(Mike Pence signing the Religious Freedom Act)
Yesterday, I sat down to write a piece on how the lack of accountability within the church has allowed such professing Christians like Donald Trump and Mike Pence to assume leadership and put the world in danger. Mike Pence served as my main example because I went to the church he and his family went to while Pence was governor; but not at the same time. The name of the church is College Park, and I went there when Kimber Kaufman, the founder of the church and senior pastor, lead the church. Kaufman was removed from his position because of his addiction to pain killers, but the addiction had to do with pain. While in college, Kimber played basketball, and his team did a tour of Viet Nam where he contracted a virus from a mosquito causing pain in his scrotum. He told a friend of mine that on a good day the pain felt like pliers crushing his testicles, and the pain killers were a necessity. From the church grapevine the addiction made his behavior erratic and unfit to lead. I do not know if that is true, or if that was said to assuage the conscience of the elders who wanted control of College Park; but what I do know is Mike Pence moved about the sanctuary unchallenged.
College Park did very little to hide their party affiliation when they permitted local and state Republican politicians to speak from the pulpit because they professed Christianity and imposed Evangelical doctrine on a pluralistic populace. College Park, as a whole, is quite conservative in their theology, and they do not see a contradiction with following Jesus while promoting gay conversion therapy, ending food stamps, protesting abortion, protesting sex ed., siding against Muslims and other near eastern immigrants, and legalizing bigotry through Christian exceptionalism in Jesus’ name. Jesus ridiculed and rebuked the religious leaders of his day for the abuse towards women, the poor, and outcasts resembling today’s American Evangelical treatment of those same groups. When Mike Pence created the Religious Freedom Act to let Christian business owners discriminate against the LGBT community none of the leadership at College Park called out Mike Pence, but there were plenty of business owners in the community who did by making public statements that told everyone “ALL are welcome.” Some put up signs with rainbows to let LGBT people know they were accepted and their business appreciated.
Of course, I have been told that what other Christians/churches do are inconsequential because all we can do is worry about ourselves and our walk with God. I have to throw out a flag, and challenge the call. The Christians who have told me that we can’t worry about other Christians/churches also hold to sola scriptura and claim to live their life by every word in the bible. Their complete disregard for the cultural nuances of the bible aside, I do not think they were honest with me. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul is rebuking the Corinthian Church for allowing a son to take his father’s wife, and condoning the action with praise when they should have expelled the son until such a time he repented of his actions. He writes:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people (5:9-11).”
Donald Trump fits most of this criteria, but he professed to be a Christian and claimed pro-life, and many Evangelicals did not care that his behavior was and is unbecoming of a Christian. Mike Pence fits the “greedy, slanderer, and swindler” points because he allowed himself to be bought by the Koch Brothers. Pence also illegally tampered with the election process when Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, had been elected as the State Superintendent. She opposed charter schools, state vouchers, and state money used for private schools that only educated 2.9% of Indiana students. He put in how own council to have her removed, and she was dismissed as “just a librarian.” Pence was greedy and unethical, and the elders at College Park did nothing.
This is what a lack of accountability in the church produces, but the core of my anger has little to do with Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and their supporters putting us on the verge of destruction. I went to a church that was an offshoot of College Park called The Dwelling Place located in the Broadripple Village, and the pastor is Shane Fuller who was one of the associate pastors of College Park. His theology was in the process of changing into something that contradicted the theology of College Park as he read books written by Emergent Christian and Radical Authors such as Rob Bell, Shane Clairborne, Brian McLaren, and Tony Jones while throwing in the trendy mix of Celtic spirituality. We were friends until my fiance at the time started cheating on me with the worship leader who was also a mutual friend of Shane’s.
Before he and my fiance consummated their affair, he had been allowed a voice in our relationship. My fiance was a willing party to this and lied to our friends and the church that I was physically abusive. This friend threatened to call the cops and lie about me abusing her. I never did anything like that, and I asked him, “Scott, with all the Christianity you preach at me doesn’t lying go against what the bible teaches?”
“You are a filthy, worthless sinner. How dare you quote the scripture at me?” After that he kept calling me, but I let his calls go to voicemail where he left message after message promising all manner of violence in Jesus’ name—he even had his brother coming after me. I called Shane to tell him what happened and do something about his wayward worship leader. He told me, “Slow work of God, Ron. Grace of God, Ron. You did bring this on yourself because you frustrated him with how you live and the questions you ask. Until Scott calms down, you need to stay away from the church.”
“Why is that? I did nothing wrong. You should kick Scott out of the church.”
“Just stay away, Ron.” Then he hangs up on me, and I find out later he lied to the church that he did not kick me out, but I made the choice to leave.
Obviously, from reading this, I still feel the wounds, and I am not as over it as I would like it to be–this particular pain though comes from the betrayal of friends. That was clear yesterday as I wrote about College Park in great detail, and all those memories saturated my brain while transforming me into a soggy, irrational heap testing Ronnie’s patience. Thankfully, she is trained in psychology and is quite patient with me as I become overwhelmed with old stories. I didn’t think that would happen because I looked at how my mind was in a tense state over global affairs, and I like to locate the origin of the tension so I don’t take it out on people around me. Writing my story for all to read and to possibly glean some helpful insight has been a tremendous help to me, but sometimes–times like yesterday–I find myself dipped into the mix and become a little ball of psycho dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. Getting past those cuts has been a slow and steady process, and, rationally, I do understand that not all Christians/churches are like this. I started attending the church a friend pastors because the church is different, and he is different as well as the senior pastor; but, I think my attendance keeps me in a constant state of anger. Yeah, that’s from years of consistent abuse from various churches, and reading the bible cover to cover fourteen times along with biblical scholarship and criticism. I see so much wrong in my experience and in those I talk to, and I see the solution in what I’ve studied, but the excuses in leadership are rooted in the misappropriation of grace. Grace doesn’t mean people can do what they want and treat people however without consequences.
I know I am drawn to Christianity because I like Jesus and what I read in the gospels, but I stand aloof. Christianity does not feel true to me, and that could be my own disconnect from my heart so I can safely hide in my intellect. While that is a possible thing, I’ve also been around too many Christians/churches who prefer to apply grace rather than confront the issues because the issues don’t affect them directly. This behavior could be something rooted in centuries of traditions going back to the Corinthian Church, and what I’m railing against are issues similar to my intellectual predecessors. The madness is perpetual, and I think the energy I use in fighting against a negative expression of Christianity could be used in drinking tea and healing myself. I would not call myself a Christian, but, to borrow from Anne Lamott, I am Christian-ish. There are days like yesterday where I want nothing to do with the religion or its trappings, and prefer to debunk it with bitterness mixed with a Socratic method of questioning; but that covers a desire to find out what it means to be Christ-like in my own narrative.
Because I feel no truth in Christianity does not mean I do not think the faith false, or people who believe are deluded. I take that into account when I sit down to write pieces such as this so I don’t accidentally insult any person who feels Jesus is true and burns the lean tissue to be more like him. There are genuine Christians out there, I am friends with a few of them, and the last thing I want to do is group them in with those who sexually, physically, emotionally, and mentally abused me in Jesus’ name. What I would like to see are the good ones use their voice to implement 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 so people can live in peace regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, or color and not worry about a third world war and nuclear winter.