15 March 2010
Breaking up is hard to do
I broke up with my church a couple months ago. It was as filled with heartache and questioning as every one of my many, many breakups with men have been.
It took as long, too - I never break up without months and months of rumination, mulling, obsession.
In essence, I handled my church breakup in the same messed-up, immature way that I have handled the end of all of my romantic relationships: badly.
I realized a long time ago that I wasn't getting what I wanted from my church. It started when I became a board member. Unfortunately, I got a peek at the man behind the curtain and found out it wasn't The Great Oz back there.
My first issue was with the church tithe. As a church, we take a collection and then give a tithe of 10 percent of all we take in. Fairly standard.
At my old church, the board voted every month on which community organizations or larger non-profits received the tithe. At this church, the pastor decided how to tithe to "our spiritual sources." Meaning we gave money to other churches and speakers that inspired us. Some of them were churches that were run by friends and relatives. Some of them donated their tithe back to us.
That just didn't pass the sniff test with me. I brought it up to the pastor but got shot down. That's the way we do it, she said.
Also, I never fit in on the board. I'm not a team player and never have been, but I really tried. It just seemed that I was always saying or doing the wrong thing or asking the wrong question at the wrong time.
You know how it is? When you feel like you just don't fit and there is nothing you can do to make it right? I was the proverbial square peg.
My feelings really got hurt last year, though, when Curt died. I had to miss a board meeting to go to his memorial service and I let the rest of the board know where I was going and why.
Silence. Members of my board, my church board, didn't send one email or make one phone call of condolence or even acknowledgment.
Meanwhile, I posted about what was going on. I got comments, emails, tweets, phone calls. My online friends reached out and offered comfort, help, a listening ear, a place to stay if I wanted to get away. The irony did not escape me - people I had never met in person were kinder to me than my "church family."
I sent another email where I mentioned what had happened and how upsetting it had been. I got just one response - from a woman who isn't on the board anymore but who is still on the email list.
It really broke my heart. I took a giant step back. I did what I do in every relationship where I feel disrespected and unloved: I checked out. Blanked out. Cut my emotional ties.
I guess I could have said "Hey, you really hurt my feelings when you didn't acknowledge that I had lost someone," but that would have been entirely too mature and healthy.
So I had a dilemma. It was the end of February and my board term didn't end 'til December. I didn't feel like I could quit. So I slogged it out the rest of the year, barely showing up and putting forth the most minimal, grudging effort.
I don't know if anyone noticed or cared. If they did, they didn't say anything.
This is another of my sick-head patterns, too. I feel like I have some obligation where I can't get out, so I just go through the motions until the exit door opens and I leap out quickly.
But it's also one of my former church's sick-head patterns - you can flake out as badly as you want and everyone just tiptoes around pretending it never happened.
The annual member meeting, my last responsibility, was on January 10.
The Haiti earthquake happened two days later and it hurt my heart. I think when a great tragedy happens, the whole world feels the pain, and I felt awful for the people of Haiti. The next Sunday I went to church, hoping that we would spend some time praying and healing together.
Not a word. Not a word about Haiti. Not a prayer, not a song. The message that Sunday prominently featured something about the movie "Psycho." It was supposed to be funny. I just sat there, listening everyone else laugh at the funny story, feeling the air grow still and icy around me. I knew that was the last time. I knew the exit door was wide open and I had to go.
The next week I went down the street to the other wacky new-agey church. I walked in late and they were talking about the concert they were putting on for Haiti. Then they talked about how they have a "circle of caring" to help members who need meals, visits, rides to the doctor or other help. I checked into how they use their tithe, and it goes to non-profits who help people in the community.
I sat down. I got comfortable. I think I might stay for a while.