November 25, 1998

Breaking Faith

There's this lesson in the New Testiment. A parable. Jesus talks about this shepherd who leaves his entire flock, looking for the one stray.

Oddly enough, most people I know today wouldn't find that odd, but to the more practical shepherds it was really weird. To leave their entire flock for other wolves or problems to find the one stray would be stupid. Maybe if they had guard dogs or other people to watch the main flock, if they had the resources, perhaps, but in some of the truly treacherous terraine, it's not worth a man's life to get a single, recaltrant, run away sheep back.

But those are the standards, and that was the tale and the lesson.

Pastors are people, really. Which means that they fall, fail, don't meet expectations, sometimes unreasonable expectations. When a roomful of people all went completely silent when someone asked, "Is there *anything* good about Lee?" I was the first to speak up.

I almost wish I hadn't. Almost. But I'm not there to judge, there's a mix of good and bad in everyone, intent and ends, means and actions. To make it so black and white seems very wrong.

But both sides to the conflict decided to play that game. It does make it easier, I suppose. Easier if to paint an enemy with the brush of duplicity, of evil rather than look to see human motivations, real desires to do what's right, and figure out that they're human, too. One of Us instead of just one of Them.

Basically, Lee was very good to the people that were good to her, and pretty awful to the people who weren't. A human reaction, a good defensive mechanism. She didn't seek out those that were afraid of her, or her homosexuality, she didn't work to reconcile with those that disagreed with her, rather, she disagreed right back and brought various fights to a head and basically told folks to leave if they didn't like what was happening, turned her back on them. Which is a very practical way to live. Much more practical than really learning someone and loving them for what they are even if they disagree.

I mean, I do it, too. It's why I eventually couldn't live with Usenet anymore. I couldn't deal with the flame wars or all the people that I disagreed with, disliked their opinions of, or simply fought. There's a certain point beyond which that it's soul destroying.

But...

As a part of the Horde, I've learned, some. As part of Data I/O, and in their conflict management class, I've learned, some. To work with conflict, to make it constructive. Not always, not nearly always, but more often than I used to. To turn verbal abuse into eloquence, to take what someone says and winnow what they meant; and when a fight is in full bore, to stop, look and stop the idiocy and try and make something real of it, and I'm way younger than Lee.

So, yeah, I'm disappointed. Maybe due to unrealistic expectations, but I expected a pastor that could at least deal with conflict rather than making it worse with her every word and move. And, worse yet, turning away the stray sheep, putting the ones that bit or kicked or were awkward to work with or especially those that did it out of *fear* out into the night, into the storm, out of their house of God... that's what hurts, that's what rankles, that's what broke my small faith in churches again.

Truthfully, I should say faith in clergy, for what Lee did. Of course, my faith in clergy has never been that big. Ever since the time when I was a kid and watched a family getting verbally stoned out of a church because the girl said that the head clergy of the church had been propositioning her, and her family had had the courage to back her up. The whole family had been so scared when they did it, and it turned out for good reason. That was when I resolved I'd never say anything about that same clergyman propositioning me.

Silence is survival.

Eventually, though, survival alone isn't enough, is it?

It was the last time I heard the word 'demonic', the one time before that 'roundtable discussion' at Eastgate. It was used by the members of that weird church, and used, I thought perfectly ironically, by Lee's staunchest defender, who had been, all week, pouncing on various people and verbally abusing them.

It's funny that the Sunday before that, Lee's sermon had been about how if one defiles the part, then the whole is defiled. She chased off, couldn't deal with a significant part of the congregation and then had the gall to say that before everyone.

Not that the tactics on the 'other side' were any better. Labelling, casting out, making it easy to lose them because they could convince themselves that it was worth losing the people to save the church. It was the actions of parts of the congregation that has broken my faith in congregations, in churches, in simple gatherings of human beings. I knew what the worst was, but I'd thought I'd found the best in Eastgate, and now, perhaps more realistically, I now know that I've simply found a group of people capable of bad as well as good.

What frightened me the most, though was that both 'sides' wanted to choose me as one of Theirs, and to both sides, I couldn't give an answer they wanted to hear. To both sides, I had to say something that they didn't want to hear, that they could scorn or laugh at or use to push me out of their box and then pummel me because I then became inhuman. I'm used to that, in some ways. Used to being labelled for my hair, for my race, for my sexual orientation, for my public life and private life and for saying the thing that I have to say to be made write and whole again in my eyes. Sometimes to keep myself, I have to piss off people.

It doesn't make it any less scary to do it, though.

What really pissed me off with the 'side opposed to Lee' was that they acted inappropriately, a few of them, in haste and now they might have to repent in lesure, if they repent at all. And the others 'supporting Lee' also acted in anger and condemned the entire congregation for the actions of a few.

So my faith in all of it is now more crooked, more cynical, more weary.

Relgion is just politics. Covering the spirituality it was supposed to nurture. That's where I'm standing right now, heartsick and tired. No church, no alter actually worships God, only themselves, when they give money to the church, it's actually for themselves, not for the really needy, the truly desperate, the actual hungry. Not really for the important things, only the trappings, rituals and mystic mumbo-jumbo fogging the original words of the Carpenter and his lessons. Making it all just a little more dirty, a little more confused, a little more tangled in the flesh of anger and sin.

Missing the mark.

I kinda understand some of where Lee and hers come from, though. I had a girlfriend, long ago, a lady that fought with me, back to back against three drunk bastards who thought that since we were lesbians, we thought we were too good for them, so they would try and force the issue. We broke up because of peraonality incompatibilities and three months later she was screaming at me for being at traitor, and betrayer, a turncoat because the soul I'd fallen in love with happened to be an outie instead of an innie. ( To this Bi, the 'difference' is about as significant, I'm often bewildered by all the hyper physical sex-conscious folks).

I never really understood why she was so hating after being so loving until I told a publically politically correct man that I was bi and found that from that point on he was doing everything in his power to make my work life impossible. Completely impossible. To the point where I simply had to quit to keep sane.

The simpliest way to deal with hatred that does not reason, is to avoid it, or hate it back.

But I don't belong in either box. So I'm an easy mark for everyone. So it is. I don't know if I can hate back, though. It's just futile to put that much energy into that kind of emotion. Soul destroying. I hope they find a church that will fit them. I hope the ECC survives. I hope things work out for the better. I'll do my best to make it so, and with this dump, perhaps I'll even be able to leave this all behind, out of my head, out into the air.

Raven once called his journals a confession, to anyone, anything that might listen. Maybe that's what this is. A confession of my hate, of my pain, of my confusion, of my anger, a way to let it out and let it be.


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