Ok, so I wasn’t an ordained minister or, most of the time, even a paid one. But for the majority of my life from my teens till my early forties, I was heavily involved in Christian churches. Youth group leadership, lay ministry, administration, you name it and I was there. For most of the time, I was on the music or ‘worship team’, usually as the leader.
When a paid position came up later in my life, after I had gotten away from such heavy church involvement (and that’s another chapter), in a needy town in a needy position I took it, much against my gut instincts. Still the martyr trying to rescue the world.
To be employed in this position, one had to be currently enrolled in a theology degree. Cool! I would get to learn more about God.
Theology 101. We started out by learning about some apparently hugely important documents in church history, written by supposedly divinely inspired men who were obviously way above my pay grade in wisdom. The doctrine of the modern church was built on these writings, I was told.
Hang on, back the bus up! Shouldn’t the church be based on Jesus, God who put on human skin and came to live in our crap? What if these guys who wrote the very important foundational documents were wrong? Then the whole basis of the Christian flavour of religion that I was involved with was based on a flawed assumption.
So, I got into a ‘discussion’ with my tutor pretty much from day one. Apparently, I was very uneducated and very wrong.
It got worse. When we were asked questions about where the most important place was to get our wisdom from and I replied, ‘Directly from God,’ well that wasn’t what he was after either. No, it had to come from theologically schooled people who had gone through many courses and answered many exam questions correctly, people who were far wiser and more educated than I. I was way too much of a simpleton to be able to understand such a complex and complicated God. Forget that I’d had faith and been in ministry longer than this guy had been able to talk. (Sorry, did that sound narky? It probably was.)
It ended when I posed a hypothetical question: if my husband and I were having marital problems (we weren’t), despite the fact that we had been married a combined number of years far exceeding his lifetime and despite the fact that we had both had healthy faiths for almost 80 years between us, did he have the right to counsel us? Well not only did he have the right, but we should also submit to whatever he told us to do because, after all, he had the degree, the piece of paper!
See ya! Out of here! It was the same incredible pomposity and binary thinking which I had encountered back when I was working in university student services. My team could handle just about any students except the theology or divinity students. They were, almost without exception, the most rude, arrogant and incredibly demanding people and we all dreaded talking to them.
They were studying GOD, didn’t we know?! They were apparently on a higher plane than the rest of the students who were learning mere earthly knowledge and especially than us university employees. They deserved service accordingly.
I’m going to back up here and state that the years I spent in churches had some absolutely wonderful aspects and I would change little (but I would have changed it a lot sooner). I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the experiences and, especially, the people. There are some wonderful, incredible humans within churches. Many people need that more organised family and structure to belong to.
No church is perfect because it is filled with imperfect people. (Duh!) But I think a lot of them try to be perfect but in a kind of warped way. The theology students had it all together because they had the ‘correct’ belief system. I much preferred to talk to the paramedic students who were out there getting their hands bloodied and scraping up vomit, who swore often and sometimes cried at the heartbreak they saw.
Anyway, there is a lot more to this story but that is how I failed Theology 101. I basically quit because I couldn’t stand the ‘religion’, the rules, the shoulds, the, ‘We’re right and you have no right to your own beliefs until you’ve got the initials behind your name.’
And the job? Well fortunately for my poor victims as well as myself, circumstances changed, and the job was cut before I had to tell the boss that I couldn’t hack Theology 101. Phew!
That was my last, feeble attempt to re-enter organised Christianity. And call me a heretic but funnily enough, I believe now more than ever.