I also went to church with zir -- to Liberty, where I haven't been in AGES. I'll get the crankypants stuff out of the way first. The message was mostly good, but there were several serious issues. 1) Ze spoke of 'unhealthy' comparisons, as if there are healthy ones; 2) Ze used a biblical example and completely contradicted zirself. The story was about Saul, an arrogant king, and David, a young soldier. They go off to battle and when they come back the women all come out and sing "yay Saul for killing thousands and yay David for killing tens of thousands" which was simply celebrating each person for their own achievements (if you consider killing an achievement), and SAUL took that and added the judgment 'ONLY' and drew the comparison. But the speaker this night blamed the women for bringing up the difference and said that if ze were Saul, ze would have 'fired a worship team' which was supposed to be a joke, but I thought it highlighted the fact that ze was even more arrogant than Saul, so I didn't find it funny. also; 3) Ze went on about how competition was good without ANY biblical basis for such a ridiculous claim, using the 'logic' that children perform better when they compete in spelling bees etc. That's out of a FEAR of losing which if you read the Bible is the opposite of love and therefore to be avoided HELLOOOOOOOO. ARGHHH. Not to mention that it is TERRIBLY irresponsible to give a message in church and include personal opinion without a disclaimer that it is personal opinion. 4) ALSO ze started out the message by 'jokingly' comparing zirself unfavorably to the pastor for whom ze was filling in!!!
Anyway I was getting so pissed that I very nearly raised my hand several times, but I chickened out or got polite, I'm not sure which, and so I went up to zir afterward and talked to zir. I brought up point #2 first (without mentioning the arrogance inherent in firing people for being honest about you), and ze was like "yeah yeah, that's what I said" which I was like wtf but didn't contradict zir (enough contradictions going on already!!) and brought up point #1, asking what, to zir, was a healthy comparison. Ze gave me an example of saying that I was like zir sibling, obviously willing to trod my own path and speak up for what I thought (to which I was like, hm, I doubt you like your sibling), and I responded by saying that I think the nice words would be just as effective without the comparison and therefore it wasn't useful. Then ze brought up how competition is 'good' and at this point I was like, ze is not listening so I just said "well, that's a whole 'nother thing" and ze said yeah and I said it was nice to see zir (which is true, but not because I like zir) and left.
To me, the test of a leader/teacher/pastor is how humble (and compassionate) they are, how willing to at least LOOK for inconsistencies. I was a lot more polite than I am being in this post (yes, I do know how to be polite, I just reserve such frivolities for people who dislike blunt discussion) but ze was absolutely unwilling to admit that ze had made any error. To me it was a pretty big error to blame the people who were celebrating each person for who they were, rather than to blame the person who took that as a judgment, especially when the message was about not comparing oneself to others! I mean, ze could have just said "hm, I didn't consider that" which was the freaking truth, instead of acting like ze HADN'T contradicted zirself.
Honestly, all this arrogance may be a personal thing, but it's also inherent in hierarchical churches. You can't have a healthy leader if ze has no one to hold zir accountable. And you can't have a healthy relationship if it is all one way, one person speaking and everyone else just nodding along. That is irresponsible on every person's part. We're all supposed to check everything with our own spirits and work out our own salvation, not take anyone's word for anything. Everyone should be able to speak up if they have a question or comment (I do remember that happening sometimes in Pastor J's sermons -- in fact, ze often asked QUESTIONS to prod people to think rather than just absorb, and included little work sheets); a sermon should be a DIALOGUE more than a lecture. If you are not permitted/encouraged to respond, challenge, question, then it's not learning, it's entertainment. Furthermore a service should be about MUTUAL learning and the pastor should ASSUME that ze will miss something or get something wrong and look FORWARD to that, rather than acting as if ze knows everything. Until that one day when I messed with Pastor J's new-favorite-doctrine, for YEARS we would talk after the sermon; sometimes me telling zir the things it made me realize, sometimes me asking for clarification, sometimes me pointing out an inconsistency. And ze was always humble and curious, definitely listening and considering what I had to say -- until that last time. It still baffles me a little that ze went so insanely out-of-character, but anyway.
I plan to go to Liberty this Saturday night, just for worship (and maybe to see the Wynnes). I miiiiiiight stay for service but if it gets too annoying/offensive I give myself permission to get up and leave. I wonder if PJ has changed...
Backing up to before the sermon, the worship was good (even if they did sing the same song the whole time, and even though I had to alter the words a bit to make them fit -- Jesus is not my king/ruler, ze is my friend). The really amazing part came when they did an altar call (where people who want special prayer come up to the front). I hesitated for a bit because I wasn't feeling especially moved by the worship or especially needy, which are usually my reasons for going forward, but I decided to go up anyway. The second I stepped in front of the pews I felt a wave of love and such a warm embrace that I gasped -- I really wasn't expecting anything! And then as I opened myself up I heard Jesus say in a laughing, loving way, "I haven't forgotten you" which made me start crying because I hadn't realized until that moment that I feel like the christian church (with all its laws and judgments) steps between me and Jesus, and I didn't think I would be able to connect with zir that way ever again. After a minute ze continued, "I know you haven't forgotten me, and I haven't forgotten you either, silly." I mentally responded, "but, it seems like everyone else wants to relate to you as a king/ruler, and spend all their time on their face at your feet." Ze said, "maybe, and that way is valid/appreciated, but your way is valid, too, and I really like it [[no comparison in this, just an appreciation for the specific way that I relate to zir]]." Then for a while I just stood in zir presence and felt zir presence around me like a warm cloud, while ze showed me images of the two of us -- holding hands, standing next to each other with zir arm around my waist, hugging. It was so incredibly wonderful and so incredibly clear -- I've never communicated with zir so clearly before! It makes me laugh a little now, to think how I had to leave the church to deepen my relationship with Jesus.
After the worship was over, the spouse of the speaker gave a message from God/dess to the "young [person] in the green jacket" -- my parent Pat *giggles* Apparently Pat had gone up too, because the message-giver spoke of "the thing that [Pat] went forward to give to God," saying that God was going to exchange it -- not as an equal trade, but taking the suffering/sorrow and giving in exchange "a life more beautiful than you can imagine." I started crying (again! it was a weepy day) because those were almost the very same words I had spoken to Pat when I was encouraging zir to get a divorce -- I said that ze had lost zirself, and didn't know who ze was, but that when ze learned how to be zir trueself zir life would become more wonderful than ze could ever imagine. I felt both overwhelmed with happiness for Pat (who is more likely to trust God's words over mine) and deeply loved/affirmed that God was saying things in (almost) my words, to encourage me that yes, it is going to happen, and my parent IS going to taste life in all its splendor, ze IS going to overcome all the years of abuse and be FREE.
Then on Monday aliyna mentioned a 'what religion are you' quiz and I went hunting and found a very insightful, balanced, and accurate quiz which is a little behind the times as they don't provide blogging code, but I encourage you to try it out anyway -- it's the only worth-your-time quiz I've taken in a very long time. It made me think! and the results were quite interesting!
1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (95%)
3. Liberal Quakers (90%)
4. New Age (87%)
5. Reform Judaism (84%)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (78%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (74%)
8. Bahá'í Faith (71%)
9. Sikhism (71%)
10. Jainism (70%)
11. New Thought (70%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (69%)
13. Hinduism (68%)
14. Theravada Buddhism (60%)
15. Secular Humanism (54%)
16. Orthodox Judaism (53%)
17. Taoism (53%)
(there were more results but they were under 50% so not worth posting)
Having such a high Liberal Quaker score reminded me that someone had suggested them to me a while back, so I went looking to see what exactly they believed. I always thought they were some kind of hyper-conservative Christian denomination, a throwback to the Puritans, so I was floored when I read what their values and services consist of.
They are absolutely the most equalist group I have ever heard of. They endeavor to speak in such a way as to treat everyone equally!!!!!!! which is where the 'thee' and 'thou' come from as apparently 'you' used to be more formal/distant. And why they call everyone 'Friend' and refused to use titles. And, stolen from wikipedia: "Friends believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. Since all people embody the same divine spark all people deserve equal treatment." And they actually LIVE THIS by making changes in society to create equality! They impose no doctrine -- instead, they embrace reliance on personal relationship/experience with/of God/dess. It was founded by Christians but is inclusive of other belief systems as well, even nontheists. And the thing that made me clap, shriek, and bounce in my chair -- their meetings consist of mainly silent meditation, with people getting up and speaking as they feel moved to do so. No one person telling everyone else what to do; no power-over, only power-with. Oh. My. God/dess. I could really go on forever -- do you know how LONG I have YEARNED to find a group of people that pays more than lip-service to equality??? In speaking of equality for all I shouldn't have to specify queers too, but yes, queers too. ;-)
So I went hunting for Quaker meetings in my area and hopefully I will go to my first one this Sunday (First Day, hee hee)!!! :D
omg this is embarrassingly long :-O I'm working on a music post though, so you shall be rewarded for your perseverance :D