Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rethinking everything

There is one nice thing about being in an ultra-strict church: at least you know exactly what is expected of you... and you'll probably hear about it if you stray! Over the years, I've learned to adhere to a certain set of standards. They never felt overly restrictive--I just accepted them as the norm. It's easy to feel that way when you spend most of your time building friendships only with those who hold the same beliefs.

The problem is, everyone doesn't hold those beliefs. In fact, the majority of the Christian world doesn't.

So now I'm part of a considerably less restrictive church... but my pre-programmed knee-jerk reactions to certain otherwise "normal" things is still about as strong as it was before. It's not unusual for folks come to church in shorts and tank tops and other clothing that would have been considered completely inappropriate in my previous churches. It's not unusual for people to talk openly about their illnesses and the prescription medications that they are taking. In many pentecostal circles, that would have been met with a stern rebuke. (If your doctrine says that sickness is the result of sin or demonic attack in your life, then the appropriate response to illness is repentence, prayer and study -- not a doctor's visit.) Sometimes stuff like this still catches me off guard.

Secular music is no longer taboo, but it still seems strange for me to hang out with folks from my church and listen to secular music. I feel a twinge of... guilt. Like I'm doing something wrong. Alcohol was completely off limits in pentecostal churches - but here, moderation seems to be the rule. I had always been open to having a glass of champaigne or wine at a special family dinner or celebration... but it was rare and certainly not something I would have ever mentioned to a pastor. In some of my previous ministry-related jobs, a violation of these standards was grounds for immediate termination.

So all of this is still a little weird for me. It's not that I was completely unprepared: I expected (and even looked forward to) many of these differences. Yet, when I see these things which were taboo for me for so long, my knee-jerk reaction is still to kinda look down on them and judge it as "wrong." I wonder how long it will take for me to shake off those feelings...

Walking away from a church or organization is the easy part. Leaving behind old attitudes and mindsets... this could take a while...

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