Why I don’t think “Right” anymore…

A friend from college who I share many philosophical and political leanings recently wrote of his rationale for having a liberal mindset apart from his more conservative roots.  He challenged me to describe my journey as well.  This is my story.

Why I left the “Right Way”

My post college experience left me with a great void.  I found myself watching the Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire over and over relating to the different characters and the frustration of accepting this next phase of life.  I was an idealist who had a good heart that sought out a means to make the world a better place.  I didn’t know how but I was determined to change the world.  In hindsight I should have joined the Peace Corps, instead, I chose to tackle my calling through the church of my understanding.

That was my first mistake.

Then I went decided to go to seminary.

That was my second mistake.

I jumped in and learned the protocols, procedures, and belief agreements all leaders of the faithful needed to ascribe.  I was taught the key catch phrases that determined my superiority in all theological arguments.  I learned how to sit properly, speak eloquently, and divine the eternal destination of those I would soon encounter.  I had it all, except, the ability to think for myself.  I had it all, except, the ability to see people as human beings not spiritual targets.  I had it all, except, the understanding that love always trumps the law.  Grace was understood as something I should expect for my shortcomings but not avail to others who genuinely needed it for theirs.

Then I was hired at a large church

That was my third mistake

 

Finding myself on the staff of an aggressive growing church that had a pastor whose ego never met its match was a time of unusual opportunity for me.  Our church had offended all the other churches in the area with its prideful claims to God’s sole blessing.  While other churches struggled with maintaining status quo we organized our troops to covertly marshal away families and bring them into our fold.  Nickels and noses drove our congregation.  Grace was never a topic spoken aloud.  We were the marine division of God’s holy army and nothing would stop our manifest destiny.

People I cared for and appreciated often found themselves struggling with relationships.  These families were kept out of the spotlight so not to soil our pristine image.  By now I was a solid student of the game who knew my marching orders and followed without any reservation.   But these families and their difficulties caused my calloused heart to soften when I heard the depth of their pain.  Their hurt didn’t fit into the carefully scripted understanding I had of God’s will for his people in the church.

I began to question what I believed.

This was my fourth mistake

When I started to reconsider my understanding and acceptance of what I believed it soon caused a major divide in my own home.  A successful pastor shouldn’t experience such questioning.  My private conversations with staff members and the senior pastor about my newly discovered concerns only exacerbated the problem.  Soon I found myself a pariah at home and at work, I had no where to turn, I was alone with my thoughts.

Soon the news came that my married life would end and I would need to strike out on my own.  It didn’t take much time to see the world I came from had a new interpretation of my value.  Friends began treating me differently; phone calls were slow in their return, if at all. Meetings with church leaders made me aware my presence was welcome but not required or needed.  I suddenly found myself face to face with the reality that I was now an outcast in the only world I knew.

But how could they do this to me?  I’m one of them.  For goodness sakes, I’m an insider.  Did they forget all I’ve accomplished?  What about all those recognitions for my work?  I was a somebody!  Now I’m a nobody?

Suddenly a light went on.  If they treat a wounded one of their own like this, how do they treat other imperfect humans God has invited to share the same table?  The posse I now ran with consisted of the people in the church that always kept to themselves and never seemed to get involved in anything.  I used to despise them.  Now I understood for the first time why they acted so seemingly strange.  They were all they each had to survive, they only had each other.  These kind folks didn’t trust the faithful to love them; they wished to avoid further hurt so collectively they slid around in the shadows of the church trying not to be noticed.  Imagine so wanting to participate in the love of Christ that one accepts so much rejection, pain, and judgment just to be near the holy.  Fighting for scraps of acceptance makes me wonder is it worth it?

I learned about pain by experiencing it for myself

That was my fifth mistake

 

Dealing with so much pain and rejection from those you previously centered yourself around can open up a whole can of crazy.  It wasn’t until I could say without reservation FU*K them all that I started to regain my footing.  I held hands with the lepers of today’s church; I broke bread with these widows and orphans who have been left out in the cold.  I developed compassion because I was just like them.  It became hard to hate them as I was taught because I now learned to love them.

I enjoy a good fight and now I had something to fight for and a hideous monster to fight against.  My mission going forward would be to stand up for those left out, those considered unworthy, those cast aside and unwanted. My battle would not just be for others it would now be for me as well.   Forward I march to fight and I will not stop until my breath is taken from me.

Righting wrongs and standing up for those who can’t help themselves.

This certainly isn’t a mistake

 

It’s not a big leap after such an experience to see the fallacy of rightwing political and religious craziness and wish to create as large a distance as possible between them and you.  At least that’s what I did.

When you seek to be a compassionate human being, thoughts of being part of the might is right organization seem much less important.  When you desire love and unity, being the person with all the answers falls by the wayside with silly abandon.  It was as if magically, one day my eyes just opened and I saw the king was indeed naked after all.

Many from my past today are confused by my lifestyle to say it politely, but more accurately many think I’ve lost my way and probably have taken to worshiping elves under mushroom caps.  Realistically, they probably think I’ve spent too much time with the mushrooms in the first place.  To those who think I’ve left my right mind, well, yes I believe I have.  I wish those from my past well.  Good luck on your life.

Know this about me.  To the best of my ability I’m trying to honor the teaching of the master the same way you are.  Just don’t judge me if I’ve taken off the tinted glasses of my youth.  Besides, on some of you, those glasses look really nice.

Progressively pressing forward.

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3 Comments

  1. Don Harp said,

    June 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Touche’. I sometimes feel your pain of not lining up with the old school of a rigid gospel. Keep on keeping on your road of discovery.

    • Andy Bailey said,

      June 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

      Who was the friend from college? Has he written his story too somewhere?

      • peacetrain5 said,

        June 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

        Andy,
        The friend is Michael Westmoreland White from PBA. He is a gifted intellectual and progressive thinker. You should reconnect with him. He is a friend of mine on Facebook. He is quite prolific in his writings. He has a link to his blog on FB where he has the article in discussion.
        Peace


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