Discontent With Church: When I Survey the Wondrous Chocolate Easter Bunny

A milk chocolate Easter Bunny.It is 2 a.m. and the spring winds, notorious for producing tornadoes in Oklahoma, are keeping me awake. The giant elm that towers outside my bedroom window is spitting tiny branches into the window pane. I’m afraid it might break into pieces and crash through my window and crush me. The wind doesn’t rustle in Oklahoma; it is reckless and vengeful, and I have such pleasant thoughts in the middle of the night.

It is 2 a.m. and I am eating one of the 36 boxes of Girl Scout cookies I bought. Yes, 36. This is because that is how many I told the troop leader Juliette would sell. But, I hate selling, and I hate having my kid impose on friends and family, and so I just bit it and bought them all. Now, I’m eating them all. Especially right now, because it is 2 a.m. and the wind has awakened me, and because Easter is nine days away and I have no idea where on earth we are going to church.

Discontent With Church

I have had a growing disconnect with church ever since Obama was elected President. The bitter, scathing and caustic political debate has driven too many moderates and liberals away from the largely conservative churches, which dominate the Oklahoma landscape. In essence, this debate has reduced separation of church and state to a mere technicality. Tax exemption status is only at risk in the pulpit. Has the IRS ever dinged a church because members espoused political views in the pew? Do they perform audits on the cold-staring-down of Democrats by Republicans while dropping off babies at the church nursery?

What did I ever do? Wahhhhhh. Blog, that’s what. And, remind everyone the Canon has not been amended and FOX is not the 67th book of the Bible. And, guess what? Glen Beck with his freakish Nazi-like book cover is not the 13th disciple.

To be fair, this is not just a problem at churches with conservative members. Some of the most politically sophisticated and influential congregations in Oklahoma are predominantly liberal, and few conservatives would feel comfortable darkening their doors. The knife cuts both ways, even if this is the reddest state in the union. Still, I think conservatives in Oklahoma would do well to remember that 33 percent of people in this state did in fact vote for Obama. Maybe they shouldn’t talk so loud in the vestibule.

Before I had children, Easter was my favorite holiday. Now, my kids’ Christmas smiles make for some tough competition. But, for religious reasons, Easter remains a high holy day for me on the most personal of levels. And, my father loved Easter. He never failed to remind me year after year as he pulled on his in-style and then eventually out-of-style black suit, that Easter was the day we remembered the suffering of Christ; His bloodshed on the cross – His sacrifice that loosed the flood of God’s mercies to man. This love has shaped my life more than anything.

And, yet, hippity-hop, Easter’s on its way, and I have become the quintessential Gen Xer who feels disaffected from church whether I go or not. I think about all those clever sayings about how if a hypocrite is standing between me and church, then the hypocrite is closer to God than me, but, I don’t believe that anymore. I just can’t subject myself to another poser. If I wanted to join a country club, I would. What I want is to be in a church like my former pastor said all churches are meant to be, but rarely are – a hospital for the spiritually sick and wounded.

For 10 years, in a state with a church on every corner, I’ve been hoping for the Oklahoma version of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. I need to be in the presence of those who come for the Balm of Gilead – who are desperate for the antidote to the poisonous sting that is hunting their hope and devouring their promise. It is Christ. I need to open the jar that is me and pour out the salve that is Christ’s love in me. I’m in all the wrong places at all the right times.

Unfortunately, I think the Easter basket (of all things) has become a metaphor for church. Hollow like the chocolate bunnies and sticky sweet like the pink and yellow peeps. Even worse, it’s become like the hard-boiled eggs – emotionally hardened to those who need Christ the most. And, if I sound bitter, well you don’t know me very well, because I’m worse than that. I’m resigned. I just endure, and bonnet-up like so many Gen Xers still going to church – for the sake of the kids. Our family is all wearing yellow this year. I’m sure we’ll look very cute should someone start talking about Jesus being flogged and tasting vinegar – and gall.

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
–From When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Issac Watts, 1707

In case I never had the guts or the goo to say it until now, God loves you, and whether you make it to church this Easter or not, He is pursuing you. If He wasn’t, you wouldn’t have read this all the way to the end. And, if He’s pursuing you, what is it He wants to say to you? Probably, I love you. That’s all, but it’s only a guess.

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  1. Jim Smith says

    This was a painful one to read and yet, as you know, I relate to every word of it. You chose a great metaphor Jen. Even the tough ones to read are brilliantly written.

    Remember that just because you haven’t found sanctuary doesn’t mean you’re alone. I long for a church where “…we accept people as they are, not as we want them to be.”

  2. says

    @JENNY – Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your understanding. I’d love to hear more about leaving the second you walked out the folks’ door.

  3. Jenny says

    Hi Jen,
    Thanks for writing this, I think your blog works so well because you have such a great ability to write from the heart.

    I left the Catholic church the minute I walked out my parents door, I felt many there (& probably the minority) have been posers for a long time & I couldn’t take it.

    You will figure out what works for you.
    Happy Easter.

  4. says

    @CATHRINE – You can’t know how much your comment means to me. I trust your walk and the sacrifices you are willing to make to be a follower of Christ and His teachings. You are such a blessing…

  5. says

    @ANDI – That hope that I find my tabernacle means so much. You’re so genuine, Andi. I wish we lived closer.

    @NANI – Thank you. Christ was the author of that [golden] rule.

    @UNDERSTANDING ALICE – You are such an inspiration to me. More than I’ve been able to say. Thank you.

    @YOGI – Thank you for sharing this. I have always been grateful to have met you via the Blogosphere – and also b/c of being in Tulsa and all, I’ve felt camraderie. But our connection goes to the heart of the church. I’ve always known that, but you’ve explained it more fully. It is very, very painful, and I have not even scratched the surface one what I have personally dealt with. I have bridled myself more than most would have.

  6. says

    Great post Jen. I have had similar experiences at church since Obama was elected and because I have a blog that people read. I feel like an outsider in my own church and people get real quiet around me and it hurts like crazy. Hey and I’m a Republican.

    I feel doubly bad because my wife, who is very supportive, feels triple my pain, and its because of me. So I just keep my mouth shut for the most part to try and keep the peace and feel ever more alienated as some in my acquaintance almost literally foam at the mouth when they talk about “liberals.”

    Some of the people there though seem to sense that something is wrong with me and do what they can to calm things down and I’m very grateful to them.

    This country needs a third way, or at least I do.

  7. says

    Those are some pretty deep thoughts for 2:00 a.m. and I feel your pain. You know I am not religious myself, but I am spiritual and I understand the need to feel the warmth of certainty and realness around me. I do not abide by people, institutions, or communities that are fake, unwelcoming and judging. I know what it feels like when you are amongst people who are looking for the same thing and will comfort and guide each other while searching. I also know the feeling of putting on the smile and faking it because it is the only thing to do. I hope you find your tabernacle :-)

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