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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Like The Dopest Dope You Ever Smoked...

Sometimes I feel like a preface is necessary for the blogs I write.  This is one of those times.  Look for the imagery in the title instead of thinking I actually do drugs, because I do not.  If you do not understand why I picked the title I did after you finish reading this post, then simply move on and do not consider it anymore.  This has been the preface to the title.

The preface to the actual topic begins now...
People hide behind their keyboards all of the time and I absolutely hate that.  Rest assured that anything I write about on my blog is something I will gladly address in person if asked and is something I will entirely defend.  I will not mention names of people or places in the following post because I do not want to call out someone or something specifically just for the sake of acting like a jerk;  that is not my intention and I am not twelve years old.  I do not consider anything you are about to read as being personal to me because most of it happened in front of other people and if someone can learn something from my experiences or ideas can spark in their mind, I am happy to share.  

 This is my left wrist:
This is Hebrew and translated as literally as possible, it says "YHWH".  This is the name of God as written in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Torah, and even before that, the ancient scrolls that both of those books derive their content from.  I had this tattooed on my wrist as a constant reminder of faith.  This was done around the same time I made a conscious decision that I needed to take a hiatus from attending church regularly for a while.  I will explain why.

Growing up in a small Baptist church in Georgia was great when I was a kid.  We had a pretty large group of young people, many activities going on, and everything continued this way through my high school years.  There was not a single event that I was not involved with for the majority of my life as I ate, slept and breathed the whole experience that entire time.  When I graduated from high school, things began to change.  The natural next step for me was to go to Seminary and get a degree in Theology, but with the application/screening process it required me to take a gap year between high school graduation and my first semester.  This short period of time birthed the beginning of what eventually felt as a betrayal to me.

The sad thing is that you can divide up the negative characteristics of people in a church in the same way you can anywhere else; these people exist everywhere.  In my case, the issue I had with such a person was based around profanity.  Using the term "profanity" has never made any sense to me, so when I hear music with such words in it, well, none of that ever mattered to me.  When I was eighteen, I let a friend at the church (who was the same age) borrow a CD that had a few songs containing maybe three instances of profanity out of everything on the album.  Her father walked up to me at the following church service, rudely shoved it into my hands and told me he did not allow garbage like that in his house, as her mother looked on from a distance, with the expression on her face showing that I was the worst being ever to have been spawned on this earth.  I was an adult at the time and so was her daughter.  The fault in this situation was on her, not me.  The irony?  Both of those parents still think I am absolutely terrible and despise me to this day.  They even "told on" me to my parents, who all but laughed about it.  Church people are supposed to be different than the rest of the world, right?  In this case they were not.

My parents gave me this Bible right before I went into Seminary.  I think I have fourteen Bibles in total.
The next step that pushed me away involved my pastor at the time.  Everyone knew I was going to get a formal, Theological education and had everything lined up to do so.  My normal church attire was a nice polo shirt and khaki pants, which was essentially my daily attire in any case.  One day, after church, my pastor pulled me aside, next to my car, away from everyone and told me in a stern manner:  "If you are going to take this ministry thing seriously, you HAVE to start wearing a suit and tie to church every Sunday."  That instance was the end for me.  I was positive that God never set a requirement of wearing a certain type of clothing to me for any reason.  With that, I left the church I was actively involved with from the age of five to nineteen years old.  There were other reasons that aided my decision and most of those my age had left long before me for those very reasons, but I would rather not go into that right now.

I found a new, more modern church, a mega church, and became very active in the college program there.  At the same time, I was taking my Seminary classes from early Monday morning, until around five o'clock at night and two other weeknights.  On Mondays, I would drive down to the Georgia Tech campus every single week to help with the college ministry of my new church.  I did this for a few years and loved it.  Many new friendships were made during this time and I felt like I had finally found a place where I belonged.  All at once, I was working overtime at my job, taking nine to twelve hours of classes each semester, volunteering in the college ministry once a week, and volunteering with the high school ministry about once a month while going to church every Sunday morning and Tuesday night.  While making friends with people who were involved behind the scenes at this church, I was told that there were some financial skeletons in the closet that most in the church would not ever know about.  Hesitant as I was to believe them, eventually, this became very apparent to me.  Everyone I knew in leadership at this church knew I was a Seminary student and had no ambition in life other than working in the field full-time as my career.  A single spot in the college ministry came up for an internship and three of us applied for that place.  Maybe it was silly of me to assume that I would be a shoe-in for this, but I assumed I had a pretty decent shot because I was well-liked, very motivated, and was two years deep into the degree directly linked to the internship.  I did not get the internship.  I found out a few months later that the young woman (a friend of mine) who did get the spot was the only one considered for the position.  You see, her dad is a multi-millionaire who donates large amounts of money to the church;  she majored in structural engineering at Georgia Tech and wanted the internship to fulfill some type of extra-curricular requirement in her sorority.  She had no intention of going into ministry after college, and she works for an engineering firm currently.  Money controls everything...

These are some of the textbooks I have kept from my days in Seminary.  I have a box somewhere with more in it stored away somewhere.

After all of this church drama, one would think that I could at least have solitude in my studies.  This did not happen.  You see, my school was funded by the Southern Baptist Convention and the church I belonged to was of independent doctrine, which meant I could attend the school, but my tuition would cost me one-third more per credit hour than a student belonging to an SBC church.  The Dean of the school had a looming disgust for me and actually failed me out of a class just because he could do so.  I am not just saying that, because I had another professor who befriended me read over my papers and he found nothing wrong with them.  There was nothing I could do, nor my educator friend because their policy said student's grades were at the discretion of individual professors.  After that point, I simply avoided classes the Dean was teaching and everything worked well until my last semester.    

One semester from graduation, I was pulled from class and told by someone in accounting that I owed my tuition for my last semester before they gave me zero's on my transcript and ruined my 3.4GPA standing.  Tuition at this time, was now two-thirds more per credit hour for me as compared to the rest of the students as well.  My bank had sent them a check for that amount which was tacked onto my student loan.  I called the bank to confirm and they said the school's office had rejected the check and mailed it back to them.  Returning to the school, the woman at the accounting desk told me they rejected the check because they no longer accepted checks from my bank, due to their "moral and ethical practices"  the school did not agree with.  I had to come up with more than three thousand dollars in cash or withdraw by the end of the day.  I had no choice and withdrew, thinking I would save a bit and return after a semester off.

I tried to enroll after a semester's hiatus and was rejected.  My GPA had fallen to a 1.2 because the classes I had withdrawn from were not dropped by the registrar's office as they should have been.  I was told I had to write a letter to Dean on the main campus of the school in another state and wait for a response.  In the meantime, they decided to charge me for those classes and I received letters and phone calls from their business office threatening to send this amount to collections, not only for the classes they should have dropped, but classes "I registered for" the following semester as well (which could not have happened since I had not set foot on campus during that time).

After talking about this with a friend of mine who worked on staff at the Seminary, she told me about a meeting she was involved with which discussed student demographics.  I was the only student in the entire school who was not affiliated with the SBC and the higher-ups actually made it impossible for me to return for my last semester of school.  My friend revealed all of this to me on her own, privately after she was fired from her position at the school.  Why?  A pastor she worked for five years prior came out of the closet as a homosexual in 2010.  The school fired her because she worked for this man five years before he confessed to homosexuality.  The sickening thing about my situation and that of my friend is that there is nothing either of us can do as the school is entirely private.

I feel as if I have been continually wronged by the church over the past few years.  This is not a pity party on my end at all, but an expression of truth for me.  This is not to dissuade anyone from going to church in the least bit because if you find some place you enjoy and are deeply involved with, I wish you all the best and think that is fantastic.  You keep doing your thing and give all of the glory to God.  As for me?  I have had trust issues with the church for the past three years and have gone randomly, but not steadily.  I know people who say they do not go to church because they are fulfilled in other ways, when the reality is that they are just too lazy to go and could benefit from it if they made the effort.  I also know people who would love to go to church but have a nasty hangover every Sunday morning.  

I do not drink at all anymore, I do not go out to party very often, I do not do drugs,  I try to be as honest as I can be to everyone,  I try to be caring, and none of that has anything to do with my religion and I certainly do not try to push my own faith, beliefs, and choices on anyone else.  The former are all by personal choice and we are all given the right and freedom to make those choices.  The thing about me is my faith in God is strong, stronger than it has ever been and I have the education to back up what I believe.  I still love it entirely.  I trust my beliefs and try to be an inspiration to others even though I fall way too short and will never be good enough for myself, much less God.  The fact of the matter is that I do not trust the church anymore, and for the time being, I truly feel I am better off spiritually without it.  This may change sometime, but probably not soon.  It is just something I have to go through myself and figure out on my own.  I think people assume I have fallen away from my faith when I decline church invitations from them, but I am at a really good place, believe me.  I only tell the truth.

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:


1 comment:

  1. Grace and peace to you, Drew. I found your blog while looking up cars on craigslist - always an entertaining afternoon past time! I hear what you're saying loud and clear and I'm so sorry this kind of thing keeps happening. I pray for you to find a place to worship together with sincere Christian family soon. We all must pray continually for God's mercy upon us.