborn. Things I liked as child, but repressed, return to me like the familiar echo of my own voice. All these bits of me, frozen for years, are now melting. Like the rain of spring that melts the last of the winter snow, these rivulets pour through the funk of 20 some years of life in the church. I am falling in love, with life, at last.
Emotions felt, but hidden, I am now free to admit and enjoy. As I mentioned above, I love rain. I love the darkness and the cold that it brings. I love what rain does to suburbia, how it washes away her fake tan, strips the makeup away and reveals her true age and profession. This wasn’t a feeling I could admit before.
I love music. It seems that I never truly listened to music till now. I listened with my ears, but not with my heart, not with my soul. Debussy and Wagner I know well. They have stood at the door knocking, desperately pleading me to let them make me feel, something, anything, just feel, but the door was never open. Song crafters and songwriters, who sing the dark thoughts I once thought, but I shoveled under pastels, now speak to my soul.
I used to make up beautiful stories, tragic romances, and star crossed lovers. Walking alone at night, my black trench coat sweeping my feet, I wrote and rewrote stories in my mind, wandering but never lost. I used to drive to the lake, sit on the beach and play my guitar, waiting for the water sprites to dance.
I used to do these things, but I put them I away. I stopped listening to music that threatened my establishment established mindset. I gave away my black trench coat. I quite playing guitar. I stopped working on my art. I stopped all of these things. This was not what successful Christians did. It was not how they dressed, not how they talked, not how they lived, and above all, not how they believed.
What Christians believe is touchy subject. If you make any statement which at all enpinges on the church, Christians have a ready response prepared: “Oh, but that is not what the Bible teaches” or “Oh, but no one is saying that.” or “No born again Christian would say that.” And that is true, these beliefs are not written down, they are not in scripture, and they are not spoken. But that truth, hides another, far darker truth. Namely, that like all groups, Christians, have powerful social norms. Those who function in these norms are rewarded and those who do not are punished. It is not a conscious thing. Few, if any Christians, think, “Oh, that young man over there in all black is a bad person.”
When you belong to the church, there is an enormous pressure to be like everyone else. I hear the Christians complaining about that statement. “Oh, no, no, no!” they cry, ” I have never felt that pressure.” Theres a reason for that: you already fit. There is no reason to saw your arms and legs off to fit the suit, the suit fits you fine. But for those of us who did not fit, there was tyranny of gentle disapproval, raised eyebrows, condescension, and undeserved pity that all pointed towards the Christian social norm. Constantly, we were pushed and prodded. Skipped over when we wanted to be chosen and chosen when we wanted to be skipped. You would value what other Christians valued and this would be shown in the music you liked, the art you liked, the clothes you liked, the information you liked, and the professions you liked.
I was pregnant with an idea once, the idea of who I was meant to be. But pregnancy reveals two parents. Looking upon the child of my self, the church would have looked long and hard at the long, black coats, the love of literature and art, and the melancholy and said, “This is not my child! I am not the father!” I couldn’t bare the rejection, so I aborted my own soul. If ever I am judged, surely, that is my greatest sin.
And here I am. Given a chance to be myself again. Having turned my back on Christianity, I am free to love the music, the manner of dress, and above all, the manner of thinking that I wish. For the first time in my life, I can see a future for myself that I don’t dispise. The desire to hurt myself, physically, emotionally, financially, and in all other ways, is gone. Without the picket fence keeping me in, I love my life. I stand proud, my head up, and of course, wearing black.