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Occupy The Churches


JenellYB
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I thought a good bit on just where in the forums to present this, and it kept coming back to here, Progressive Christianity.

 

First, I share a link:

http://frpaulsplace.blogspot.com/2011/10/occupy-churches.html

 

Why is this relevant to us as Progressive Christians? Because I think we may be missing a part of our call as Progressive Christians. We talk a lot about love and acceptance, of even those with very different worldview and faith values than our own. We talk a lot about how many of us have been hurt by the judgementalism and exclusivism of some forms of Christianity, some kinds of churches, groups of others whose perspective of what Christianity is and should be seems so wrong to us.

 

So many of us have withdrawn from that environment and those people as much as we can, some of us to lick our wounds and try to heal from what we sufferred there. And, we've sought out others like ourselves, seeking community and fellowship with those of like views as our own. Or at least compatable, and accepting of differences, anyway.

 

But I am reminded of something I've read before, that went something like this, though can't recall exact words or who it was attributed to:

 

"You drew a circle around yourself that closed me out; I drew a larger circle of love that took you in."

 

This is something that has pricked my conscience before, drawn me to passages in the Bible as well as in other wisdom traditions. If we are called to be a lamp lighting the darkness, what are we doing just hanging around together basking in each other's light?

 

I've long been "unchurched", rarely even attend on an occasional basis, for there are absolutely no Progressive churches within reasonable driving distance of where I live. I reside in the heart of red-neck conservative Bible Belt east Texas. A KKK stronghold, even. When I have ventured longer drives to more Progressive churches, I have found myself uncomfortable for different reasons. The people I've met there are, first and most obvious, not the "community of my residence", in not only the sense we don't live in the same community, have day to day interactions and opportunity for fellowship, but second, neither are they the "community of my birth and life circumstances". They are generally located in relatively upscale, higher income urban areas, middle class, many upper middle class, with urban lifestyles and daily worldviews very different from those of my rural/small town largely working class and lower middle class 'country people'. While many in those more progressive churches are socially liberal, social justice oriented, sympathetic to the plight of the poor, and all that, it is predominantly from a position far from the realities of real life for those poor.

 

I have felt before this, a disturbing unease about my separation from my community of residence and community of birth and life circumstances because of very different faith values and religious views. In setting myself apart from those there, have I deprived them of the light just my mere presence among them might serve, as a lamp set upon a hill, in their midst?

 

This is not a call for any and all that may have embraced Progressive Christian values and perspectives, certainly for many that have fled painful experiences in their fundamentalist backgrounds. It cannot be a call for those for whatever reason unable to enter that environment without falling into negative feelings and behaviors that would cause only disruptive negative feelings among those there. It is not a call to go there and preach to them how wrong they are, how right we are, or to get into arguments about doctrine. Those things would only further alienate, reinforce resistance to any 'message' we might hope to bring there.

 

But for those that are able, equipped for such a call, to simply be a quiet lamp set upon a hill amidst them, that our light may shine all about upon any whose hearts and minds and spirits are open to recieving it, not try to be a flashlight beam that chases them down, tries to pin them in our headlights as deer on the highway, may be a most effective means through which we can help make a difference in our society, our communities. Consider it a mission of gentle outreach.

 

As I've heard of missionaries, the most effective approach is not to go into a community as one set apart and above, to teach and and preach down, but to just go live among them, going about one's ordinary tasks of daily living, by which to demonstrate by example the principles of Christ.

 

I know others here participating in these forums already do this, having mentioned attending church where there is a signficantly different set of values and beliefs from their own. I have both admired and puzzled over how they accomplish this. And, being honest, I have wondered, am I really 'healed enough' from my own painful past experiences, have I really sufficient self-control over my sometimes volital emotional responses to some of what I know I would encounter there, to be able to pull it off effectively myself? Can I really walk among them, sit among them, as a lamp set upon a hill, or succumb to turning into flashlight, or worse, flare into an open flame that could burn someone, leaving them with a painful experience for having encountered me?

 

And have I now the courage, the strength of maturity in my faith, beliefs, and self-confidence, to withstand without getting hurt all over again, what has hurt me there before? Can I keep it all in the right perspective of why I am there, not for myself, and what is there for me, but what I can bring to them?

 

I don't know. But I'm giving it a lot of thought. And prayer.

 

Jenell

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This hits on a bigger issue of human nature. It is uncomfortable to venture outside the of our self (those like us). Whether it be an ethnic us, spiritual us, economic us, regional us, gender us, academic us, familial us it doesn't matter.

 

It takes effort to cross those barriers. There is nothing to be embarrassed about this discomfort ... it is human nature.

 

If we put in that effort we will be glad we did.

 

steve

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Jenell,

 

I think what you describe is a stage many progressives go through. I think you have a positive approach in your mention of being...

a quiet lamp set upon a hill amidst them, that our light may shine all about upon any whose hearts and minds and spirits are open to recieving it, not try to be a flashlight beam that chases them down, tries to pin them in our headlights as deer on the highway, may be a most effective means through which we can help make a difference in our society, our communities. Consider it a mission of gentle outreach

 

While i personally do not attend a traditional church except on special occasions where my grandchildren preform, that certainly doesn't stop me from being involved in positive social programs where personal religious beliefs are set aside. I also have a family of friends that i spend 4 months with each year in Florida. All have various religious persuasions and none of them push their beliefs on the other, Its a great group considering there are about 15 couples and we all feel like family. Rarely does religion or dogma or doctrine come up and when it does none of them are willing to assume they know. Religion usually , in my view, does not really unite. It seems to create partitions. Community does unite. As long as we put community above religion, each can see the light in the other.

 

So, in conclusion, i no longer feel compelled to go out and tell the people my opinion of what is true or what is not. Very few ask and if they do, i just give them one of my books and tell them if it speaks to them and is helpful on their journey, that is wonderful and if not that is also good and they are most welcome to file it away in the trash or pass it on. No one can receive before they are ready and perhaps a lot of what we think is true now, we will also later file in the trash. So what left? Love and that's all, in my view, that really matters.

 

Joseph

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If the problem is a disconnect between progressive churches and the poor and minorities, then it seems to me it would be more productive and more honest to encourage progressive outreach to the poor than trying to pretend to be a fundamentalist just to get along with other people. Unless you're in a situation where you could be kicked out of your home for expressing criticism of religious fundamentalism, to stay silent and say nothing when you are able to on behalf of others who cannot gives the impression that you at the very least condone their social values and doctrines even if you really don't. At the very least you're sending out a message that pretending to support unjust social values to get along with others is better than standing up for what's right. I also find it a double standard that the author of this link seems to suggest it's ok for fundamentalist Christians to say whatever hateful and ridiculous nonsense they want to but liberals can never openly disagree ever and we must self-censor ourselves to get people to like us. If they feel no connection to the progressive churches in nearby towns, then they could start their own progressive Christian meetup groups through sites like meetup.com. There are probably more progressive Christians in their town than they think but you can't find any churches to attend there because people could be afraid of coming out in support of progressive values. And if you still want to work together with conservative churches on issues you have in common with them on, I don't see why you couldn't organize an intrafaith dialog between liberal and conservative churches. But to pretend to be a fundamentalist just to fit in when you have no financial threat of coming out would be even more dangerous and hypocritical than people who honestly believe in fundamentalism and the very reason it's so hard to find progressive churches because people are afraid to come out. I mean, imagine if we said that gay people should pretend to be straight and to disapprove of homosexuality just to fit in with the heterosexual majority.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Hmmmm...stuff to think about.

 

For one thing, there's no way I can 'pretend' to be fundamentalist, just to get along or otherwise. And no, I can't just be silent, pretend complacency, when there is occasion to speak up in another's behalf if I feel they are being unfairly treated. I really can't see THAT being a lamp set upon a hill amidst them...that would be hiding my lamp under a bushel basket. I am not going to hide my light, and it would entirely negate any positive reason for even going among them. To do that, well, just as the flame of a lamp set under a cover would soon suffocate and go out, so would my light soon do,andit would have had no positive effect at all if not allowed to openly shine.

 

I do think, feel I know, really, that there ARE those within those environments, raised there just as I was, that question, are uncomfortable with much of the same things I have been, but don't know how to find any other way...and still cling to what the only religious environment they know, does still give them. I can relate to those people, can still remember those same feelings, those same conflicts, and feeling so alone with them, hesitant to speak of them. That often for good reason, I know from experience how fast and sharp rebukes can come in that environment for daring to question, even the most obvious discrepancies.

 

But I understand both myself and those that do that much better than in my past. I have confidence now that I really am NOT a crazy irrational heretic under the influence of the devil for daring to think, question,even challenge. And I know now I am NOT alone, I am not the one odd and somehow aberrant mixed up person that is the only one that thinks and feels those things. My confidence in my own intellegence, valid critical thinking skills, and most of all, true solid faith have grown tremendously since Ileft there. My past decade of attention to studies of religion, theology, both theirs and others, and yes psychology and sociology, all have given me solid ground to stand on, confiidence in knowing I'm on that solid ground, as well as a much better equipped tool box than I had before. When I do speak up, I know their language now. I've learned enough of the bible, I can speak out of scripture now, probably with more solid gounding in it than most of them. I've learned better ways to express queston, prompt thought rather than reaction. Overall, in so many ways, I have matured since back then. I am no longer the helpless injured child among them I once was. There are a lot of bullies there, in that environment, that are still bullying the other helpless injured children, no matter how adult the bodies, that are there among them.

 

And I think, I think back..what might it have done for me back then, feeling trapped between my need for a faith base, and lack of knowledge of there being any other way...had I encountered a light among those there. I would have been drawn, I think, as a moth to light. A light not to tell, but to demonstrate, what is possible.

 

I do know many of those people, having lived and interacted and transacted business and raised my children in this community for 37 years. I have a good foundation aquaintance with many of them. That, not so much the deeply involved eat-sleep-breath church circles that tend to be found somewhere near the front of the sanctuary, whose names pepper church handouts and committee lists, that glide around giving out Walmart greeter style handshakes and smiles and directing everyone else as comfortably as in their home, but those that sit a bit further back, not inclined to attracting much notice. Already over the years, when I do go there on occasion, I've fallen into, without thought, gravitating toward a little cluster of older widows, many of whom i've known for years, to find my seat.

 

No, if I consider doing such a thing, it must not be to seek community for myself, but to offer community to someone else. It cannot be under the pretense of pretending to go along to get along, but to be an example of something beyond what prevails there. It cannot be to seek approval and acceptance by those that would never grant their approval and acceptance anyway. It cannot be to try to change them with my 'superior knowledge'.

 

It also cannot be confrontational, inciting or letting myself be lured into no-win battles or hostlities. It cannot be with fire that scorches and burns (and yes, that part would be a challenge for me), but with a gentle light that will never affect or move those solidly set there, but that just may help some moths find a new direction, to see they are not alone.

 

And it must be with purpose that is pure at heart. That purpose must not be tinged with anger,hurt, bitterness, of past experiences, but with the clear understanding that it can only be a positive, loving one.

 

Going to think, meditate, and pray on this a bit more.

 

By the way, Neon, in my community, and within these churches, I am NOT a 'closet Progressive', I've been openly 'out' for many years. And there would be no reason for me to try to go back into it.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Joseph wrote: "positive social programs where personal religious beliefs are set aside"

 

Uh, I think it safe to assume you have never lived in or near east Texas. The whole set of your words as I excerpt there are an oxymoron in this little corner of the world.

 

And toNeon: "encourage progressive outreach to the poor"

 

That's actually pretty much the problem in the more upscale, Progressive communities and churches...."outreach to the poor"...kinda the same thing I grew up with in other kind of churches, talk about "outreach to the lost", "outreach to the sinners". "outreach to the prison inmates."

 

"Outreach to the poor" is still a position of separation, us/them. It isn't to embrace, as equals and cohorts, share common fellowship.

 

Jenell ;)

Edited by JenellYB
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My wife and I are members of a small, fairly conservative United Methodist Congregation. We do have a female pastor and she is much loved by all.

 

I see my role within this community as a, well, not a force for change, more like a nudge towards change. My wife is also, but differently. She is the "let's organize a coat drive" type. I'm more "let's have a book study" type.

 

In these studies I often do, I guess, feign a certain "seeker" mentality (though seeker is what I am, truth be told). I ask a lot of questions. It gets some good discussions going, and I hope, gets some of the folks to re-think their entrenched ideas. I don't often express opinion where I know people will get upset. I don't think anyone learns any good from that.

 

I think it is important work. We should, if we are able, help our brothers and sisters to be more Christ-like, as they help us.

 

Jenell, I have not been hurt by a church. I didn't grow up in the church, only started going in my 30s. So I don't know how difficult it is for you to go back. I would suggest that there might be a mainline type church not too far away from you that needs you. And maybe you need them?

 

Peace,

A.

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As a former fundamentalist Christian, I can understand the desire to want to remain apart of the childhood church you grew up with, but I think it's also important for us to create communities for those Christians who don't fit in with their childhood churches where people can be themselves and speak their minds freely without being labeled a heretic by their brothers and sisters and you don't always have to feel like you're walking on eggshells all the time. With the mainline Protestant churches dwindling in size and the conservative evangelical churches starting to increase, if all the progressive Christians start hiding out in the evangelical conservative churches, pretty soon the conservative church will be the only voice of Christianity left.

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Again, Neon, I am not talking about 'hiding out' anywhere. I am already an open Progressive in my community.

 

I am talking about building from a foundation of community relationships I've already developed over nearly 40 years in my community of residence. These are my neighbors in every day life and business of life. That provides a common ground, a foundation. I am well aware I cannot move into religious and social justice issue communication with many of them. But some, I can, and in fact already do in life 'away from' the church environment. I think there are some of those 'moths' that are responsive to the presence of light, ready to respond to someone that can demonstrate example, step out, in confidence as a Progressive. Leadership, perhaps we might think of it? They, like me years ago, have no idea there were other options in religion. Someone said they are afraid to speak out, yes,many are, because they are afraid they are alone, they are afraid of being ostracized, belittled, even scolded and rebuked, they are afraid of not being able to hold their own in using scripture to support what they feel in their hearts,

Let me tell you a bit about this area where I live.

Someone else mentioned, maybe trying to form Progressive oriented bible study groups in my area as an alternative,well just how am I to find those moths,or they to find me, if I don't walk among them? Someone mentioned "mainline" churches...I don't mean to be repetitive or rude, but this is east Texas, there is no "mainline" presence here. It is fundamentalist, evangelical...churches here come in your choice of two basic brands, those with hair-spray-frozen bouffants that rattle in tongues and fall on floors, and those that resemble frozen corpses with lots of blue hair. The most "modern" as it is called here, is a still quite fundamentalist Methodist where they are maybe not quite as frozen, but is pretty much the enclave of the clannish old business community familes in this small town. The crumbling ruins of a long vacant cute little Presybetarian church building languishes on the outskirts of town, the Episcopal church occupies a crumbling, shabby plain little old house still trying to serve maybe a dozen or so elderly hangers-on, and a small frame church building that sat for many years vacant, though still displaying a faded Disciples of Christ sign, was finally sold off a few years ago to someone to operate a day care center. Ah, yes, then there's the Catholic church, a cluster of portable buildings and a mobile home for the priest, with nearly all the signage in Spanish, that cater to the Hispanic population. There's an extremely fundamentalist version of a Church of Christ tucked in not far from here, and a quite small Seventh Day Adventist congregation.

Tucked into a rural lot along the state highway, sheilded by trees and shrubbery is a small old house, neatly kept, bearing a small sign..'majhid'..people ask me, curious, if I've noticed it and if i know what 'majhid' stands for...I lie, shrug, say 'no'...though I'm sure some have figured it out by now. I say 'no' because I hope they don't figure it out and cause problems for the muslims that pray there. And because I don't want to hear the ugly things they are sure to say about them.

 

But there are almost as many churches here as population...drive through,and you are struck by this as one of the "churchiest" areas you've ever seen. But they are mostly very conservative Baptist, Pentacostal, or the hybid of those two,the AOG, and Evangelical non-denominational.

Now those 'basic brands' come in two basic flavors...north of the railroad tracks in Cleveland Tx, they are all black. Elsewhere, they are all white. Except for the Catholic church, of course, which is mostly brown. In all my years in this community, having attended quite a few of these churches at least a time or two, I have seen in one white AOG church, a black family. I don't know how long they'd lbeen there, or how long they stayed...probably not long. The "Grand Dragon" of the KKK makes his home here, has for all the years I've lived here. It's been within this past decade there was news of cross burnings in yards of the few blacks that dared move into thislily white enclave where I live, the rural area outside Cleveland.

I am a Progressive living in the heart of enemy territory, you might say. When I walk into a local church, it can be kinda like walking into the lion's den. But i still think there are a lot of moths in there, ready for a light.

 

When I talk about a long drive to Progressive churches in urban Houston, or in another direction to Conroe, the next nearest urban area with Progressive churches, I'm talking over 100 miles roundtrip. Too far for me to do regularly and often. I would never be more than a visitor. But the very same limitation for me is the same for any of those moths that might be resting with wings still folded in these local churches,

 

Do you see where i'm coming from better now? Now, my question...am I, can i be, that light?

Jenell

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Yes, AdrianC, you have the idea. Just the nudge. Just the planting of a seed here, a bit of cultivating there.....and yes,definitely, seeker oriented questions are often the most effective, least threatening. And your wife's, leading into positive ideas for community service, I actually did have a little bit of success in suggestions in that direction in a local SBC I attended a while a few years back.

Jenell

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It is not easy sometimes. I like Neon Genesis was a fundamentalist. I enjoyed the feeling of community and the seperation was not just my doing. When I stood up to oppose the view that homosexual relations were just a choice because of a fall into sin I was ostracized. Firstly I was accused of being gay. I am not but I do not see it as an issue if I had been. Then because I still disagreed even when bible verses were quoted at me people stopped talking to me. If someone did speak to me it seemed that one of the elders of the church would always do their best to seperate us. It was painful and very unpleasant and my decision to leave was not a quick impulse.

I personally think that there should be unity of action to help the poor and other social issues but I also believe we also have a right to voice difference to many of the conservative ideas that get voiced. I think if I had not found an alternative church and was made to think that the conservative views was all there is I believe I would be an atheist or agnostic by now. A liberal minded church has been important to me. I also think it helps others who are struggling with conservative views when you can offer them an alternative where they will warmly welcomed, do not feel they risk social exclusion over their beliefs and are free to speak freely.

I also know when I speak to other Christians I met from time to time and I say that I am a liberal, they often look uncomfortable and it appears that they believe I have betrayed the very essence of Christianity as they see it. I therefore do not believe that full unity with conservative churches is possible of advisable.

However, I am all for ecumenical action but I am also for a strong voice from the progressive/ liberal schools of thought if only to give myself a home and that of others who find they differ from conservative/fundamentalist groups or find they need fellows to walk with.

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I wasn't raised in a fundamentalist church, at least not one many would recognize as fundamentalist. I was, however, raised in a very conservative Catholic church – and believe me when I say there's very little difference. I was very fortunate in that during my 20's, I joined an extremely liberal Catholic church. I never had the hurt and isolation many find, but I also did not feel included because of my progressive ideas. However, the liberal church was wonderful at outreach to the poor, social justice, and community action.

 

Now I am back to my hometown area where fundamentalism – in its various forms – reigns supreme. The closest liberal – not progressive – church is a good 60 miles away, and I don't drive. So, do I try to work within the existing churches? Yes, I've tried. But the members of the communities I have tried to penetrate are so completely entrenched in the status quo that its difficult, not to say impossible, to change anything. Besides which, I am shy, I have little influence in this community, and my income makes me an “in-betweener” so I have little “power”.

 

I completely understand Jenell's frustration. Frankly, I have been thinking of starting a “church” (though I don't think that's the word I'll use), because I know that there are others like me in this community, though we cower behind closed doors. The purpose of the “church” is not to build another wall between “us” and “them”, but rather to build a bridge – between churches, between the haves and have-nots, between the powerful and the powerless. The only thing that stops me is fear because I am what I am.

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Pete, Yvonne, you are yes, you are getting what I'm talking about.

 

Pete, as you say, your leaving wasn't an easy or quick matter, nor entirely your own choice. Maybe only those of us that have experienced such as you relate about your getting cross wise over what you felt is right can understand that element of that community. When in my post above, of not trying to gaIn the approval and acceptance of those that are never going to grant their approval and acceptantance anyway, it was to allude to an element of that culture that is so pervasisve, as to be part of the basic attitude, or tone, It is reflected in attitudes there just as it is in their God-image...Particularly among those people I referred to at the front of the church on Sunday, the preachers,Sunday School leaders and other of the 'inner circle' very much assume a posiition superior, it is sublty and not so subtly conveyed that their approval or disapproval is amatterof great importance if anyone is to be deemed worthy to be 'saved'...etc. And that approval is NEVER fully granted, others are ALWAYS under suspicion and on probabation. Just as for your own speaking up about your views on homosexuality, being ostracized, I've experienced that. When very young, in connection to an early teen pregnancy, it was for me a time almost too unbearably painful, even still, for me to mention. Yet over the years, I kept trying to go back. But my life gave them many reasons to disapprove me...divorce and remarriage was a biggie. But in a way, their repeated rejections and condemnations actuially served a postive purpose for me, eventually...eventally it reached such levels as to be absurd, and that helped me so it wasn't ME there was something 'wrong with', it was THEM. In any thought I'm having of going back into that envronment, is because I know there are still other people in there like I was, that are being treated the same way. If one there does try to stand up for one being targeted, it all turns on them, they are attacked too, just as you found when you defended gays.

 

Yvonne, yes, fundamentalism exists in Catholic churches too. We tend to define 'fundamentalism' too narrowly when we think of it just in context of evangelicals...fundamentalism doesn't have to be related to any particulas set of religious tradtions...fundamentalsm is simply some one or group that has taken upon themselves to prescribe a fixed narrow set of beliefs, rules, ideology, as the only 'right' way, and anything or anyone outside that is wrong.

 

Also, as you observe, conservativism....it has come to seem to me more and more it is difficult to find the liine of distinction between fundamentalism and rght wing conservatism. In this community in which I live, of course there are many people NOT 'churchly', NOT overtly religious justt as anywhere else, BUT, they are just as extreme conservative and fundamentalist and judgemental as those churchly religious. Even with overt religiosity out of the mix, this is still an extremely conservative right and fundamentalist culture in this region. What is really funny is that even the most iireligious among the red-neck good ol boys, even they still do not hesitate to pull out bible verses and religious based condemnations to tear down others. It has been modiified within the freater urban areas, such as Houston, by the influx and mixing of many different people of varying cultures and backgrounds, but cross those urban boundaries and the old east Texas mentality is still here.

 

Joseph, one church, without division, I agree that is the ideal. And looking at NT scripture, that is as it began. The church was and was intended to be catholic, in sense of meaning, one church, one body, Within any given community, consider in NT references to 'THE' church at Corinth, at Rome, etc. THE, as in one, only one, which embraced ALL Christians in that community. There was not multiple churches within each community, one for the rich, one for the poor, one for the merchants and businessmen, one for the educated elite, and so on. ALL were embraced within one church, all came together in community based on faith, the poor of the community as much a part at the wealthy, all working together as one body and sharing resources. The poor, the sick, the elderly, were not shunted off to an outside place subject to 'outreach'...they were cared for within the community, as part of a family.

 

If you really look at 'denominationalism', what you see at the root of doctrinal difference that form the separation between them are sets of doctrine, beliefs, and attitudes conformed to different socio-economic class, ethnicity, and local circumstance as they 'worked' for some set of people, even if at the expense of others. Problems and tensions and divisions further form within denominations as conditions in the environment and individual circumstances bring changes that cause conflict with people's real lives with doctrines and practices that just don't 'work' for them anymore. Pressure and confllct increase as more and more people find the old set of 'the way it is/has to be' just isn't workable for the many more. Conservatism is as its core fear and resistance to change, to even recognizing and acknowledging change. Those no longer able to conform must be dealt with, since we don't condone burning people at the stake anymore, at least in most the world, the only way to deal with them is to ostracise. Kick them out. Defend the 'old way' by then beating them down, discrediting them, judging them according to the standards of the 'old way' to condemn them. And in that, there is no ground for defense when its a matter of what those ostracized people 'are' vs just a judgment of an action that can be 'repented of' and stopped. In such a culture, a man that commits adultery can repent and change his ways, be 'forgiven' and reinstated into fellowship withinthe community. His female partner in the offense, however, is viewed as the 'cause' of his fall, is judged an adluteresss....action vs being. As a homosexual cannot stop 'being' a homosexual. In my own case, in my early very painfully hitting that reality of that culture, I could never "un-be" a "fallen woman" that had become pregnant out of wedlock, eventually, could never "un-be" a woman divorced and my sin compounded by remarriage which made me a continuing adulteress. Those outside the fundamentalist culture, unfamiliar with conservative, fundamentalist religious culture, may not know that simply having divorce and remarriage in one's past is sufficient to deny acceptance into the church membership, either entirely without exception, or might be accepted only on basis of 'counselng and evaluation' of true repentance for that 'sin'. Many that will allow membership impose other untenable burdens..a divorced person is not allowed to remarry, divorced persons, no matter how long ago their divorce, are ineligable to be considered for pastoral ordination or even teaching Sunday School, performing as a missionary, or holding any position of leadership within or connected to the church. If you find this unbeleivable, I invite you to go to the denominational websites of some of these fundamentalist evangelical denominations.

 

Perhaps only those that have personally been affected by these 'restrictions' can understand how far reaching that can be. Example, mention here of one such as myself starting a bible study group. Because I am one of those permanently disallowed by things I cannot change...one divorced and remarried, even though I am presently alone, to do even just that would be suffiecient to have my membership in and fellowship which such a church "withdrawn". That is true of most Baptist, Pentecostal, and AoG churches, I'm not sure of some of the others.

And even were it not I am divorced, remarried, I am first a woman. In many of these same churches, a woman can only 'teach' or oversee such as a bible study class over other women and children, not men.

 

These are the realities of conservative fundamentalist religion.

 

I understand these things BECAUSE of my own experiences, backgound in that environment. I UNDERSTAND the fear that prevents many of those moths from unfolding their wings, to dare stand up and speak up, without some kind of solid ground to stand on, some new direction to take if they do so. I UNDERSTAND what they fear, getting their wings broken and burned and getting swept out the door with the trash.

 

I hope I'm a bit smarter about dealing with all that now, than I used to be. I can look back now and see how, during a bible study night led by the pastor at an SBC, I responded to desultery comments about a then current even, of Disney having granted benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, with 'Yeah! Go Disney!" didn't work too well in my favor. Though it did get a few smiles and even chuckles, before they could catch themselves, from a few closeted moths, perhaps?

 

Jenell

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Jenell ,thank you for starting this thread I think it is important that everyone contribute in their own way by just being, the person they are. Some write, some preach, some dance and some sing while others just contemplate to do their service. I am not a preacher maybe a spiritual entertainer or life artist. I feel Jenell is saying to not just wait for the sun to rise, but to embrace it. To do this I must be ready to serve without hesitation where needed when the sun rises. I must know myself and find where I can be most effective at helping others master their own circumstance. I do this by just entertaining the idea of an all-pervading pure consciousness.

 

I say entertainer because I don’t make universal laws and principles, only entertain the idea to help myself discover and makes use of them that is why I say life artist because I am willing to put it out there for joy or criticism. I feel to step out of our comfort zone enlarges our capacity to know and to experience infinity. In my present state of awareness I am standing with my eyes next to the painting and only see one small patch of colors in infinity at a time. I feel doing something that is not comfortable helps me to step back and view a larger patch of pure consciousness, which assist me in seeing the whole picture. The whole picture can't be divided but it can be enjoyed and entertained.

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Good thoughts, Soma.

 

As I see it, I have 3 potential courses before me in this matter.

 

I can just continue as I have, without engaging contact with any particular church community.

 

I could travel a great distance to attend church services with a bunch of people I don't know, don't seem so have a lot in common with other than faith values, and with whom there is little to no occasion for fellowship in everyday life outside church attendance. This option I actually did turn to in a time of crisis, in desperate need of support and understanding some years ago, one that met both my need for a Progressive community, and a spiritual community competent in helping me deal with some very difficult and unusual matters of personal spiritual and psychological crisis, things considered under mystical phenomenon. It is a place that has and always will have a special place in my heart, for being there, my refuge in a storm when I needed it. But it is still not a place for me for everyday community and fellowship.

 

Or, I can follow this nudge toward trying to use my foundation of personal community with people in my communtiy of residence, and be for some there, the example, the light, that demonstrates possiblities beyond what they know of now, perhaps even here and there, be for some one there something of what that church mentioned above was for me when I was ready for it. My experience there gave me gifts in that direction, complimented by my formal study of psychology, makes me one they can speak to without fear about matters of questioning faith and spirituality they cannot voice in that environment.

 

In a sense of 'hiding out' any where, I stopped hiding years ago. But I'm also ready to stop running, as well. Whether its running to find or follow, or running away from. I've found rest in many ways, and comprehend rest is always with me wherever I am or go. Maybe now what I'm ready for is a place to stand awhile. Maybe make a difference for someone else.

 

Jenell

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Jenell, Sounds like you see the path clearly. I feel you are the tree that can give many shelter. I am sure some will hack at your foundation, but you will only grow stronger and deeper. I am excited for your new adventure.

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Now to choose my standing ground. Might do some exploratory expeditions in the next few weeks. I am presently working at getting my home ready yo put on the market to sell, with plan to move next year near my daughter about 25 miles from here, in a neighboring community. So think I'll scope out the territory between here and there. Yeah, I'm excited too!

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If this community works for you and you're fine interacting with these Christians in spite of your differences, then perhaps being a missionary to the evangelicals, so to speak, may be a calling for you. But for many people, such a situation is impossible for them and some people who have been hurt by their childhood churches must get away from them at all cost and so it is vital for us to create progressive-friendly church homes to create safe environments for these people to find fellowship with like-minded individuals. This isn't a matter of "running away" or to "lick your wounds" but a matter of these people removing themselves from a dangerous situation where continuing to remain there might lead to them being in an abusive situation where it might even lead them to committing suicide. Again, if this works for you and you're strong enough to make this work, then all the more power to you, but such situations aren't healthy for everyone and there needs to be a safe alternative for those people who would be most at risk in those communities.

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Neon, I understand. And I agree. I've experienced some pretty devastating stuff there.

 

But i think I'm better prepared and equipped both to deal with the people, discern who is open and not, and have a better tool box for finding where a person is, so I can meet him or her there, perhaps guide a ways in a new direction, toward their asking new questions.

And if not, I can now walk away without letting it get to me.

 

Jenell

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If the problem is a disconnect between progressive churches and the poor and minorities, then it seems to me it would be more productive and more honest to encourage progressive outreach to the poor than trying to pretend to be a fundamentalist just to get along with other people. Unless you're in a situation where you could be kicked out of your home for expressing criticism of religious fundamentalism, to stay silent and say nothing when you are able to on behalf of others who cannot gives the impression that you at the very least condone their social values and doctrines even if you really don't. At the very least you're sending out a message that pretending to support unjust social values to get along with others is better than standing up for what's right. I also find it a double standard that the author of this link seems to suggest it's ok for fundamentalist Christians to say whatever hateful and ridiculous nonsense they want to but liberals can never openly disagree ever and we must self-censor ourselves to get people to like us. If they feel no connection to the progressive churches in nearby towns, then they could start their own progressive Christian meetup groups through sites like meetup.com. There are probably more progressive Christians in their town than they think but you can't find any churches to attend there because people could be afraid of coming out in support of progressive values. And if you still want to work together with conservative churches on issues you have in common with them on, I don't see why you couldn't organize an intrafaith dialog between liberal and conservative churches. But to pretend to be a fundamentalist just to fit in when you have no financial threat of coming out would be even more dangerous and hypocritical than people who honestly believe in fundamentalism and the very reason it's so hard to find progressive churches because people are afraid to come out. I mean, imagine if we said that gay people should pretend to be straight and to disapprove of homosexuality just to fit in with the heterosexual majority.

 

I'm way back at the beginning of the post but to this I speak. One thing I try so desperately to live is that what another believes is none of my business, and that I "shall know them by their fruit" I think in this way it is easier for me to venture into a more traditional church freely. Though it is tuff. See the human fellowship aspect of religion is one of the fundamental reasons why it offers people security and if you are not among like minds we tend to feel like an out cast or all alone in the world. Lets face it the paradigm shift that is occurring is in its infancy there for we are the minority. That is why i think it imperative to focous on only one thing, is there love hear????

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Accepting that each has their beliefs, and that another's beliefs are as you put it, none of someone elses's business, seems a good idea until you think about it, that how any of us act, what we do, arises out of what we believe.

 

Now, that anyone holds some notion of something that really doesnt matter to anything as a belief, that works ok. Each can 'believe' what they want about the best brand of car to drive, the best way to get to the other side of town.

 

But when beliefs give rise to actions, behaviors, that I observe affecting others, particularly in hurtful and harmful ways, then yes, I think it is my business. It can become all our business, as a society. It isnt holding a belief, but what actions arise out of that belief, that can be a real matter for others. You can beleive god lives on the moon for all I care, but if you start beating others down with their are going to go burn to death in the sun if they dont agree with your god on the moon, yeah, I can take issue with that.

 

As for the suggestion of a blog about experienced in a certain context, whether I write here or any other public place, where what I write can easily be accessed by even anyone I might mention in my writing, I try to avoid referencing things that might be awkward to a certain person that might be connected to it, that could stumble in here and see it. When I reference personal experiences that might reflect another in an awkward light, I try to use examples somewhat distanced from my 'here and now' situations in some way. To be writing regularly about specific experiences and incidents taking place presently, as in an ongoing blog account of my encounters at any church or with any person in it, I don't want that evident as when and where it happened, for that could be very awkward, especially personal things others may share with me, were one of those people to pick up on and be reading my accounts. So, no. I won't be doing that.

Edited by JenellYB
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