Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Outside Insider

Last week I attended the Christian Festival Kingdom Bound. I grew up in the culture that Kingdom Bound was created in and has flourished in. There was a time when Christian festivals like Kingdom Bound felt like home. It was a refreshing time spent with fellow believers (although, there were always those believers you watched that dressed a little too risky or danced in a provocative way. Or there was the group who sang a "non Christian song" and so there was always room for a judgmental glance among Christians). But now I am on the outside. I am no longer part of that Christian culture which permeates festivals and what many call evangelical Christianity in America. (I hate using the term evangelical in this manner--I believe in spreading the Good News. But evangelicalism has taken on a right wing political/ fundamentalist theology which I do not identify with the Good News.)
It was odd to feel like an outsider in a place I use to be on the inside. I felt like I was in a foreign land--except I was fluent in the language.
I knew what the speaker meant when he said "Christian unity among orthodox believers." It means my denomination and other mainline denominations need not apply. Orthodox denominations means the very conservative politically and theologically churches.
I knew by the name of the workshops what the teacher was going to talk on. "What God thinks of your worship and music" indicated you were going to be told what music God likes and what music is of Satan. (Although I can't even tell you how many of the Christian music artists at Kingdom Bound actually sang parts of secular songs in their concert to rev up the audience. And the audience knew all the words too.) The "dating for life" workshop would obviously be all about abstinence. 
I knew there would never bee a speaker like Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Matthew Paul Turner, Rachel Held Evans. No, there would be no challenge to the Christian Culture the Evangelical Conservative Church has created. (Although I was surprised that two of Matthew Paul Turner's books were found at the book sale.)
The sins which were mentioned I could have rattled off before the speakers even began. Sex before marriage, alcohol, listening to worldly music. And the merchandise tent would obviously have booths for Pro life groups and pro family groups. I was pleasantly surprised to see some social justice issues like slavery and soles for souls available.
The Gospel message would always be focused on living forever in Heaven with Christ. 
I knew the language. And I could have fit right in, except this is no longer me. As a female pastor, I felt the judgmental stares of those who knew me when I was part of their culture.  But I no longer fit.
The Good News is not a list of sins. It is the fact that no matter what we have done, where we have been. No matter how we have been broken by others' sins and by our own sins. There is a God who heals and forgives. And that healing doesn't have to wait to eternity. It begins right now. And we can follow Christ into that healing--living in a way which stops breaking ourselves and stops breaking others because we can now forgive, we can now love, we can now lay down our lives for each other. 
And so I spent Kingdom Bound feeling like an outsider. I wanted to worship fully and participate. But "Jesus is Lord" simply is not enough for me to be accepted. My theology and politics, even my very self, simply is not good enough. I know the people of Kingdom Bound would state that if I feel like an outsider it is because I have fallen away. It was my fault. 
And so I am an outsider. I believe Jesus is Lord. I believe salvation is through Christ. Yet, I am held at a distance by fellow Christians. There was no room for me at the Table at KB. 

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