A woman who stayed

77Erin Lane Beam, a feminist writer/book publicist, grew up Roman Catholic, and has stayed in the faith — though sometimes the fit is less than comfortable.

I admire this more than I can say. I left church because the fit suited me like a choke collar. I have since heard from several of my cohorts from my fundamentalist days (as if those ever end…) that the church of Christ has changed, that in the last 15 years it has become more inclusive, more welcoming to women. Even from my own church in Joplin, Mo. (though it’s moved to the nearby Webb City), I hear that the chains that bind are a lot looser.

Fine, I say. Let me come speak to the church for 20 minutes — and turn the mic on — and then I will believe that change has come. Or, if not me — I’m not the best speaker I know — let another woman, a faithful woman, come give a guest sermon. And teach an adult Sunday school class. And lead singing. And then recite out loud that Methodists/Bahais/Muslims/Jews have as much a shot at heaven as the rest of the elect. Because I really do think that’s what our holy text says.

But that sounds so arrogant, doesn’t it? That’s the change I would have to see in order to embrace that theology whole-heartedly. If change has come, that’s wonderful. I wouldn’t know. Whatever has changed, I have the sad sense that it’s too late for me, though much of my girlhood faith still makes sense to me. (Surprised? I write a book about my leave-taking, but even a passing glance at the chapters show that I. Miss. Church. And even though — like Erin — I love a good fight, the battle over the years grew to be too wearing.)

Anyway. I admire people like Erin who stay and try to effect change from within, because in my own true church, once you’re gone your voice is — at best — muted if not ignored completely. I understand that. I promise I do. But dammit.

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  1. I maybe only half understand why it’s admirable to stick with something that, on a pretty primal level, rejects you and important beliefs you hold dear. It seems to me that wholesale desertion might cause more change, sometimes, than shouting at the deaf.

    Maybe I understand less than half, come to think of it.

    1. Nah, I don’t understand it, myself. I don’t know why I want to go back and convert the converted. No, that’s not it. It’s more like I want them to stop trying to convert me and convert others who maybe have their own answers.
      No. That’s not it, either. Crap!

      1. Maybe you want to go back and tell them that you are angry that they turned something good into something not good for you. Jesus brought joy into your life and the church messed with that.

        What things do you miss and what things still fit for you? What do you what from a church community and pastor?

        1. Singing. Fellowship. Bible study in a group of my peers. I miss that. I don’t want much from a pastor, just honesty. I can find the way myself. And these are awesome questions.

          1. What do you what out of that Bible study with your peers? Would you consider a pastor who may participate, one of your peers? (Some pastors behave that way and some don’t and so maybe that is important to you….to find a pastor that inspires, but acts as a peer)

            It’s out there somewhere….

            1. You’re right. I get out of group Bible study different perspectives, and different ways to approach the text. I am a big fan of my own perspective, but I could use some new ones, occasionally. And yes. A pastor/preacher is definitely my peer, my equal.

              1. Speaking of Bible study, for the first time, I got angry with Jesus. We covered Mark 7:24-30. It was about a Greek, Gentile woman who had come to ask Jesus to help her daughter. He basically called her daughter and her kind “dogs” and unworthy of his time when more worthy people needed him. In the end, he changed his mind and helped the daughter in the end. But, why would he be so mean? That was mean. I don’t understand that part.
                It was a good thing to discuss in a sermon.

                So, when we are faced with bigotry, we might remember that it doesn’t have to stay that way. People can change. Even Jesus got cranky and had his prejudices according to this passage. But change is possible and it takes persistence and speaking up and kindness on both sides.

                (That was a nutshell, clumbsy version of our sermon or at least how I interpreted it.)

                1. Nah, that actually makes sense to me, your interpretation. I never understood that story, either. Maybe something was lost in the translation? Maybe Jesus called them “dogs” ironically? Or maybe he was, as you say, cranky.

                  1. I like your idea that something was lost in the translation. My Jesus wouldn’t be mean like that so I’ll go with that explanation.

                    I also like this idea: “change is possible and it takes persistence and speaking up and kindness on both sides” because that gives me hope that people/attitudes can change.

                    1. I’m only guessing. I am currently in an e-mail battle with someone of my own trip who insists the word is literal, and that God wouldn’t allow any misteaks. Tee-hee.

  2. “I have since heard from several of my cohorts from my fundamentalist days (as if those ever end…) that the church of Christ has changed, that in the last 15 years it has become more inclusive, more welcoming to women.”


    1. Yeah, well, that’s what they tell me, and my reaction is yours. To quote the Great Bob of Bob’s Discount Furniture, “I doubt it.” And “bullshit.”

  3. Your voice is only muted to ears attached to ignorance and intolerance.
    You wrote a book. You write for a newspaper. You blog. Your action, and your voice, serve to empower people, women and men, to challenge the self imposed framework of their own prejudices.
    I heard it. The links and the conversation and the people here exposed me to avenues of thought I may never have discovered otherwise, or might have dismissed out of hand. And that, as Sister Martha would say, is a good thing.
    It may not be the same as church, but I hope you see the real value in what you do.

    1. Aw, shucks. Actually, I get more out of this blog than I put into it — which is probably something I shouldn’t admit, out loud. I love coming here and seeing where the conversation has gone to. It makesme smile.

  4. DJ, I perceive that you have a longing within to feel that closeness to God that you felt upon on the hill at Green Valley but that the your rejection of the church that brought you there [tho for the reasons stated] has left a hole that is aching to be filled. Since you believe that salvation is available to broader group than the c of Christ why not worship with one of other groups?. It will draw you closer to the one who says to open the door of your heart and He will come in and sup with you.
    As I read the Bible, we are saved as individuals who have faith not as churches. Also, I find no perfect churches in the Bible.
    Just some thoughts from another who has stayed in the church of their childhood even though I see glaring imperfections but so do I when I look in the mirror [I’m not taking about the physical face]
    Blessings to all out there in the blog land

    1. Brother David, when we both join the Choir Immortal, I sure hope I get to sit by you. Bless you and I mean that (not in the snotty “bless your heart” variety I normally throw out here. I do have a hole in my heart and I haven’t been able to fill it and I don’t blame the c of c for that, but my own stagnation. But you’re right. The only one going to find me a spot is me.

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