My entire life, I was brought up going to church – I’m talking Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and any other time you can pretty much think of. It was to the point of being ridiculous. So ridiculous, that if I spent the night at a friends’ house on Saturday, I had to be picked up for church on Sunday.
Once I went off to college, I didn’t really attend church – other than when I came home to visit my family. After they divorced, I pretty much quit going.
Why? Well, of course a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was in college and not interested. But, I also became so turned off from church when my home church, which I had attended since I was young, started questioning me and my family.
It started when I was in high school. My entire life I had wanted to be an elementary teacher. I loved teaching, and I loved being around little kids. When the opportunity arose to be able to work in the children’s Sunday School department on Sunday mornings I was so excited. It was great, but members of the church started questioning me. Leaders of the church would question my parents, as to why I was helping in Sunday School, instead of attending the youth group “where I belonged”. To top it off, this started happening when the church began doing a series on finding your calling! My parents always stood up for me, of course, and told them that helping with the children’s classes was “my calling” and “where I belonged”.
After awhile, our church decided to stop providing youth choir. Singing has always been one of my passions, and I was so crushed when this happened. I honestly felt lost, like I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. Choir was one of my favorite parts about church. So, what did I do? I decided to join the adult choir. Which met for practice on Wednesday nights. During the youth group time.
Based on the children’s Sunday School thing, I’m sure you already realize how that went over. Not too well. But, I didn’t quit going, because singing made me happy.
Then, the church started doing the “money spiel”. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about. Every Sunday, the sermon pretty much revolved around money. I understand that churches need money to be able to continue their daily operations and to continue to be able to provide various activities and meet the needs of their congregation, but when it is week after week after week it becomes very tiresome. Especially when you know that the money is just going towards transforming the church into what I like to call “Six Flags Over Jesus“. I’m sure you are familiar with the mega-church concept.
Around this time, my parents were going through a divorce, so we didn’t have much money to spare. I was off in college, but I came home pretty regularly on the weekends still, and I just remember feeling so bad that our family wasn’t able to provide as much money for the church as we should have (brainwashing, or not…?). And then came the Sunday when our pastor literally stood up at the altar, held up two wedding bands, and used it as a great example of “followers of Christ”, who had nothing of value to give except for their wedding bands. I couldn’t tell you whether the church kept them or not (let’s hope not), but the fact that he used this as a great example of someone giving to the church pretty much shocked the hell out of me. It seemed to me that, if this couple had nothing to give but their wedding rings, shouldn’t we be giving them something?!
A month or so later, my parents’ divorce was finalized, and my mom was renting a house for herself and my sister. She was doing all that she could to provide for my sister, who was just entering high school, and for me back at college. When she received a letter from the church, it was the last straw for me. Our church literally sent her a letter, letting her know that they had noticed her tithing had recently been less. It included a pledge card for her to fill out with the amount she would be committing to give to the church.
It’s one thing to go on and on and on about money on Sundays, but when you send a pledge card in the mail to a family that is struggling? That is a huge issue, one that I feel is completely wrong.
After that, I’ve probably been to church only a handful of times within the last 10 or so years.
Now that you’ve read through my long-winded rant about the issues I have with church, you’re probably wondering why I’m even writing about this in the first place.
Really, it’s not something that I think about too often. I’ve attended a church service here and there, but I haven’t really found a place that I’m interested in going to. This stems from feeling like I don’t fit in, to not liking the “style” of the church, to taking issue with the complete hypocrisy and absurd opinions that churches have on several issues (don’t even get me started…).
Once we moved to California, I tried a couple of bible study groups. The first one, there was a girl who was so unbelievably rude to me I decided to not go back. The second one, I was the youngest person in the group. And I’m talking by like 30-40 years younger.
I’ve tried to contact a local MOPS group several times, to see about joining. Each time, I receive ZERO response. No joke.
Now, I’ve been thinking about attending a moms bible study at a local church. A sweet friend of mine attends, and I’ve thought about going with her. Until today.
Our moms group was having a potluck at the park, and she wasn’t going to be able to make it because she already had plans to attend the moms group. So, I was surprised when she showed up at the park. I told her how glad I was that she was able to make it, but I could tell that something was wrong.
She said that she had been to her bible study, with her little girl. When she joined the group originally, she told them that she didn’t want to put her daughter in the childcare there, and would that be a problem, to which she was told that it was no problem at all. So, she has been a few times with her little girl by her side the whole time. Today, however, one of the group leaders came up to her before they started, and asked her if she was going to take her daughter to the children’s area. Of course, my sweet friend said no, that she had already discussed her wishes regarding her daughter staying with her during the group meeting, and that she had been told it was ok. So the lady told her she would have to leave.
What?! Are you kidding me?! To me, this just seems all sorts of wrong. As a church, aren’t people supposed to be accepting of others, no matter what? Isn’t one of a church’s jobs to provide a sort of “safe haven” for members of the community, where they feel comfortable, loved, and accepted?
I guess I’m severely mistaken on that. And I’ve been reminded, yet again, why I don’t prefer to attend a church.
I do struggle with this, because I want both of my girls to learn about religion and become educated enough to form their own opinions as they grow up. But, based on the experiences I have had, I’m not too thrilled with any of the church groups I’ve come in to contact with. So, it looks like I’ll be looking for ways to teach them myself. Suggestions?