Saturday, November 16, 2013

Methodist Misgivings

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's great to see you here! What a sermon we have to tell today! You'll be glad you dropped by.

Two decades ago I was a church lady. My husband's grandfather made me promise I would bring my daughters up in the faith, and at the time when I promised him I would, it didn't seem like a bad idea. Because, of course I didn't have enough moral fiber to instill good judgment in them myself, right?

So when The Heir was a toddler, I returned to church-going after a very long hiatus. By the time Spare was born, I was totally entrenched in the local Methodist church. I volunteered to watch the infants during church services,  because in those years the church got a new, conservative (and boring) pastor ... and I liked tots.

It was thus that I met a young couple with a son the same age as Spare. Since we were all young parents together, we became friendly. Not bosom-buddy friendly, but sitting-together-at-the-church-supper friendly.

Time passed, and Spare started going to grade school with this young  boy, so often I saw the boy's parents at the schoolyard. Then one day it was just the dad. The family had split up. The dad told me his wife had been raised very religious and had decided she'd gotten married too young.

After that I saw the dad more than the mom, because the dad kept bringing his boy to the Methodist church. So I would listen as this dad vented, and I did feel sorry for him.

Then I decided I couldn't stick Methodism anymore, and I bagged that church without looking back. (Well, that's not exactly true. I look back miserably, sorry I subjected my two daughters to that place for so long.)

A year or so later, I ran into my old church/school friend at a local block party. He said he hadn't seen me at church in a long time. I told him I was going to church outdoors now, with a small group of people. (I omitted the fact that the "church" was a Druid Grove.) On that occasion, he snapped a black-and-white photo of Spare and me that is my absolute favorite shot of her and me of all time. The photo is framed and by my bedside.

Whenever something is framed and by your bedside, you tend to think of the person who took the photo. I really wondered what had happened to my church dad friend. I never ran into him, because we stopped having block parties around here, and I sure wasn't going back to that church.

Today I ran into her. He had become a her. Name changed from Sal to Sally. I saw her in our small branch bank, where our eyes could not help but meet.

Sally told me she had seen me a few times ... once at the Gay Pride Festival in Philadelphia. But she hadn't had the nerve to say howdy, because you know, some people can't deal with gender changes, especially some religious people. Sally didn't know me well enough to dare to come out to me.

Now, let's look at this.

In 2006 I didn't know church dad well enough to tell him I'd become a Pagan. I thought he would judge me harshly.

In 2012 he/she didn't know me well enough to tell me about the gender change. She thought I would judge her harshly.

Common denominator: harsh judgment.

Original source of anxieties about harsh judgment: the Methodist church.

And mark my word, that Methodist church we both attended was chock-a-block with judgmental people. The bad attitude toward gays at that place was one of the reasons I began listening for the voices of the bored gods.

But doggone it! It's been almost a decade since I darkened the doorstep of that stinking judgmental church, and all this time I could have had a friend who s me here and there but figured I was just a rank-and-file hater, even if I did worship with a small group of people in the woods!

Well, as you might imagine, I quickly apprised Sally of the nature of my new praise and worship team; namely, that I was a Pagan. And now I'm going to biff off and friend her on Facebook.

Many churches, and I include here Pagan groups, do not encourage the big, broad, flexible outlook. But it does seem to me that Pagans are cool with the LGBT community. So maybe if I hadn't had Methodist misgivings, maybe if I had told my friend I was a Pagan, I wouldn't have lost 8 years of conviviality.

Not gonna hide that light under a bushel anymore, no sirree.


Vest said...

Thou hath shown great Forthrightness. Loved it. You can't beat a good old muck stir. Putting down bigototed non secular creationists within the Faith industry is one of my favourite pastimes too.
Great stuff. More please.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great post! Sally and you have bravely moved far past old judgmental values and followed your own truths -- I salute both of you!

illissemorsirion said...

It's never too late to rekindle an old friendship


Anne Johnson said...

Friendship rekindled ... so nice!

Anonymous said...

Better late than never. So glad you are comfortable with gender changes -- not many people are.

Anne Johnson said...

As far as gender changes go, I'm for personal happiness. If having a gender change makes my friend happier, then absolutely ... I'm comfortable!

Janet D.H. Hinkel said...

Anne, what a moving story. Thank you for posting it. It's so true that judgmental groups can poison our lives for a very long time, but love and openness are anecdotes. Thank you kindly for the reminder.