A few years ago I started pondering the importance of religion. I’m going to be frank and honest in this post. I’m going to try not to be too disjointed. This isn’t about you, or what you believe (except, maybe it is), it’s about me, and where I am at, where I have been, and where I am going (but also maybe where you’re going too).
I was born into The Church of the Nazarene, and became a member when I was a teenager. For those who don’t know, Nazarenes are part of the protestant tree. A branch of the Wesleyan tradition, and a splinter off of the Methodists. Since Martin Luther’s reformation, there have been many, many churches born from people feeling the church they were a part of did not follow the commands of the Bible correctly, and, very basically, that’s how Nazarenes came to be.
Originally, the Nazarene church split off of the Methodists because people felt Methodists had become too fundamentalist. These people wanted to focus more on spreading the message of Christ’s love, than on the gospel of hellfire and damnation. These were my kind of people.
Today I’m not sure who my people are, but I think I know who they are not.
I went to a Nazarene college. I didn’t go there because I felt compelled to only surround myself with likeminded people, I went there because it was where my friends were going. (And also because I didn’t properly understand the concept of soul-crushing debt.) It was a good school, with great professors, and small class sizes. As an incredibly nervous and twitchy eighteen year old, it was the perfect place for me to learn and grow. The English and History departments, where I spent most of my time, were full of liberal thinking Christians who reinforced my ability to have faith, and also lean left politically. I know it may be hard for a lot of you to believe, but going to a Christian university helped shape me into the “dirty liberal” I am today.
Recently there have been troubles at my Alma Mater. A beloved professor was fired because of his differing beliefs. Corruption was uncovered. It was a giant mess. Eventually a review board was put together to hopefully reinstate the formerly tenured professor, however, his tenure was still stripped, and he was still, ultimately, given his walking orders. It was enraging. This man, this professor, was referred to by his students as Dr. Love. Everyone on campus knew that if they needed anything, they could go to him, and he would help them. He is one of the most generous, loving, Christ-like people on the planet, and yet he was recently tried for heresy because he no longer fit into what has become the fundamentalist box of Nazarenedom.
This was one of the last nails in the coffin of my religious membership. The first several had been being placed for years.
Being told that Christians (read Nazarenes from here to the bottom, because that is the church I currently attend) weren’t environmentalists, that God gave us dominion over the planet, and we didn’t have to listen to tree-huggers, and climate change experts. *nail*
That time I was called a socialist pig for suggesting that wealth was, by nature, an incredibly secular concept, and that things like universal healthcare, and better welfare were what the early church believed in. *nail*
When I suggested that people needed to put themselves in the shoes of women who sought abortions instead of protesting clinics, and maybe love them instead of shun them, and I was told I was disgusting for talking to “those people” in the first place. *nail*
The incredibly hurtful message I got from a cousin saying my deceased grandparents, who I was very close to, would be ashamed of my decision to celebrate the elimination of DOMA, and that they would hate the person I had become. *nail*
There were others, here and there. Less memorable, but life-shaping all the same.
The final nail came today. I was online reading through the morning’s news, and there it was, the official statement from the superintendents of the CotN. Our church says marriage is only between one man and one woman. The LGBTQ community may have won with the changing of the “civil law”, but that doesn’t mean the church is happy about it.
I’m done. I’m done pretending that I am okay with the direction of religion. I’m done pretending that I think it can be fixed. Has any of this ultimately ruined my faith? No. Has it completely driven me away from the concept of organized religion? As of this moment in time, the answer is yes.
(You did it! You stuck with this to the end. Here’s a picture of me (far left) on a church trip. With other kids on a church trip. In 1997… Aw, the good ol’ days.)
Inspiration make a sense and that’s in you. Excellent way to express.
Krissy-poo… you are my sweet girl! I am so sorry for the wounds you have suffered and I truly, truly pray that I have not ever been a party to any of your hurts or “nails!” My prayer for you is that you will feel loved and protected and wrapped in God’s warm blanket of love while being cuddled on His lap!! Thank you for your honesty! Stay close to God and be yourself… He loves you to death (literally) and I love you and always will!
Cammi! My favorite honorary auntie. :)
Dear friend, I can honestly say that you have never caused me pain. You are so dear to me, and I covet your prayers, as well as your friendship. I love you too. I’m so grateful you are a part of my life.
I too found support for my raging liberal ways at said Nazerene University, only at the time it was referred to as a Nazerene College. I actually attended while the now former University president was a professor there and worked with him on a production. While at this school I came to have a deeper understanding and clarity regarding my faith, and, ironically, the scales of religious dogmas were removed.
Much of this happened because of my relationships with professors and friends, and the discussions we had–in class and out. But, a hefty influence came from watching administration and religious muckity-mucks make decisions and take actions that I felt were directly contrary to the Gospels and the original church. It made me stronger to stand against them.
I refuse to shut the door on possibility. I believe that people can come together to worship, celebrate, and discuss the philosophical possibilities that are presented by the existence of a higher power. I don’t believe, nor support, any faction that clearly pays no heed to the words of Christ, and puts Paul and the other minion in such a regard that the words of the apostles have more power than the Christ’s.
I believe in a Church that takes the words of Christ to heart, and sets aside fear in order to walk the path that the Master Teacher presented to his followers. I believe in the possibility of this.
Thank you for your comment, and for telling a bit of your story. I appreciate your perspective very much.
Thank you for your comments here. I was a former Nazarene who left years ago. If you were not Republican, and basically a fundamentalist, you were not welcomed. I got tired of the cult-like hypocrisy.
Your comments mirror many of my experiences.
I’ve heard there are a lot of people out there who have had different Nazarene experiences, but unfortunately there are a lot of us out there too. Thanks for your comment.
Church is where we find love,compassion and understanding. When this is removed from the church and the hearts of church members, then we do not belong and must move on.
I love The Church of The Nazarene as well, but being a liberal myself have some concerns about its diection. The Bible is clear about salvation and walking daily as a believer. It is my perception that we are a country club sending our resources to far away lands helping people we cannot see, but fail to really minister to the “woman at the well” and “the thief on the cross” in our neighborhoods. We have become such an elite group of believers, that the Church is no longer a place where broken people are made whole, because they are different from us. This has affected the growth of the church, especially in urban areas in the US. How about placing our focus on loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, this in my perception supercedes all dogmas. We must love and minister to everyone, because the love and transforming power of God can cleanse and restore every sinner who believes and accepts Him. The church is excellent in announcing what it’s against, but not too forthcoming about how we can reach people who are different or perceived to be different from us by loving to Christ.
Thank you for your comment. I agree with your take on things. We have to be better at making people feel welcome than we are. I’m not sure how to make that happen in the Church at large, but I know I will continue loving those around me, and hoping that makes a difference.
Thank you for sharing. I have had very similar experiences in the Nazarene church. I am surrounded by people gossiping about my integrity or maturity, but only as a personal attack to me. I just have to continue to pray for them and follow God. The church is made up of people and people are not God. People will never be perfect, therefore the church will never be perfect. But we can put our trust in a God who is perfect in every way.
I am a millennial like you. I have had similar experiences, the most heartbreaking and aggressive of which have been interactions with family. I have also come very close to leaving. I am writing this however, simply to tell you that I am staying. I am “called unto holiness” too. I am also stubborn and I guess I have found the Nazarene underground.
There is a resistance. Holiness doesn’t belong exclusively to Nazarenes, or to any one group. Keep living your faith authentically and God will be faithful. Those nails in your coffin were nails in his hands and feet. Keep loving and please don’t think too bitterly about the ignorance, fear, and hatred you experienced -they know not what they do. I’m sorry you became a casualty, but know that others are still fighting.
So, they’re talking about your blog on Naznet (which is how I got here)…you still have listeners/watchers so keep speaking and showing.
fun fact: I was born in 82, which (I know) allows me to count myself among the “Oregon Trail Generation,” I’m kind of excited by that right now.
Thanks for the comments! It’s been a weird week or so, but I have to say that I’m still glad I wrote this, and I’m even kind of glad it made it to naznet. It’s weird having people talk about me, but I think the discussion it started is an important one. Even if it means I get to be a bit of a punching bag. :)
I’m a Nazarene PK who graduated from a Nazarene university (college) in the mid-nineties. While I was there I saw the way the wind was blowing there (and within myself). I found a home in the Episcopal church.
Former Nazarene pastor’s wife here… who has also found her home in the Episcopal church. It is a truly beautiful community to worship in. It might fit you incredibly well Krissy :)
I’ve had that recommendation given to me a lot. It’s definitely something I’m considering. :)