One night, I started writing a draft entitled “Why I’m glad I attended Christian college,” which I intended to help me work through my experiences and feelings about the church. I wrote a few paragraphs, got stuck, stared at it for an hour, and scrapped it. The next day I started again. Wrote a few paragraphs. Got stuck. Stared at it for an hour and a half. Scrapped it. The next day I started again. Got stuck quicker. Scrapped it. I haven’t written anything since.
The power and the problem of the church is that it is often mistaken for God, and more times than not I’m not mature enough to tell the difference. When church people listen and pray over me, I feel listened to and prayed over by God. When they judge me, I feel judged by God. Consequently, every problem I’ve ever had with church people has become a problem between God and I. Try writing a blog post about that.
I’ve had trouble making sense of the rage. I tried to explain it to people right after I got out of college, but I never had the words. I just hope that place burns to the ground, I said one time to my Grandma. And if a few people don’t manage to get out, I certainly won’t be crying. I wonder what she thought of that.
It’s not a petulant, crabby, irritable sort of anger. It’s a white hot, homicidal, “but where would I hide the bodies” rage that I couldn’t shake for years. I woke up angry. I went to bed angry. And I could never figure out exactly why. Those church people in that Christian college never did visible harm. The violence was entirely spiritual.
Something sort of clicked for me over margaritas this past Monday. Some coworkers and I go to the best local Mexican place for knock-your-socks-off margaritas and tacos. Mostly we vent about work, but sometimes when the tequila has had time to work we talk about other things. Somehow Lesli and I got onto the subject of Christian hugs (usually either fake or super sexually charged), which led to the subject of church people, and God, and practicing religion versus talking religion. It was a little awkward. The subject was really too big to be discussing over tacos.
“I don’t even know why, but when people claim to know God and then act like that I just get so angry,” Lesli said. Lesli is not an angry person. Lesli is the rock in our morning shifts, with an infectious laugh that can utterly disarm you.
“Of course you do,” I heard myself saying. “That’s how you’re supposed to feel.” I meant as a decent, spiritually connected person, which is what she is. “Jesus lost his shit over people like that.”
And he did. Christ hung out with all sort of socially unacceptable people with terrible pasts. His friends sometimes said stupid, immature, shitty things to him. He was even nailed to a cross. But the only time he really lost it was with self-righteous, self-centered religious people.
This has helped me make sense of the rage. I know my own anger won’t bring about the righteousness of God. But I sort of hope the feeling isn’t all mine. I hope some of it is because Christ has been near me through the spiritual violence of Baptist college, through the nights when I told him to go fuck himself because I was still too immature to tell the difference between him and them. I hope, after I work though the rage, I could learn to feel other things he feels, like unshakable, unreasonable love for people – even church people.