A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Churchy dilemma

I've been kinda cagey lately when people ask me what church I go to in York. I haven't bothered to tell anyone the full reason why I'm unsure about going back to the church I started attending regularly.

In case you haven't read my diary, here's the story: I didn't find a church in my first year of university. Second year I meandered around until the summer term when I started going regularly with my friend Cat. It's a small friendly church that do regular student lunches. The music's mainly hymns - not my particular favourite - and while the church did regular city-centre evangelism (OK, handing out leaflets), it didn't strike me that they did any other regular outreach work... I left them and went to Cambridge, where I found a lovely church, settled right in and made lots of friends. Not a perfect church, but a loving church that accepts everyone.

Yesterday I was talking to two of my housemates (the third came today) and ended up telling them how I became a Christian... which means that now I have no excuse not to behave like a Christian towards them now :) So... "Kate" (I'm going to give my housemates nicknames, just in case I need to complain about them at a later date :) ) said, "Do you have a church in York?" and I admitted reluctance to go back to the church I started attending. "Why?" I was too embarrassed to admit why - I'd found out that morning that my other housemate who was there, "Steven" is gay.

It was because the pastor of that church said during a sermon, "We seem to be on a downward moral spiral compared to a hundred years ago. There's homosexuality. What's next, incest?" (It had outraged me at the time but then the same preacher came up and started talking to me and being friendly so I felt too embarrassed to tell him I thought he'd said something stupid) ...So I just murmured to Kate that they'd struck me as a bit intolerant. I guessed that Steven at least would have been shocked that I'd even consider going back to a church that had suggested that homosexuality was the worst sin of the age.

The thing is, even my lovely Cambridge church had a sermon one Sunday in which the preacher talked about how we as a country had wandered away from God and mentioned the 'militant homosexual agenda\' as an example. I thought it was on the whole a very silly sermon (one of those "ooh look - terrorism! God must not love the UK anymore!" kind of things) but at least he'd been humble enough to admit that not everyone would agree with him. I think the 'militant homosexual agenda' is frankly the least of the church's problems. What about poverty? homelessness? drugs? greed? global warming? AIDS? And the fact that we, the Church, are often seen as the least effective force for change in society. Jesus preached good news to the poor, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, released the captives and proclaimed the Lord's favour. When people describe the church, that's not what they say. In fact, a lot of them think we're obsessed with fighting the militant homosexual agenda. Who would have given them that idea?

But I fear that if no one speaks out within churches to make people realise as sins go, homosexuality isn't the only gay in the village (d'ya see what I did there?), that we'll continue on this foolish path. C'mon, technically self-injury's a sin and you wouldn't tell a hurting person that if they cut themselves they'll go to hell unless you're seriously deranged. This is because there are many more issues than simply a matter of good/bad. Issues that need to be dealt with far more urgently than "God made your body, stop harming it". I know that periodically I annoy a lot of people by doing the 'homosexuality is not a sin' thing, but to be honest I think that a sin that involves two people in a loving relationship isn't particularly impressive. I have to wonder if there are Christians who think that all homosexuals are deranged perverts with a one-track mind... Personally I think I'd trust Oscar Wilde more than I'd trust Jerry Falwell. (Well, Oscar Wilde's dead, but you know what I mean...)

I want to start a faction against the Militant Pen-Stealing Agenda :)

So why am I not dead-set against returning to this evil, anti-gay church?

Well, they're not evil. OK, so they're not perfect, but as Hanlon's razor states, never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. I got the impression that the pastor wasn't a bad man - he didn't gun down every gay that he met. In fact, I suspect that he didn't even know any homosexuals. The Bible's clear that change is possible. I'd like to be in a church that reaches out to the poor - perhaps God will put me in a place where I can encourage others to do so. Also I think my prejudices against hymns and street evangelism are showing. I know that God can use these things, but I just don't personally much like them. And that's no reason to dislike a church that does.

So I'm in a quandary. On one hand, the church I started going to back in May/Jun 2004 helped me rededicate myself to God. I got focus again. I do feel that the congregation are all sincere Christians who are serious about their faith. And I feel I ought to go back, if only to see how they've changed over the past year. I've prayed about it, and I don't feel right immediately assuming it's *not* the church for me. Last year it *was* the church for me - I needed the close community. I even dare to suggest that God led me there - I had prayed the morning before I first went that I'd at least find someone to pray with that day, and then Cat came and told me she was going to church. Admittedly I found Cat's probing questions rather annoying but I was impressed with her dedication to following God. It was the beginning of a change - I'd felt so far away from God, and I developed the boldness to start looking again.

...But I confess, I think there are probably better churches in York. I feel judgemental saying it. But I don't honestly think that they're nearly as dedicated as they should be to following Jesus' example. And I know that's a bit rich for me to say, but the doubt remains even so... I'd like to be in a church known for loving sinners, helping the poor, being passionate, being faithful, speaking out against injustice. But I know from experience that God knows my ideal church better than I do. I'll keep you posted on developments.

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