Oh, Those Walls…
I spent much of my life hiding. I worked with others who were also hiding. Some were hiding from their sexual or gender identity, but most were hiding from their own intelligence, their inquisitive minds, or the awakening awareness they knew things they did not want to know. You could see fear in their eyes.
Evangelicalism tells you truth is abstract and knowable. Once known, it can be categorized, catalogued and encased in reinforced concrete. We dust off our hands and say, “Okay, that one’s taken care of. What is the next truth I can polish off?” What we don’t realize is like Poe’s Cask of Amontillado, with each concrete brick we are being walled off from real life, with all of its radiant mystery. The cruel bricklayer is our own theology. We are cutting off the oxygen we need to breathe, and guaranteeing an early demise, figuratively if not literally.
Many people are so walled off they only get half of themselves out of bed in the morning, their stored abstract truths like a weight on the better half of themselves. It works out in some perverse way because the life they have crafted is so bland only half of one’s self is necessary to live it. So they shuffle through, day after day, 401k secure, but soul as dry as stale bread.
I know an older evangelical who is bedfast, though without physiological reason. A bone was broken, but when it had healed sufficiently enough to resume an ambulatory life, this poor soul didn’t have it in them to rise up and walk. It has now been so long that the person couldn’t walk if they wanted to. I often wonder about the reason. Was there some complex trauma of which I am unaware, or was it nothing more than the cumulative effect of stifled curiosity?
The desire for safety and security is powerful. The desire to be a dutiful member of a lifelong tribe is strong. I am living proof of what happens if you dare to stand and walk on your own. The tribe is brutal and unforgiving. In my case, I was virtually annihilated.
Let’s be clear. I did not fundamentally disobey the teaching of Scripture, not even if you start with an evangelical hermeneutic. My true sins are of the common variety, not the type that result in rejection. Some have attempted mental gymnastics to invent a more traditional reason for my banishment, but you don’t have to scratch very deeply to see the ruse.
My memory was banished because I was uncomfortably different. That was my unforgiveable sin. My banishment says to others who are curious or committed to living authentically, “Look very carefully at the empty space where she once existed. This could happen to you.” No wonder most stay behind those reinforced walls.
I understand if my experience gives you pause. Leaving a tribe is not for everyone. The journey is easier if you feel a strong sense of call. Should you feel that call, that defiant nevertheless, I can assure you there is life on the other side of evangelical orthodoxy. And that life is redemptive and beautiful and good, full of important work in the ministry of reconciliation.
And so it goes.
6 thoughts on “Oh, Those Walls…”
The LGBT are the modern day ‘leper’ we are the unclean to today’s Pharisee. There is a biological cause for leprosy there is a biological cause for being LGBT. Why is the lie of living to conform to christian society expections not paramount? To live a non-authentic life is one of the greatest lies there is.
This reminds me of what is going on right now in politics. Those who are speaking out are not running again and have less to lose. Those who know what is going on is wrong won’t speak out because they will lose money and endorsements for their next run. Sometimes it’s a huge price to pay to be true to yourself. But it’s better than selling your soul.
One dismissive response I have often heard regarding what you have so eloquently and powerfully described is, “Oh, the pain that must be in your life”. What is unspoken but implied is, “If you only really knew Jesus you wouldn’t be experiencing such pain”. It is an attitude of accusation couched in a falsely caring tone. Have you seen this? Why is pain and struggle and unresolved truth-seeking rarely understood as something to embrace for the value it can bring to our life? Yes, there is an unhealthy aspect to this that can be perpetuated by some, but from what I understand this is where we can find our soul, the essence of who we are, the place where we finally understand that this is where God is so often uncovered as we peel away layer after layer of our skin. I believe the peace we seek is in the middle of the storm, the power we seek is in the weakest moments, and the truth we seek is covered under our own rubble and God is always there. I guess this is too messy for some and so it must be explained away by threatened people and leaders who are insecure in their own faith and so must try to dismiss all distraction with a “the Bible says” response. Thank you, Paula, for yet another creative and well-crafted statement about the walls that are built to mark off the boundaries. In this case, it keeps the insecure inside and takes away their own freedom more than it protects them from who is the perceived enemy and infiltrator. Much of the evangelical community has said “this is what a true Christian looks like” and all they have often done is made God in their own image. It is so hurtful and shaming that it often defies the essence of the gospel message.
Bruce, I believe a lot of the attacks we receive are due to people’s unowned personal doubts and fears.
I have been wondering what the location and days of new services are for the new church – can you fill me in?
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You can go to lefthandchurch.org and get info there.