-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This can also be titled: "What I learned, being outside the Church: Part III"
What I'm about to say is the reason I didn't post anything last week.
Mentally, I was not in the right head space.
Did you know I've been writing fiction in my free time? I have four books.
One is written, edited, beta tested, and now I'm beginning to query it.
One is almost done being written. Then I'll begin editing and cleaning that one up.
Two have been written for about seven years now, and after I'm done with the second, those will go through a revision and reediting process.
I wrote them because I know the only people who read theology books are pastors, and mostly only people of faith read books on faith. The Christian world have very selective blinders, and the world outside is blind to Christianity. It means I can yell, scream, dance around... no one will see me because of blinders or blindness.
I read so much. I picked up old and new fiction. I did what most don't: I read between the lines. If you pick apart what you read like ministers do with theology books, you begin to see a writer's theology. It's the part of the writing few spend more than a glance considering unless the book is a breakout hit, but it is one of the most important parts.
Writers are telling you what to believe. It might be something classic like good triumphs over evil. It might be something relevant, like bad people can win big. It could beat you over the head, or subtly take you on a journey.
I wanted to write modern wisdom literature. Nothing explicitly religious. Nothing that beats you over the head with a theology if you read between the lines. Just stories that leave you with questions. Who was bad? What is good? Is there freedom? In true wisdom literature fashion, any answer opens new questions. Someone might think, "I loved that, but why did the character hate it?" It just cracks the door to a more open discussion in a world where the doors are cemented shut.
Being a woman, in the deep south, and being called by God to become a minister, I have my own open-ended questions about faith and life. I've been outside the Church for a decade, attempting to understand myself, God and the world around me. The longer I've been on the outside, the easier it has been to see the dangers within Church structures, and the completely obliviousness the Church has of the culture around her.
I'd be fine with this if the result wasn't to turn the sinner into the enemy instead of the need. In other words, to maintain our "otherness" we must become the temple workers Jesus specifically ostracized. In that world, we are wrong.
What kept me from posting last week?
Last week I sat in my inability. I'm a nobody from a nobody family. I'm a gal. I was an average student with a soft voice, and meek disposition. I had just learned that people don't want to make my job easier, they just want the free labor. They want me to make their job easier without considering that I want the same thing in return.
I already saw how incredibly broken and disconnected everyone already is from one another.
I stood on a mountain last week, looked over the ancient hills, and asked God, "Why?"
Why have I spent the greater part of my life trying to change something I can't possibly change?
I still don't think those around me gets it.
I don't want to be a mega-pastor. Seeing the billboards with the minister front and center makes me ill. Any minister worth their salt knows it's about God, not them. Yet I keep seeing them.
I don't want to make you happy. I'm not here to help you feel good about your life choices. There are so many that have come through here thinking Fig Tree will be the next self-help church. I'm just gonna drop some warm fuzzies all up in here, and we'll sing Kum-by-yah. Then they leave when they realize that's not what this is about, and I've yet to find the people who can sit with the necessary Cold Prickilies I need to drop. It ultimately leads to the phrase, "You're doing the right thing!" and the silent addition, "but I can't be part of it."
I do what to talk about those who were and are wounded and lost. I realize, with almost a horrible dread, that speaking to those things will require a secular voice. That's really why I write. I'm a woman in the deep south, who sees the problem and wants to speak to it. I can't do that in the church. Not authentically. That is also why I was in a dark place last week. I have spent decades trying to talk about these issues, and I've been met with ambivalence.
Why am I writing fiction? Because it speaks the truth.