Friday, July 16, 2004

i wanna be like... paul???

good morning!  i'm finding it hard to decide what to blog on for the past couple of mornings.  having the structure of the serenity prayer was really nice because i had that decision made for me.  get up, write on the next line.  no deciding to do this early in the morning...
something that's been rolling around in my head lately has been the need to explain my 'church of origin'.  in counselling they call your childhood family your 'family of origin' - so for pulling this all apart they are now my 'church of origin'.
when i say things like no participation and silent in the church many who haven't experienced this 'brand' of fundamentalism might think 'what does she want?  to preach?  aren't most women sitting silently during the sermon??'
i almost don't want to type their name because i don't really want to make this a place for argument, and the last thing i really want is being googled by somebody with an axe to grind, (unless their axe is like mine!) :)
the plymouth brethren (there i typed it..) are a distinct sect of christianity.  they believe in the priesthood of all believers (except women) and are similar, but independent chapels, assemblies and gospel halls all over the world.  their church structure is leadership by elders and deacons and there is not (usually) a pastor.   some more progressive ones do have 'full time workers' or maybe even pastors now, but the main-line pb's are very staunch and proud about their ability to be 'leaderless'.
they usually have 4 services a week (and i grew up dragged to each one of them).  the first is 'the lord's supper' or 'the breaking of the bread'.  it is a weekly hour long service that focuses solely on the death of christ and consists of men, 'moved by the holy ghost' to pray, read scripture (with very little commentary, all focused solely on christ's atoning death) and request a hymn (all focused on christ's death) to be sung accapella, but it is usually read first by the requester (in total) and then sung, usually poorly by the 25 people in attendance.
the second service is 'the family bible hour' and that is when the children are shuffled to the curtain divided basement while an itinerant speaker shares the same sermon he just shared last week at another brethren assembly in the next state.
the next service is sunday night, supposedly meant for bringing your unsaved friends, and the same speaker gives the gospel to the same 25 people who showed up that morning.
the final service was the wednesday night 'prayer meeting' where about 10 people show up and only the men can share requests and pray.  some progressive churches allow the women to retreat to the basement to pray.
this is all done with women's heads covered and silent.
if this was like a quaker service where we were trained for introspective silence and there was true reflection and pondering taking place that would have been enjoyable, but this was bone-numbing, day-dreaming silence, interrupted occasionally by a long winded (similar to last week) prayer.  my critics will say i just wasn't holy enough, that i just didn't try, or that my heart wasn't submissive.  that would be a lie.  all i ever wanted was to please my heavenly father.  i jumped through every hoop and was totally obedient to each and every dictate.
not only was my head covered, but my heart was also.  believe it or not i was truly submissive to my father, the elders, and then to liam.  they spoke for me (well my father never spoke, and that is a huge reason why i was so confused as a child).  this was my lot in life, and i was okay with that.  we were RIGHT, we had pure, biblical theology.  we were the new testament church.  to try to explain how distorted this was, i grew up thinking that john wesley was too liberal.  methodists weren't really going to heaven.  he was an okay hymn writer, but his theology was 'off' the mark.
so it's not like the church where i currently attend where there are the same people who talk/pray/preach every week, in my 'church of origin' everyone got to share, except for the women.  it was our punishment and reminder that eve screwed up everything.  we were silent to remind us not to usurp the authority of our husbands and fathers, and the almighty elders of the church.
my devotion to this 'ideal' was so strong i attended the brethren bible college (which i'm definately not typing because there are still many that i love there and don't want to bash them publically).  they trained my brain, taught me theology and awoke in me something large.  but still even with that 'awakening' i was still silent with my head covered.  it was an incredibly confusing time for me spiritually.  i knew i was called, now i was trained, but for what?  i wasn't called for oversees, so i guessed it must have been to marry someone else called into ministry.
i knew that i needed to marry a man who had upfront gifts, who could 'keep me in my place' and had a stronger personality than i did so i didn't end up like the real bobbie and my father.
i found liam there.  he grew up in an even more conservative branch (gospel hall) and somehow was untainted by it all.  he was called, dynamic and as passionate as i was.  (and by god's protection not a caveman in any sense of the word - god is good).  i knew we were meant to be.
what i could never synthesize was how completely different jesus was from any and all of their teachings.  he was left behind (to use their own words on them), set aside for another dispensation.  they truly didn't want to be more christlike, they wanted to be more 'paul-like'.  somehow that apostle captured everything each one of those men held up as important, and they became just like a distorted version of him (or what they thought him to be).
what i know now is that this type of church is very attractive for men who have power issues.  they split faster than the baptists, splinters and church breaks are very common in this undenominational denomination.  they rule by making everyone else look like heretics.  i truly didn't think that anyone outside this belief system was right.  looking back i realize now that it is almost 'sect' like in it's existence.
i need to add a disclaimer.  when this type of church works it's the best church structure i've ever seen.  if they didn't have such a distorted view on power and women they would be growing instead of dying.  many i love are still firmly embedded in this faith structure.  i watch the women become bitter and gossippy - their inability to participate severs any desire to participate at all.  god is as male and silencing as the elders.  it effects the spiritual life deeply.
so today, i stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith christ has made me free!  i wanna be like jesus, not paul.  today, in this 'dispensation' may your kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven dear god!

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