Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are we equipped... and do we want to be? And revisiting the masquerade party

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article a man wrote who had lived a pretty messed up life. He is now a Christian, but he makes the case that the church is not equipped to deal with certain sins. Too many pastors are not equipped to deal with some of the sins nowadays.

Our churches are filled with perfect people. No one has any real battles. Oh, they may have trouble paying the bills, their kids may be far from God, but they have no horrible, besetting sin to deal with. Or do they? I am more and more convinced that no matter what church you attend, Baptist, Catholic, Methdodist, or the Church of   the Pious, Holy, and untra-Perfect - there are people sitting in the pews battling bad stuff. Stuff beyond the desire to cheat on your income tax or slap Nancy Pelosi til her ears fall off...

What would we do if:
A drug addict becomes a Christian and begins attending our church, still battling his addictions

An alcoholic becomes a Christian and starts attending our church, still battling the desire to drink

A prostitute becomes a Christian and starts attending our church, still battling her sexual addictions

A gay or lesbian becomes a Christian and starts attending our church - or worse, doesn't become a Christian and starts attending our church

An ex-con becomes a Christian and starts attending our church

Someone with AIDS starts attending our church.

     Now...... what if the person sitting in the pew behind you suddenly came to you and admitted to one of the above?

Sad to say, most of us would have no clue how to help or counsel people in these situations. Too many of us would pull our self-righteous robes around us, move to the other side of the church, and at best... pat them on the shoulder, tell them we would be praying for them, and mouth one of the biggest platitudes in the church "Just pray and trust God." And the person dies a little more on the inside.

So, is this guy right? Should we be training our people more to on how to handle this stuff? Do we want to? Do they want to deal with it? Until the church does more love in action, until we admit there are problems and make it easier for people to step forward and ask for help, no one is going to seek help anyway - few at best.

A while back, I blogged about wearing masks as Christians. Comparing church to going to a masquerade ball, I called for the taking off of masks. (If you want to read that, go here.) I said that to preface my talking about my next visit to the masquerade party. This one was on a smaller scale.....

I stepped through the doors into the masquerade party. This one was much smaller than the other I had attended. The other had close to 250 people, whereas this one only had 25-30 people. I felt priveleged to have been invited. Making sure my mask was on just right, I found my seat and sat back to enjoy the party.

But wait.... what is this? Their idea of fun was to pick at me, criticize me. I started to sink into my seat, but then remembered.... I had my mask on. They didn't know I was there. I checked to make sure it was still covering my face, and sat in misery as the class gleefully attacked me, said the nastiest things about me.

As I sat there fighting the urge to slip out - afraid to draw attention to myself and  they would know it was me - the tears started. I kept my head down and kept brushing them away as they slipped from under my mask. No one seemed to notice, to my relief. And on they went. A knife through the heart here, a punch to the gut here. Thank God I had my mask on so they wouldn't know the target of their hateful comments was sitting there in their midst.

My mind went back to when I first started wearing my mask. Somewhere in my teens. By the time I was in college, it was a regular fixture. I'd cringe in the corner as my fellow college mates would make snide, hateful remarks, or jokes, which were as bad..... never noticing that the target of their remarks was standing in the same room, sometimes right by them..... and the punches kept coming.

The time in church came to mind when a friend of mine leaned up and made a horrible comment about me that crushed me. It hurt for a long time. The knife went deep and felt like it was still there. But again, I had my mask on, so he never knew it was me he made the comment to....

The party was ending. I walked out, my heart heavier than it had been, dying quite a bit more on the inside. Everyone else gathered their righteous robes around them, thanking God that they weren't like me.

Now again, this was no literal masquerade party - and I wasn't wearing a physical rubber or plastic mask. Neither were the people speaking literally about me, Mark Buzard. They were talking about what is under the mask I wear. What and who I am. And it was a Sunday School class where they were discussing what I call my cross. My secret. My silent burden.

I raise some valid points though. The church is ill-equipped to deal with anything outside of  a gossip or jealously issue. We do sit back in our righteous robes, looking down our noses at the people who do the really bad stuff. No, we don't stand on the street corner like the Pharisee in the Bible, thanking God that we aren't like the drunk, the homosexual, the adulterer, the pornography addict - but we may as well. We are doing it on the inside where God sees.

Its time the church stops shooting the wounded. Its time we realized there are hurting people in our church - in our own families, but we are so hateful, so judgemental, and so non-caring, that they may never find the courage to seek the help they need, so they sit in the pew, silently suffering, dying just a little more each service they sit through. How do I know? Because that is who I am.

So back to my orginal point.... do we need to be training our pastors and laypeople to deal with the "bad stuff." Yes, but first there needs to be a major change in those people before they can - or want - to help the hurting in our churches.

Note:After reading this blog post, a friend shared this link - worth reading.


love2bake said...

So, what if you care about what is going on in someone's life and want to listen and help, but don't feel comfortable doing so because you are a married woman and they are a man?

Christy said...

I feel you on one point especially...what if an ex-con attended your church? Being the wife of a prisoner soon to be ex-con I wonder this all the time. Recently I found out that a few people that I thought were good friends were talking about my situation behind my goers and seemingly caring people. They had decided it was ok to be friendly now, but as soon as my husband comes home they planned to cut all ties. Thankfully someone that cared about me for real let me in on this and I cut ties before they had the chance, but with that in mind I can't help but wonder how many other people will "cut ties" with me come August of next year.