A few months back, I came upon this post, and I just thought, “Ouch.” And I thought ouch because, given its timing, I’m pretty sure it was pointed at me, and my unwillingness to give up breathing* “for the greater good.”
I freely admit that that is my position: I am unwilling to give up breathing.
I’m also unwilling to give up Farmergirl’s lungs. Michael’s unwilling to give up attending church with us.
That’s kind of how this whole project came into being–as we were forced out of attending a church we loved, because the choice was that, or giving up breathing.
The post came on the heels of this admonishment:
The complexity of leadership in a diverse community requires that all have a voice at the table and that all be willing to relinquish the expectation that their specific beliefs and practices hold sway. I know, this is all a very dissatisfying way to live at times, but it is the reality of the church in which, in this case, you’re being challenged to consider what you’re “relinquishing” in order to be in the same worshiping community with those for whom incense is a profoundly meaningful component . . . .We are all giving and taking at this table and that takes considerable time. . . .I can only be with both sides of that clumsy dichotomy when folks still agree to show up and to be healthy, life-giving members of the community.
Okay, so why I am writing this now–months later?
I think in part, it’s because it still stings. I don’t think this is the kind of choice anyone should have to make. E—– still isn’t attending another church. Farmergirl feels rejected. Michael’s sad. And I’m still angry, for all those reasons, but probably mostly because E—– was driven away. The pastor at the Nazarene church used the phrase “the little, the least, the lost, and the lonely,” and then elaborated on how the character of the church and her body can be measured by the treatment of those four groups.
This is where places like the Salvation Army congregation shine. But it’s also where that dichotomy between preaching, but not practicing, and practicing, but not preaching the Gospel happens. I’m really glad that Laura Lorson found her “unique political self” by having her “voice drown out by others” . . . but I can’t help but wonder if she would have felt the same if it weren’t her voice, but her airways, drowning . . . drowning in the mucus her lungs were producing while her bronchial tubes were swelling shut.
* If you’re new to the back story of this project, this is the short story: In December of 2007, the church we’d been attending suddenly started using incense at both services. Farmergirl, our friend E—–, and I all have asthma, and “smoking the place out” resulted in asthma attacks for all three of us. I worked through Advent to try and change hearts and minds so that asthmatics would be welcome in the congregation, and finally quit (and quit the leadership team, and quit the church) when it became apparent that the leadership held pomp over people, incense over individuals . . . that having incense at both services was more important than making the church a physically safe place for everyone.