Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Testimony Part I: I started out as a child

I was born into a "christian" home; and attended church regularly until I graduated from high school. I put christian in quotes because the church teaching gave me no grounding in the Bible, theology or doctrine; and my parents dropped the kid's off at church on Sundays so they could be alone - so our home was not really christian based. I was very active as a youth in my church: was a junior deacon; chancel assistant; attended the national church organization's annual convention as a youth representative; and was the youth representative on the committee that selected our new pastor.

Racism, since I can remember, has been wrong to me. Some of this was my mom's lessons - although while I drew anti-racism beliefs from what she taught, my sister's drew the opposite. I take this as gifting from God to me. I grew up in southwest Missouri. Joplin was racially divided: Jasper County was 99% white, all 1% of the blacks lived in Joplin, all in the same geographical area with the only paved road being the one that went through the neighborhood. Luckily for me I always seemed (at least after grade school) to be in the school with the black kids. One of my best friends was black (no thats not a joke). Roland B. and I attended Jr. High and High school together. On weekends during high school, he and I plus John W., a catholic friend of mine, would go out to a 5 acre farm and hang out and have fun. More on Roland in a minute.

The National Council of Community Churches (of which my church was a member) as a whole was about 70% Black (my church 100% white). As a youth representative I was a minority white. There were some interesting experiences in this: cross burnings, black girlfriends (with accompanying threats by my mom), etc. The most important thing for this thread is attending a church conference in Gunnison, CO - and seeing how the minister there had dealt with racism in a mixed church population (fairly rare now, real rare then).

The threads came together to blow me out of my church. Our church needed a new pastor and one of the candidates was that "great pastor" who combated racism in Gunnison. In a close vote, my support for him on the racism issue gave him the job. Back to Roland: John W., Roland and I would come into town on Sunday mornings from the country and hit our respective churches. I didn't have to attend every week; but Roland and John W. did. So I would go to both of their churches sometimes before we went back out to the farm. When it came time for me to serve as junior Deacon, I told my pastor (the anti-racism one) a week in advance that a black friend of mine would be attending. I did this because I did not wish to create a controversy (it would) without the pastor knowing about it in advance.

BOOM!: The pastor begged me not to bring Roland: the church wasn't ready, but would be some day; we needed to have a plan; blah blah blah. I left the church that day telling the pastor that when the church was ready to welcome Roland - they could welcome me too. The church I had attended and been active in for 17 years did not bat an eye on my leaving.

Teenagers are rightfully on high hypocrisy alert; and the lack of Biblical grounding didn't allow me to separate the human teaching and mistakes of christians (and indeed expect them) from the teachings and love of Christ. I had placed my faith in men rather than God and, of course, been let down.

Next Post: It's All Downhill for a Ways