Showing posts from 2013

Which Is Worse?

The other day, I was telling my sister about participating in the church bake sale and how we're having extra choir rehearsals in preparation for Christmas Eve, and she suddenly laughed and said, "I love how you're doing all these heathen church activities! People in the church of Christ would be shocked and appalled! Of course, I don't know which of us they would hate more--you for going to a church bake sale or me for going out to buy smokes, booze, and lottery tickets?" I had a good laugh and said, "I think they would say I'm worse than you, because at least you're not actively participating in a false religion. They would think they still had a chance at converting you back."

I encountered this attitude many times over the years when I was in the church of Christ. Someone would "fall away" (i.e., stop attending church three times weekly), but as long as they didn't join a different church, there was always the hope that they co…

We Missed You

As I've written before, I've been attending an Episcopal church and singing in the choir for about 18 months, and I love it. Recently, I was out of town for a weekend, and the next Sunday, one of my fellow choir members said, "I missed you last week." And do you know what my ex-church-of-Christ knee-jerk reaction was? I immediately apologized and launched into an explanation of where I was. She stared at me for a second and said, "You know, when I say I missed you, I just mean that I missed you. I really enjoy singing with you. That's all." I said, "Oh" and made some joke to cover up my embarrassment, but I was really touched that she said that.

Why did I react that way? It's because, in the COC, "We missed you" really means, "We're keeping tabs on you and your errant ways, and if you miss one too many services, the elders will be contacting you." No one ever "misses" you because they truly li…

When Dysfunction Is the Norm

I try hard not to lay all my psychological and social maladjustment at the door of the Church of Christ, because there are other issues at play, but one thing I can definitely blame on them is my tendency to get involved in dysfunctional organizations and relationships and stay much longer than I should. This has happened to me in several different contexts, including civic organizations, book clubs, hobby-related groups, friendships, homeowners associations, and even jobs. I'll get involved, realize that it's dysfunctional and toxic and that I'm not happy, but I'll stay in hopes that if I just work hard enough, I can change things and make them better. In fact, I'll labor under the delusion that I can change the other people and their behavior and make the situation better, until finally something really horrible will happen, and I'll "hit rock bottom" and realize that I have to leave. And even then, I'll feel terrible guilt about it, like I'…

There Is No Joy in Church of Christ-Ville

As you might imagine, I can't help but compare my current experiences at an Episcopal church with the ones I had growing up in the COC because they're polar opposites--and because sometimes I can't believe my good fortune in escaping. This past Sunday, two things happened that reminded me of the joyless rigidity of the COC.

First, right before the service started, a little boy was skipping around the sanctuary, and no one reprimanded him or yelled at him. In fact, everyone who saw him smiled at him. I turned to the woman next to me and said, "Look at that little boy! At the church where I grew up, he would have gotten yelled at or slapped for not showing the proper respect in the church building." I don't think she entirely believed me. Then, during the communion, we sang a lively African-American spiritual, complete with hand claps, and when the song ended, a small child in the back yelled, "Yaaaaay!" and applauded vigorously. Everyone laughed fond…

Scientology and the Church of Christ

Recently, I read Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. It's a fascinating look at a secretive religion that many people claim is a cult. After reading this well-researched book, I would have to agree. It certain fits the generally agreed-upon definition of a cult. I've said before on this blog that I do NOT think that the COC is a cult, but rather a sect with cult-like tendencies. However, as I was reading this book, I did see some disturbing parallels between Scientology and the COC.

First, they both claim to have specialized knowledge of an ultimate truth that no one else in the world understands. Second, they strongly discourage members from associating with people outside the group. The COC is especially adamant that you have to marry within the church, lest your "unbelieving spouse" be a bad influence on you and lead you away from The Truth. Third, it's really hard to get out of both groups without losing your fami…

I Was a Teenage Jezebel

That's not true, but I've always loved the scene in the original version of the movie "Hairspray" when Divine complains that her daughter is, "All ratted up like a teenage Jezebel!" By the standards of our society at large, I was a very good kid who got good grades and never got into trouble, but by the ridiculously perfectionist standards of the church of Christ congregation we attended, I was a source of major turmoil.

When I was 15, I decided that I didn't want to attend the teenagers' Bible class any more. I was the only girl, and the boys teased me viciously. The male teachers (because of course, women weren't allowed to teach boys older than 12, lest they usurp authority over a man) just sat there and did nothing, no matter how much I complained. This had been going on for years, and I finally reached my limit and announced to my parents that I wasn't going to that class any more and that I would be more than happy to sit with the adul…

If They Could See Me Now

For about a year I've been attending an Episcopal church, and I've been part of the choir for almost 6 months. It has been an amazing experience, filled with joy and wonder. The first Sunday I sang in the choir, I called a friend, who knows all about my experiences in the COC, to tell her about it.

She said, "Were you wearing a fancy robe?"
I said, "Yes, of course."
"And was there a stained-glass window behind you?"
"Well, weren't you afraid that lightning was going to come through that window and strike you down?"
I laughed and said, "You joke, but the thought did cross my mind!"

I sometimes chuckle to myself during church services when I think how people who knew me in the COC would react if they saw me there in my robe, singing up front instead of in the pews, and singing with an organ or piano, instead of a capella, as the COC demands. I imagine their stricken faces, followed by their stern lectures abo…