-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Sex. I need to get it out there before we begin. It’s not a dirty word, unless you’re in a Church. In a Church they don't even mention it, because no one, with their mild sensibilities, knows how to deal with that word.They know it must happen. After all, they want kids in the building, and almost all of them require that three letter world to come into existence. Just make sure the light’s turned off so Jesus doesn’t see.
Before you clutch your pearls and run away, no one knows you’re reading this smut. You don’t have to tell a soul that you saw the word “sex,” and kept reading. I promise it all has to do with faith and God. (And for those who are turned away by those two words, it will also have to do with sex.)
Covid and Masks
Damn! I’m hitting all the spots I’m supposed to avoid, aren’t I?
Long long ago, when we were talking about things going back to “normal” like we wanted the 80’s polka dots back, I realized things were not going back to normal. I also knew I was going to put my masks away. The question had to be asked: When would I take the masks back out? I decided if I was feeling a little under the weather without a temperature, I’d wear a mask.
Well, wouldn’t you know, I felt a little under the weather last Saturday. I pulled out my mask, and put it on to go grocery shopping. Then I stopped myself. I actually considered what people would think seeing me in a mask when I haven’t worn them recently. Would they think I caught COVID and was going out with a very transmissible disease?
I seriously considered putting that mask up! Just the illusion that I was doing something wrong filled me with horror. Then I realized, anyone could make up any damn thing they wanted about me and my family and I couldn’t stop them. What I could do, was keep my little runny nose to myself, and not give it to anyone else. Rolling my eyes, I put my mask on and did my grocery shopping.
The Problem with Society Seeing Someone in "Sin."
et’s say a 15 year old girl had sex and got pregnant. First of all, there is a boy involved too.This complicates things. It’s an action that took two people, but now there is only one who has to literally live with it every moment of every day.
A friend from the long long ago once said to me, “All actions are selfish.”
Oh did I clutch my own set of pearls with those words. I also spend a good part of my adult life testing those words against different people. (Which in my mind means they were good words if I carried them around with me for so long.)
Whether it’s good or not, I feel there are ways to walk a selfless path. It’s just extremely difficult to do. Selfless people are difficult to find, because they don’t take credit for their work, and they are few and far between. Almost everyone, even the ones trying to be selfless, act from a want or a need, and want credit for it in the end. (I’ve talked about selfless and other-centered in the past, so check it out if your interested on my take.)
When that 15 year old girl announces she’s pregnant, most people see a big pile of stinky doo-doo. The rule is: “Sex outside of wedlock is wrong,” so even being near that would give the illusion that anyone near the girl is also wrong. Therefore, she is ostracized, While not literal, the girl is told to wear Hester Prynne’s Scarlet Letter.
This is really what gets me about these Evangelical churches.You are all pro-life until you have a girl who just made a poor decision, or was raped, or was lied to… Let’s be honest, she’s not going to talk about the decisions leading up to the act, and you are not going to ask, because once you discovered she was pregnant, you stopped caring about her story.
She can’t take back what happened, but how the Church responds to her can change what she is going to do about it. Most of us are so selfish, we can’t live with a little crap to help a girl in need.
I’m going to say this, and I mean it from the depths of my heart. It is the Evangelical Church that causes the most abortions in the United States.
See, if that girl finds out she is now pregnant, no one would know she got pregnant and had an abortion. Everyone would know if she remained pregnant. I she got the abortion, she would be treated with the same love and respect as before. Very few would love her if she was an unwed, teenage mom. She might even believe she’s making the wrong choice getting an abortion, but when not getting an abortion looks the way it does… I can start to see why she would make that choice. After all, almost all of us are selfish creatures. We created the space where her only realistic action was abortion.
Meanwhile, we praise the boy who chooses to make the hard choices and take care of the girl and baby. What a sacrifice on his part, amirite? The single mother who kept the baby and did it all by herself, doesn’t get the same praise.
Being a Christ Follower Now vs judging things that cannot change.
We do more to turn "sinners" into cautionary tales, than actually act like Christians towards them. If we don't turn them into living examples, we dissect them until they die from from it. Pick them apart piece by piece.
It's easier for society that way, while completely destroying the person in question.
We do more to hide the problem rather than fix it.
That's why cities put pointy granite under overpasses and build benches with arm rests in the middle- to hide homelessness.
That's probably why we're uncomfortable seeing someone in a mask. It makes us question the idea of health.
That's why we shun the 15 year old pregnant girl, so she'll go away and we don't have to think about it.
Out of sight; out of mind. Only God's eyes see clearer than ours. We cannot change what has been done, but we can always change what we do about it. When we choose the hide the problem (and let me make this clear, the girl isn't a problem. What she's going to do by herself and how she is going to exist is our problem) we choose to put God's eyes on us. I don't want God looking at me that way.
God, help me understand love. God, help me act in righteousness and humility. God, help me.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Madonna had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
According to her, it was three times in all.
It was amazing for her image. After the fact, people loved her even more. I can still remember the very first time she was excommunicated. I had forgotten that it all started with Pepsi.
But I did remember the song in question: “Like a Prayer.” She skyrocketed once the Church openly declared she was outside of doctrine! They basically formed her into what she was going to become, and she was going to become a scandal to the Church and their systems.
It was the first time I realized getting real attention to positively change a system required being absolutely hated by some.
Not for the sake of being hated. I think there are those of us who love being hated just to be hated. Those are firestarters, and fires to just watch the flames are rarely good.
No, I’m talking about a group hating you because it upsets their status quo in a way that points out hypocrisy, and usually by those who are the most comfortable. I somehow always knew I needed that kind of hate to really get something done.
But I am nothing.
More specifically, I’ve been “nothing’ed.” It’s what you do to people and groups that leave no sort of real impact at all. You say, “neat,” and move on, then in 8-10 years you think, “Oh, remember that thing Melissa did? I wonder how it’s going.” You search me up and either see I’ve quit or kept going. Your curiosity has been filled, and you once again put it all out of your memory and move on.
I’m not saying that to be angry. To be very clear, I’m not. I’ve done it too. We can’t help but do it, and I’m one of the most forgettable people on planet Earth.
Like so forgettable that when I would sit in a classroom the teacher would yell out, “Where’s Melissa?” and they would be looking right at me while saying it. So forgettable, that my first church job wrote out their history for their anniversary and I was completely written out. (It was a very small church. Only two jobs and I worked it for three years and held two positions.) So forgettable, that I was sitting in on a planning meeting for a Scout Project, a project I had been intimately involved in for the previous two years, and someone looked me in the eyes and said, “Who are you?”
I am nothing. I have always been nothing. No one wants to hate me, because no one can remember me long enough to form any lasting opinions of me.
I want to be hated.
I know that’s hard to understand. Why would anyone want to be hated? Being hated doesn’t feel pleasant. It doesn’t bring accolades or fancy houses and cars. People don’t strive for hate.
Only in my world, every day the time has run out. Either it ran out for some congregant or minister that was on the wrong side of a congregational power trip, or it ran out for a person that was on the wrong side of Clergy Abuse. Every day someone new is added to the displaced, broken and abused. It will always be better to be hated and stop the abuse, rather than being liked and know that brokenness continues. Or ignored. I’m ignored.
I would love to be hated by Matt Walsh. He’s a theological idiot who has a following. But, instead I hate Walsh and in disliking what he says and does, he gets the focus.
I’d love to be a thorn in Joel Osteen’s or Franklin Graham’s side. Only, no one wants to be theologically critical of American Evangelism aside from saying “Osteen bad!” and ignore a trend that continues to cause terrible things in local churches.
More than anything though, I’d hate to be hated by the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ). I love that tradition. I’m a Campbellite for life. There are people there I deeply care and love. Only…
The tradition I love has chosen ignorance as their weapon against me and others.
They have chosen to ignore me and hope my “sidetrack” magically ends. Did you know that the General Church has no idea that Fig Tree and I left the denomination? I took myself off a mailing list, and instead of getting a clue, I keep getting emails telling me I’m on their list and I really should re-subscribe to get information important to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). If I just come back and begin helping them again, they’ll go back to pretending to help us. It’s that easy.
And it’s not like that tradition deserves to exist.
There have been some toxic churches in the system.
There have been power hungry clergy who brought down others through their power.
There have been regions that quietly helped toxic churches get new ministers, and toxic ministers to get new churches.
Their sins are easier to hide because of how much power the congregants hold within the denominational system. The thing I loved has been weaponized.
I don’t want to be Madonna, wanting hate by the Church for the sake of publicity.
I just know, if what I do actually makes a difference, it will probably be the Church who yells out in anger. I won’t be gleeful when it happens. You won’t see me enjoying any of it, but I’ll know we are not nothing anymore.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
For years now, I’ve been vocally against cancel culture. It usually destroys a person that no longer exists (by seeking decades old Tweets and posts to find something inflammatory when that person wouldn’t do or say anything like that today). The event in question often lacks context to the culture and existing conditions surrounding the event itself. In a world where many are talking about restorative justice over retributive justice, we have no problem using the later to cut someone out, not restore or fix who they are.
I believe this is because, our culture drools at the opportunity to watch someone implode and destruct.
We can’t get literal death. We can’t force two people to fight it out in a large arena, but we can watch a figurative death through canceling.
What was the Roman Arena?
The Roman arena was the method for the government to focus the people’s bloodlust on something other than the government. “Justice” was the codeword to make the carnage make sense. Consider it, dying with a reason. It was justified to pit former soldiers against one another, because they would have been killed on the battlefield anyway, and they lost. It was justified to throw a bunch of Christians against a bunch of lions, because it was illegal to not worship a Roman god.
Oh, the people loved it! They needed a reason to enjoy the ripping of flesh; the gushing of fluids. They wanted, while not wanting to admit they wanted it without a “justifiable” reason.
Meanwhile, the Roman government was made to look like the arbiters of justice. The people being brutally killed had it coming, and it was simply Rome putting their comeuppance in one centralized location.
Cancel Culture has failed
The justification for Cancel Culture was simple: It’s a way to take down big voices who can’t be taken down any other way. In many ways, it was the corporation itself that was the target, not the people working for it. The people working for those corporations were used to hit the bigger target.
Only, systems adjust. When the same formula is used time and time again, it becomes easier to shift away.
At this point, we don’t care whether cancelling actually does anything for the broader culture. We just want to grab our popcorn and watch. It’s far more entertaining than the movies that are out right now. We want to put a little flame under them and see how they react! Are they going to pull someone down with them? Will there be blood?! What are they going to say? We don’t want the ones who accept their castration with grace and say the codewords to exit the arena. That’s no fun at all! We want the ones who keeps us on the edge of our seat as we gleefully watch a total personal meltdown!
In that way, cancelling was dead on arrival.
When looking at the purpose of cancelling, the ability to really hit big targets, it is decomposing in a ditch on the side of the road.
None of that really matters to most. We must say we’re wanting the justice, because otherwise we just must be honest that we’re after the carnage. Don’t tell us the justice is no longer there or wasn’t there to begin with- then we must admit we are animals.
And then there is the church...
I’m more than a little irate that churches feel they’ve got this internet ministry down with a snazzy livecast. Good for you! You can make 20-60 minutes look and sound pleasing to the eye. /s
Meanwhile, you are deep into the cancelling game. You are one of the big targets a growing number of former congregants are attempting to hit. You are so afraid of Christ’s death, you put a scapegoat in the target and “survive,” allowing the scapegoat to take the bullet.
Ministry was never about HOW you do things, but WHAT you are doing.
So many churches have absolutely no understanding of the culture outside their building. Meanwhile, the churches want to evangelize outside their building like the inside is the outside. The best definition I’ve ever gotten for evangelism is this:
Evangelism is finding God in the community and showing that to the people.
More than anything, if you want to live, like really live, you need to take the bullet and trust God is on the other side of it. Stop playing the same corporate game and giving the popcorn eaters fodder. If that last sentence doesn’t make sense to you- well, that’s because you don’t know the culture you are trying to reach. Like I already said, like I’ve been saying for nearly a decade.
For some reading on Roman Arenas and martyrs, click link:
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This week, I began reading Dr Glenn Pemberton’s book, Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms.
Just so you know, I will be doing a Tuesday’s Review on it. This is not a review, but an initial feel after getting a couple of chapters in.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Those who have been with me, know that I’ve been delving into some bad theology on purpose. It’s for a good reason (because these theologies haven’t been taken seriously by the academic circles, they haven’t been authentically torn apart). It just left me feeling icky all over. Someone has to eventually pump the septic system, but it’s not fun and you don’t finish smelling like roses.
It was just so nice to read the first chapter, and have it start by telling me where I’m going. This is in stark contrast to Ravi Zacharias who basically threw me on a tilt-o-whirl and said, “This is the truth because I said it is.” Even Zacharias’ set up is never really explored or answered.
Y’all have no idea how comforting a good setup can feel until you’ve been slung around by a bad one. It is especially important considering the subject matter.
Something else I had no idea I needed was citations to referenced Scripture. One of the bigger problems with the bad theology is this need to put production over accountability. When I’m reading or listening to someone, I want to look at sources. Heck, when I see memes on Facebook, I’m often researching the root, so I know who posted it and why! If I’m doing that with something as trivial as memes, I’d better not have to do it with commentary on Scripture! I’ve been listening to and reading these amazingly crafted commentaries on scripture, and no one wants to drop the chapter and verse!
Pemberton drops all the Scriptures like a hot album everyone needs to listen to. More than that, when I see the Scripture, I’m not thinking, “Wait, I don’t remember that verse being understood in that way,” and stopping what I’m doing to do secondary commentary on his primary commentary. Conversely, I have read what he’s written, and can see the background puzzle pieces that came together to make the point real.
Living in the Real World
Yesterday, I was reading pages 15-30 of Max the Mighty to 7th graders. They were very real pages for me, because I had a very similar event happen when I was only 8 years old. For those willing to spend the $4, it’s a scary accurate look at domestic abuse. For those who don’t, the main character saves a girl from a potentially deadly situation, and discovers the police believe the abuser.
I asked God to make my second half of my life better than my first. (True, I asked God for this at 12, so I didn’t quiet get the concept of ½ my life.) The point is, part of my healing this second time around with Church trauma, is coming to terms with the reality of it all. I might not get a happy ending. The second half of my life might be as rough as the first half. It’s not about finding God at the end of the rainbow, it’s about finding God in the storm that comes to bring the rainbow.
What Pemberton has given me in a just a few chapters is God. He didn’t physically write this, but they were in his words: “Remember when you balled yourself up and wept? You trusted God enough to go there.” Do you have any idea how comforting that thought is for those who are suffering and suffered trauma? Immense.
If God is real, then God is real in our reality. If God is love, then why would God punish us for trusting God enough with our truths? I’m ready for this book. I’m ready for real.