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Sunday, July 21, 2024

That Postcard


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P Is for Pride

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If you’ve followed this blog for a while or know me in person you’ll likely know of my negative experiences with Western Christianity. It has been well over a decade since my wife and I attended church. I’ve not worked for a church in about three years. Our children have yet to attend a church service that isn’t a wedding, funeral, or holiday-themed play. Our oldest is turning nine years old soon.

My wife and I have contemplated attending church again off and on for years. Our longing for community has been the real drive. That and the somewhat archaic need of some segments of American culture to reference Bible stories in daily life. Sports or business types tend to speak of David and Goliath-type struggles for example. This doesn’t mean anything if one has not heard some version of the story.

We’ve had conversations with our children about Afterlife Myths as well in the last couple of years. I lost my father last year and Abigail lost a couple of grandparents in recent years. We even began the process of these conversations years earlier with Wesley when we lost Phoebe.

I say all of this as a prefix to the following recent experience:

I don’t know why, but I emailed a local-ish church after getting a postcard from them and taking a look at their website. 

The postcard was a well-written invitation to a local-ish church I’d never heard of before inviting those who have not been back to church in a while to visit. Give us 30 days and see if we’re a fit for your family was the basic message.

They grabbed my interest with it. So I visited their website.

It actually stated: “Love Truth, Hate Fake News” 

I had mixed feelings about that statement, but my curiosity stayed so I watched a sermon from the lead pastor.

It was interesting but had some points I slightly disagreed with contained in it. All small things. Nothing “major.”

There were some generic “churchy” statements made that could go either way, but I kept listening.

After the massage ended I continued to look over the site.

Their belief statements were general enough to give an idea of what they stood for as a congregation. There should have been more details.

And yes, 90+% of the staff & members shown online appear to be white. 

My hope of finding a “church home” for the family was diminishing quickly now as compared to an hour or so earlier when I first consumed what was served up on that postcard.

That is when I found the church website contact us form and sent a note of genuine curiosity:

I got the postcard sent out by your church recently and took a look at your site. My wife and I attended church for many years (I was a full-time volunteer & then staff member at various congregations). 

We left “The Church” over a decade ago, moved, started a family, purchased a home, and have contemplated re-joining a number of times, but each time we’ve found that our reasons to leave the religious community have held true across state lines and denominations. 

Can you tell me about your church’s stances on: 

– Covid, Vaccines, & Safety measures your church has taken regarding it
– How your church interacts with the LGBTQIA+ Community
– What your church is doing in regards to Race & Systemic Inequality in the U.S.  

Thank you for your time in responding to these questions.

Always Learning, 

– joel 

I received a cryptic spiritual salesman answer full of red flags not long after:

Hi Joel,

Thanks for reaching out! We love people and we welcome anyone who is searching for God, looking for hope, wanting community. That’s why we exist, to connect people with God.

Since you’re looking for more info and thoughts on the specifics of what we believe, we’d love to get together to answer your questions. Let us know and we’d be happy to setup a time for one of our pastors to meet with you and discuss further. 

Thank you,
[Generic Church Staff Name Here]
Office Administrator

That isn’t the response I had hoped to get when I sent that original email. I also expected to get more than a non-answer and an invitation to get a sales presentation on their church.

I know how these places work. The ways the churches I was involved in for so long and now want nothing to do with because of the harm they caused in my life and the lives of many of the people closest to me aren’t pretty.

I responded with blunt, yet kind, honestly.

My questions should have easy and direct answers, but if you’re afraid to answer them in writing that tells me all I need to know about your community. 

The hope was gone.

In the space of a single morning, my hope soared, lost flight, and then burst into flame.

I could use some IRL friends that are local (I have so many online ones out of state or out of the US) but am fine without them.

If I didn’t have kids I honestly wouldn’t even consider finding a church community. But I feel like they need to have the experience of church for cultural reference points as grown-ups in the U.S.

It’s taken me well over a decade to be okay with going to a church that might be, say, more on the conservative side of things or that isn’t up to date on the tech side of things, BUT:

– I don’t want us to be serious churchgoers.

– I don’t want to be associated with a church that is homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, Islamaphobic, racist, hateful, etc.

– I want to avoid congregations that are full of science deniers and conspiracy theorists.

Apparently (in the years we’ve been passively searching in the Chicago area) this is a really freaking high bar to meet for any sort of religious community.

However, that postcard got me thinking about it again. The former religious staffer in me says “well done” to the marketing people behind it. The abused former church member in me says “Forget it. The search is hopeless.”

I have considered visiting local Unitarian Universalist churches. Then the pandemic happened.

What do you say?

p.s. I’m purposely not naming the congregation mentioned in this post. The point is not to shame them. There are far too many congregations out there like them. The focus of the post is my family’s search for something better.

After some more time passed between the last emails sent and received in this conversation I found the social media of a few of the church staff (as well as an official membership status of the church) in a network of hateful anti-science political networks. None of that should exist. Let alone be embraced by a group supposedly focused on serving and representing a loving creator.


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