I had a strange upbringing. It wasn’t bad–I liked it for the most part–but if you didn’t experience it, you would have a hard time understanding it. I was homeschooled, grew up with a stay-at-home mom and three siblings, as well as the kids that attended my mother’s home-run daycare. I took ballet, was a proud 4-H member, and played flute in a homeschool band. All of that was pretty normal; it was my church that was a little on the weird side.
I grew up in an independant Baptist church that preached that women should wear skirts, movie theaters are evil, and any music with a drumbeat is satanic. (I am exaggerating, but that’s what it often felt like.) My parents didn’t buy into a lot of those things, though I did grow up wearing skirts and dresses because my dad liked the modesty, and I liked the pretty, flowy fabrics. But we still went to the movies; every time a Disney movie hit theaters, my uncle would take my siblings and I to go see it. We listened to Christian contemporary, and our homeschool band had loud drums and a jazz band counterpart. There were other things that my parents believed: tattoos were for criminals and destroyed your body, girls should have long hair, and Harry Potter was a gateway to witchcraft. However, my parents raised us to think for ourselves, and as we grew, we came to our own conclusions: tattoos are a personal choice and there’s nothing wrong with them, a girl’s hair is her own, and Harry Potter is awesome. Despite these weird, personal biases and beliefs, we all agreed that the actual BIBLICAL principles our pastor was teaching was worth staying in the church.
Then, two years ago, my childhood pastor stepped down and handed the podium over to his son. His son had spent years studying abroad, learning everything he could about the scriptures and the origins of the Bible, and he had spoken at our church on several separate occassions. As a congregation, we voted to accept his son as our new pastor, and he took over the church while his father went to pastor another church in the mountains. The first year with our new pastor was interesting. There were a lot of hiccups in organization, a lot of problems with communication, and there were plenty of difficulties leaving old habits and traditions behind. Our new pastor introduced the congregation to “new” songs (they were actually older than the Martin Luther songs we had been singing), opened the church up to new translations of the Bible (moving from the KJV to the NKJV or whatever translation is easiest for the reader to understand), and told everyone that tattoos, rock music, Harry Potter, and women wearing pants aren’t sins. His main point was that the pastor’s job is only to help us understand the Bible better, and that we are to use our understanding to determine our convictions. It is up to us to discern how God is leading us, and if we make a mistake, it’s okay, because He has already forgiven us. We actually had a couple of families leave the church because they couldn’t reconcile with the changes. They left peacefully, and everyone in the church remains on speaking terms with them. I admire them for leaving. They knew what their convictions were, and they stuck to them.
I have more of an issue with the people who stayed. I don’t mind that they stayed; I love the people in my church, and I don’t want them to leave. My problem comes from how they turned on a dime. The new pastor comes, says tattoos and pants are okay, and suddenly, everyone who grew up “believing” in no pants and no tattoos are wearing pants and getting tattoos. My childhood friend that used to have heated debates with me over the evils of the movie theater is taking his girlfriend to rated “R” movies. The old pastor’s daughter (new pastor’s sister) is wearing leggings to church. Men are organizing poker games (held at the church) and bragging about how many alcoholic drinks they can knock back before they feel buzzed. None of those actions are inherently wrong, but it’s like no one ever had any personal convictions; they just did whatever the pastor told them, and now that everything is “fair game,” they’re going crazy! I love them, but I can’t trust them.
I can’t say that I didn’t see hints of this fake Christianity before. I saw it mostly in my older sister while she was in our church’s youth group. She would go to youth conferences and teen camps and come back with strong convictions. She would swear off watching TV, even going out on the porch to avoid watching “Touched by an Angel” with the family. She would purge her piano music collectioin, donating Disney and Broadway fakebooks to Goodwill, or selling them at a yardsale. If it wasn’t “Christian,” it was gone. Then she would have to buy it all back again three weeks later when she decided it wasn’t worth sticking to those convictions. I just didn’t realize the magnitude of the fakeness.
Now, the older families of the church seemed to have maintained their image. They still come to church in their suit and ties, high heels, and nice dresses, and read out of their KJV bibles. I do know some of them wear pants at home and work, but they always have and they’ve never pretended that they didn’t. My point is they didn’t change just because the new pastor took “the rules” off the table. They had their convictions and they stuck to them.
I don’t have problems with people who drink alcohol. Do I drink? No. I think alcohol tastes nasty, and it’s not a taste worth acquiring just to fit in. I don’t have problems with women wearing pants or having short hair. I just personally enjoy wearing skirts, and I love keeping my hair freakishly long. I don’t have problems with tattoos. I think they’re cool, but will probably never get one because I don’t like needles and I don’t generally trust people. I don’t have issues with rock music. I like rock music (and some metal), but I don’t personally care for rap. I like Harry Potter (I’m a Gryffindor), I like going to the movie theaters, and I read the ESV translation of the Bible. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me or how I live my life, and I’m not going to try to force anyone to follow my lead.
I have no problems with my friends who now (suddenly) drink and are getting tattoos, just as I have no problems with sheep. The fences around their pasture have been torn down, and now they’re running amuck. I just pray that no one falls off a cliff.