Monday, April 19, 2010

MIsfit Church Basher?

Hi Misfits!
I've been worried over the last few days that my blog will be taken as a "church-bashing" blog. I want to say, right now, up front, that this is not my intention at all! The Church is made up of all believers in Christ and is very important, no, may I say, VITAL to our entire belief system? The metaphor of the Church being the Bride of Christ is possibly one of the deepest spiritual images that exists. So if I mention things that have happened to me in churches, please don't think that I am against the Church OR even physical churches. I just know that many, many people have been hurt in physical churches, and there is a reason for that. We, as Christians, need to be ever mindful that we represent Christ to the world, yeah, but also that we represent Christ to the person sitting next to us in the pew. Or folding chair.

Sometimes things happen in churches that boggle the mind. And somehow people seem to look past it because, well, because it happened in church. Nowhere else is it more apparent that people are just imperfect beings than within physical church bodies. That's where our true fallen natures so often seem to rear their ugly heads. I don't know why. I just know it's true.

As a misfit, this blog has started out kind of all over the place. I've blogged about being a Misfit Christian. I've blogged a little about my beginnings as a Christian. Now about the church. I think in my heart there are certain things that I truly want to talk about to other Christians, and also to non-Christians.

One, is that not everyone who is a Christian feels comfortable in the physical body of church (hence part of the whole Misfit Christian thing). This doesn't mean I don't think we need a physical church body. In fact, I do. But neither do I think God forsakes us if we aren't "going to" church regularly.

Two, I want to talk to Christians about how we chase others away from God, either by our actions or our words or our well-meant evangelistic endeavors. Why do people cringe when you say the word, "Christian" ? Because Christians have made it a bad word, equating it with other words like Pious, Judgmental, Condemning, Holier-than-Thou (okay more than a word), Superior, and even words like Hateful, Mean, Spiteful, and Republican. (Now don't hate me, but I would truly like to urge people who are combining their politics with Christianity to please stop!! I can back this up with scripture, and will on another blog.)

So for awhile, this blog may be all over the place, but mostly, I hope it will become a site that people can come to and express their own experiences, thoughts, views, even questions they have about Christ or the way Christians act. I certainly don't have all the answers, but we can sure all talk about it together!

hugs from Misfit Tess

Today's question: Have you ever been hurt by a church body or a Christian? I want to hear your story. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Misfit Story, Part I

Dear Fellow Misfits, 

Yes, this picture exemplifies how I feel most of the time. Upside down and hysterical. :))

Some of you have been kind enough to tell your story, things that happened to you in church, or in your life, and so I thought I'd share some of my experience on this journey through Misfitness and Faith. 

Today most churches have "contemporary services", but when I was a young Christian, that movement was just barely beginning. I remember when I got saved (for the third time--long story) at a revival led by Richard Hogue (what a great guy he was -- talk about meeting you where you live, but more on that in another blog) I left that revival feeling so psyched to win people to Christ. To bring people to church. To serve God.  I was fortunate enough at that time to be attending a little church out in the country, where the pastor was young, in his mid-20s. He had ideas, he welcomed the young people with open arms, and we flocked into the small chapel-like building, bringing in the lost. 

Unfortunately for the older, staunch church body that had been there for umpteen years, the lost that came in were often long-haired, dirty hippies. Barefoot. Tee-shirts. Jeans. But it all worked out. Eventually we got the message, through the dirty looks and the cold shoulders. Even the pastor got the message. He left. We left. Suddenly, I was a new Christian who had lost her church. 

It made me sad, but I was 16 and life was a new adventure every day, though not always in a good way. I started attending a Bible study sponsored by anotherchurch and for awhile, it was awesome. Very casual, very open to questions and thoughts and well, hippies.  But the damage had been done. I was wary, and not as willing to risk my feelings again. But I did still want to "get the word out". And as an aspiring singer/songwriter, I decided I wanted to do it through music. With the help of friends, and our Bible study, I helped organize the first Christian Rock Concert in our town. And the last, I imagine.

I sang a couple of my own songs, and then "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor, after which I told the packed gymnasium that Jesus wanted to be their friend. I followed that song with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by Carole Kind and then assured everyone that Jesus would still love them tomorrow--and always. It was an awesome time and an amazing experience. We could push the envelope, and some people would accept us! It was exhilarating!

After that, I rushed into evangelical Christianity, the whole Roman Road, Confront-People-About-Jesus mode of spreading the gospel.  Funny thing, that never really worked for me. In fact, every time I tried to tell people about Jesus in the way I had been taught, they ran as fast as they could in the other direction. Was a seed planted in their hearts? I don't know. All I knew was intense, terrible guilt for not "leading them to Christ". Obviously there was something wrong with me. I was a failure, and not only was I a failure, my failure meant that person was going to hell!

You see, some churches teach that whether or not a person is touched by the Holy Spirit is up to every Christian. We have to save people, and if we fail, it's on our heads.  It took me a long time to learn that the Holy Spirit does not need my efforts in order to touch someone's heart. God can touch a heart through a sunset, a song, a smile, a verse, or even something strange like a television show. He is everywhere and everything. Yeah, Jesus said for us to go and tell people about him, about what he had done. That he died for us. Then came alive again. That he healed people. That he forgave people. That he spread the word of love wherever he went, along with repentance. 

We're supposed to tell people about Christ, that much is true.  But I don't think he ever said, "Go ring doorbells and accost people. Tell them if they don't 'accept Jesus into their hearts' right that minute, that they are going to burn in hell."  Just can't find that in my Bible. 

But when I was 16 - 23, I believed it was all up to me. And when I bombed out, it made me question my faith, my abilities and most of all, my salvation. Eventually, I got tired of failing. And I quit going to church. And I quit being a "good girl". But that's another story . . . and another blog. 

What's your story? What was your "come to Jesus" experience like? Gee, I'm using a lot of quotes in this blog, aren't I?  

Till next time, I'm a Misfit. 

Misfit Tess

Friday, April 9, 2010

Are You A Misfit Too?

Dear Fellow Misfits,
I am a Misfit. And I'm a Christian. So does that automatically make me a Misfit Christian? Probably. I'm a published romance novelist, but I'm also a Christian. Yeah, I'd say I'm a Misfit. After getting to know blogger and author Jason Boyett, ( - check out the review I wrote for his new book in my first blog on this site. Just look on to the left of this text and click on "March") I realized that there are more people out there like me than I thought. So I thought I'd write a blog for all of us, people who are Misfits--loners, self-proclaimed nerds, quirky dance-to-the-beat of-a-different drummers, and independents --in Lives, and in our Christianity.    
Because we don't fit into the normal kind of Christian mold. We are square pegs in a round hole. It's a given. We have lots of non-Christian friends. We have Jewish friends. We read about other religions and we still believe our own. We wonder if things are exactly as we imagine them to be. And because we're Misfits who are actually pretty lonely sometimes, who wish they could just belong somewhere-- when we become Christians, we expect to walk into any church and automatically find our niche there in a way we've never been able to in Life.   
But that isn't what usually happens. Because Misfits looks at things differently. We tend to ask more questions. We seem to want to introduce elements that push envelopes and threaten traditions. And sometimes that is so welcome in churches, but more often, it so isn't. Sometimes it's hard to find your place when you're a Misfit. Sometimes it's hard to understand why churches do things the way they do.   
I'm not saying Misfits are better than other Christians. I'm saying we are different. Believe me, that's not better, just ... different. Does giving it a label make me feel better? Well, sort of. I mean, maybe I can't fit in anywhere else, but now that I know what I am, and have carved out this little spot in the InterWebs, I know I can fit in here, right? And I know there are more people like me out there. Maybe you need a place to come and feel like you're part of a group of people who feel sort of like you. So here it is -- a place.     
Maybe you'll read this and think what is her deal? Maybe you'll read it and think, "Yeah, I get it." Nonbelievers are welcome here too. Part of being a Misfit Christian usually includes being able to listen to the opinions of others, no matter what they believe, without feeling like you're being disloyal to Christ or your church.    
Here's my own personal rundown of traits of Misfits and Misfit Christians:     
  • A Misfit who becomes a Christian, will probably be a Misfit Christian (MC)
  • Creative people are often Misfits, i.e., Misfits are often creative people
  • MCs try to rock the church boat and often get hurt doing it.
  • MCs have more doubts because they tend to analyze things more.
  • MCs often have social phobias and major baggage and tend to get hurt easily. (Maybe some of you don't have social phobias and baggage, but, well, really?)
  • MCs come from a background of not fitting in, but when they first join a church, they think they will automatically fit in because, hey, they’re now part of a big, loving spiritual group.
  • MCs don’t do Christianspeak very well.
  • MCs tend to become bitter and cynical after awhile, if they can’t find their place in a church.
  • MCs eventually try to fit into a church, somewhere, somehow, mimicking whatever attributes will help them "find their place".
  • MCs tend to drop out of church, after trying very hard to fit in, but eventually realizing they just can't keep up the pretense.
  • MCs tend to keep an open mind.
In every blog I hope to talk about things that tend to bother Misfits like me. So here is the first thing that, well, bothers me. 

Churches can be like corporations sometimes, with their own language and rules and cliques. Of course every church is different, but in evangelical churches, some things are pretty much across the board. For instance, the way Christians think they should talk to one another. My experience has been that many people who consider themselves mature Christians, "real" Christians, spiritual leaders, talk a certain way. I call it Christianspeak. If you ask another Christian to do something for you and he says, “Will you release me from that?” You know you’re in the presence of a hardcore linguist. Or if he or she tends to talk in King James' English. I usually recommend that these friends take up working in Shakespeare in the Park, because that talent should not go to waste. 

I never could do Christianspeak well. When I hear the word, "Brethren", I can’t help it, I automatically think of the word "Sistern", which is a deep hole in the ground, though spelled differently. Some of Christianspeak comes from the Bible, and we have it in our heads that this makes it okay. But Jesus met people where they lived and he still does. And in my opinion, so should we. 

Can you imagine if Jesus had spoken to the people at the Sermon on the Mount in today’s slang? I can just hear it – “Yo, yo, my man, I’m telling ya, the meek, like they’re totally gonna inherit the earth! Holla!” They would have thought he was nuts and/or walked away from him. And that's probably why people nowadays walk away from us when we're trying to tell them about Jesus by speaking in an ancient vernacular. They think we're nuts or pretentious or just annoying. 

So here's my question of the week for you: What do you think of Christianspeak? Is it necessary? Does it bother you? Why or why not? 

I realize, after reading this over, that this is a pretty convoluted beginning to the blog, but bear with me, please. I'm a Misfit. Sometimes it takes me awhile to get things right, if ever.

Because I'm a Misfit, I won't be posting an email address here. I believe in the whole "what you say in secret will be shouted from the housetops" deal. (Totally taken out of context!) If you have a comment for me, please leave it on this blog and I will respond to it here. My only request is that any comments left for me or for others be given with courtesy and respect. And because you're all Misfits, I know you'll do that. 

I won't always be physically staring at this blog on my computer screen, but I will check in. So when I'm not here, please, talk amongst yourselves.  
 Peace, Tess