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The Church of Christ Turned Me Into a Feminist

I've been looking through old posts, and I don't think I've told this story before, at least not the whole story. So here goes.

Most COC congregations have gospel meetings (i.e., revivals, but they don't use that term because the Baptists do) once or twice a year, when they invite a guest preacher to come in and preach every night for a week. When I was 6 or 7, the church invited this old Southern preacher to hold a gospel meeting.

One night during a sermon, he started yelling from the pulpit and pounding on it. He was so worked up that I actually looked up and listened to what he was saying. Mind you, up to this point in my life, I hadn't paid a bit of attention to a church sermon because they were unremittingly boring. Instead, I sat there playing with my little dolls or coloring in my Jesus or Noah's ark coloring books.

This guy had the thickest accent, so I had trouble understanding him, but I finally realized what he was saying: he denounced the women'…
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Why Do I Still Go to Church?

It often happens that when I tell someone my horror stories about growing up in the church of Christ, the person will look at me in amazement and say, "I can't believe you still go to church!" Honestly, I can't quite believe it myself. After all those years of spiritual abuse, you would think I would be done with religion. Both of my siblings have left Christianity altogether, which seems to be typical of people who escape the COC (I have only anecdotal evidence to back this up). I won't say my siblings are atheists, but they simply refuse to be involved in any kind of organized religion. They think it's all a scam--that all preachers are money-grubbing charlatans and all congregations are full of toxic, controlling people. I don't judge them for feeling that way. The sad truth is that a lot of churches are like that. I guess I've been lucky to find a church that I find uplifting and nourishing, rather than soul draining.

So why do I still go to churc…

Politics and the Church of Christ

Since the most recent presidential election, I've read a lot of pundits who are mystified as to why evangelicals broke so hard for Trump, given that the thrice-married adulterer and admitted sexual assaulter doesn't live up to their much-vaunted family values. I wasn't a bit surprised because, in my experience, people in these conservative churches tend to be deeply sexist and authoritarian, and they will ALWAYS vote for a man, especially one who tries to bully and intimidate his opponents.

There is no doubt that the culture of the Church of Christ is sexist. They openly teach (and quote scripture trying to prove) that men are in charge and women are to be subservient to them. I've heard COC preachers say that, if a woman ever becomes president, they're moving to Canada because they believe it is sinful for a woman to have any sort of authority over a man, let alone millions of men. Satan himself could have run for president against Hillary Clinton, and COC voter…

Bach's St. Matthew Passion: Lent Study Group

Every year my church organizes some small study groups that meet once a week during Lent. This year I signed up for a group led by my choir director that is doing an in-depth study of Bach's magnificent St. Matthew Passion. I wasn't familiar with this work at all (I did attend a performance of its twin, Bach's St. John Passion, last year), so I was really intrigued to see what we would learn.

So far, we've talked about the history of the work, both in Bach's lifetime and after his death. I was surprised to learn that I already knew the tunes to several of the chorale sections in the work. It turns out that Bach took some older Lutheran hymns and reharmonized them for the passion. The work is extremely dramatic and theatrical and straddles the line between opera (which was forbidden in Protestant Germany) and church hymns.

I'm really enjoying the study group so far. The work is 3 hours long, so just listening to it is a big time commitment, but it's also a j…

Episcopal Women's Retreat

A couple of weekends ago I went with 25 other women from my church to a retreat at a Loyola University center in the northwest suburbs. The campus was beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. If nothing else, I figured it would be a nice getaway from the bustle of the city.

I had never done a church retreat before. The Church of Christ doesn't do retreats, per se. I do remember a women's day at our congregation once where no men were allowed and all the speakers were women. Of course, the only subjects discussed were how to be a better wife and mother because those are the only roles women are supposed to have in the COC. I knew the Episcopal retreat wouldn't be like that, but I still wasn't sure what to expect.

The topic was women's faith development through alienation, awakening, and relationships. Much of the material was taken from a book by Nicola Slee on women's faith development. We also read a lot of the prayers from her book about women's prayers.

I can'…

Once in a While, My COC Training Comes in Handy

As I've mentioned before, I now sing in an Episcopal church choir. This week our church organist is on vacation. Before he leaves, he always lines up a substitute organist or pianist to play with us and help direct our summer pick-up choir (we don't have midweek rehearsals in the summer, we just show up 45 minutes before the service and rehearse something really simple for the anthem). Today, the guest organist called in sick, and there was no one to play with us, so we were prepared to do all the songs acapella. At the last minute, a parishioner jumped up and played the piano for the songs she knew, so we didn't have to do all of them without an accompanist, but I'm still very glad that I'm comfortable singing without a musical instrument. Most of these lifelong Episcopalians aren't, and they visibly freak out when we sing acapella. Who would have ever guessed that the COC was good for something?

Book Review--Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

I downloaded Leah Remini's tell-all book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, onto my Kindle the day it was published. I made short work of it, reading it in just a couple of days. It's a fascinating inside look into an insular religion that is closely linked to Hollywood.

Remini actually grew up in the church. Her mother joined when Leah was just 8, and she and her sister were soon spending all their time after school at the church. She and her sister both eventually joined the Sea Organization, which is Scientology's version of the clergy. To join, they both had to sign billion-year contracts. The church believes in reincarnation, and they expect members to rejoin the Sea Org in every lifetime.

From the time she joined Sea Org and her mother moved the family to the church's compound in Clearwater, FL, Remini's formal schooling was done. She and her sister worked on the compound all day doing manual labor, and all night they had to study the precept…