Thursday, March 30, 2006

On the Verge of a Breakdown, On the Brink of a Breakthrough

After reading this on NIT, I had to blog.

If someone's going to put a little Church of Christ out there for the vast expanse of Internet, it might as well be yours truly. I think I can provide a little insight that the men in charge can't grasp. How fitting it is that tomorrow (I guess technically today, being as though it's after midnight) I'll be going back to counseling. At least I know how I got there.

When I was 16 I went to Governor's School for the Humanities. When I graduated high school, I had only applied to two schools - Emory and Rhodes - and was accepted to both. How I ended up at MTSU is a completely different blog that boils down to the type of people who went to Emory, but I think I have an idea on what gave me an edge into all these esteemed programs: I nailed the essay.

For each essay, I chose the same topic: The first time I prayed aloud in church. I remember it vividly because it happened when I was 16 years old at my best friend's church (he was there, too).

Until that point, I hadn't been allowed to lead prayer in church, read scripture aloud or serve the Lord's Supper (yes, we still call it that - it's the South, people). If I had wanted to teach a class, I would have only been able to teach a class consisting either of women or of children up to the second grade. Once kids enter third grade, they are taught by either their own sex (as is the case until middle school or high school), or by men only. Women do not teach classes if they consist of males older than 8 years.

Eleven-year-old boys who stumbled over I Corinthians were allowed to read scripture before the entire congregation during church services, provided they had been baptised. This also held true for serving the Lord's Supper (which my church referred to as serving on the table). However, I, an intelligent female with much higher reading skills than my male counterparts, could not do so because I was female.

Our youth group took a mission trip to Mexico (I didn't go, but that's beside the point), and upon returning, here's how they reported the trip to the church: The females each had a sentence or two printed in the church bulletin, and the males each got up in front of the congregation and told his experience. I asked some of the girls who went if they were bothered by this, but they said they weren't because they were allowed to speak to the ladies' class about the trip.

I vividly recall the abortion sermon, and I don't have anything against churches having abortion sermons. It's pretty much a necessity. However, during the one at my church, the preacher was talking to the men, completely failing to recognize or acknowledge the women of the congregation, the ones who would have a much better chance of becoming pregnant, seeing as they have all the apropriate organs.

Church was never a happy place for me, at least, not like it should have been. I was able to see my family once a week (aunts, uncles, cousins), but I usually cried after church. I knew I was different than the other youth members, because I questioned things that didn't seem to add up. I didn't just accept what someone told me without testing it first, and perhaps they viewed that as weakness.

I know they looked down on me. They didn't have to say it, but I could tell. I was the only one left out of their clique, the ones who went to private Christian school and all sat together during church, judging me and a few others who didn't conform to their mindless acceptance.

I, not surprisingly, ended up in therapy shortly after for severe depression and extreme anxiety. It was during a session with my parents that I finally said I didn't like our church, and they agreed they didn't either. I think sometimes they feel responsible for my problems because we went there, but they really didn't know what it does to you. I vowed then never to raise a child, especially a daughter, in that environment. My daughters will not be taught that they are any less worthy than men because of their gender, and certainly not where God is concerned.


Malia said...

See I was the one who always accepted first and asked questions later, much later it turns out. I'm just now getting to many of the things you thought about and questioned as a teen. But reading this post I felt very sad for you that you went through that and it opened my eyes to what I may have been way back then. I hope, although I can't be sure, that I was not one of those in the youth group who excluded kids like you, they existed in my Church of Christ, too.

Awhile back I read Sting's memoir called Broken Music. He talks about the church of his youth and I began to see just how badly religion and "relgious" people can really screw up other people.

Well, I have more I'd like to say, but I've got to get myself ready for work and my children ready to go to. Thank you Wendy, for writing it all down. It meant a lot to me to read that, to the same "church" from someone else's point of view.


grandefille said...


I appreciate your perspective and agree with it. It's the chief reason that I don't attend regular services anymore and have been dallying with joining an Episcopal church (if I could just quit sneezing at the incense).

What tore it for me was a former elder telling me, as a teen-ager, that my Sunday School class teacher, one of the finest, smartest, toughest women ever to draw breath, was not fit to lead a prayer or preach a sermon because of her gender. Instead, he said, God's law decreed that the then-current preacher, a hateful little snot who pawed female congregation members at the door, later turned out to be divorced (GASP!) and later was divorced by his then-wife for pawing female members, was allowed to preach and pray in public.

I walked out and haven't been back.

Good luck to you, sweetie. Keep fighting.

saraclark said...

Look around and realize that you have the broad expanse of the whole world to learn and choose from and all those kids that went to Christian School and sat together and made you feel excluded because you questioned things only have/had the narrow little sliver of the world that they confined themselves to.

You have and will get so much more of everything (good and bad) than they ever will. Don't limit yourself to someone else's definitions. Read what you want.

julie said...

Wendy, I am with you on this and have spent so much of my life fighting those perceptions in the Church of Christ. Yes, there are churches out there like yours....I have been a part of them but also was a part of their transformation. I am so sorry that this has been so difficult for you. I would be more than willing to talk with you about all this. I am still a member in a Church of Christ but it is a Church of Christ where women are not second class citizens but we have a way to go also. You can to a website titled gal328 and read the forums and know that you are not alone. Especially read the archives...they are full of amazing storiesa and you will know that there are others out there fighting for equality. I also have blog...stop by is called Dance with me.

TVonthefritz said...

What a beautifully written blog post.

Lhouse said...

What I find extremely interesting and sad to this blog is the "I feel, I want" without any regard to the possibility of what God has commanded and wants. May I encourage you all to go to the Bible and study. Find scriptural evidence that "authorizes" you in doing what you want to do at church. God is the authority we seek to follow. 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Remember, if you can "rightly divide" you can also "wrongly divide". God's word should be the final answer for both men and women. Unfortunately, many individuals (both men and women) want to fulfill their own personal "needs" rather than follow our Lord's commands.