Tuesday, July 05, 2005

You can check out any time you like....

Laura and I were having our first major conflict of married life. She didn't want to leave Victory and I was feeling increasingly constricted by the rules and traditions that were part and parcel of independent Baptist life. And make no mistake- fundamental Baptists have holy traditions too. Ties on the men. No pants for the women. No rock music. I sold my soul for the acceptance I craved, and I had had enough. The acceptance I received wasn't worth the price I had to pay. I still liked going to Mass every once in awhile. Charismatics were no more "fleshly" than Baptist pastors who demanded unquestioning obedience.

We decided that once the baby was born and they threw us a baby shower, we would leave. I began to scout out other churches, found some I liked, took Laura to some of them. The baby was due on February 3rd, the baby shower would likely come a couple of weeks after, and then we would fly. A simple plan, if it hadn't been for my conscience. We were going to use these people for what they could give us and then leave them. That wasn't right. Finally, with the ETA of the baby two weeks off, we just decided to go. It wasn't a popular decision, of course, and we faced the scorn of people we thought were our friends. But we stuck to our guns. We stayed Baptist, joining First Baptist Church in Elyria a few weeks after leaving Victory.

Why was this such a hard decision? Because independent fundamental Baptist churches are very close-knit, at least within themselves. New families are lavished with attention. I was an especially prized trophy because I had been to so many churches and had finally "seen the light". And quite frankly, I dug that. I liked the attention. I liked being the door-to-door partner of the pastor. I liked hearing my name from the pulpit. To admit that this wasn't heaven on earth was a hard thing to do.

It has been five years since we left Victory. After we left the bleeding began, and Victory lost close to 100 members before the wound closed. And I am not happy about that. People left for valid reasons, for the most part, but for me to dance on Victory's grave would be wrong. I have made my amends with Pastor Smale and I consider him to be a friend. He has gone through a lot. His daughter was born with Down's Syndrome and died when she was four years old. His wife had brain surgery a few years ago. He has my respect because he has stayed faithful to what he believes even in the midst of heartache.

It's too easy to place a label on someone and say that you know them. Fundamentalist. Liberal. Democrat. Republican. But the labels don't make the man.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mollie had a benign tumor. It was on the audio nerve not the brain. It was not life threatening, and most likely had been growing many years before detected. She is additcted to playing the martyr.

12:29 AM  
Blogger zanne said...

I am a survivor!

7:53 PM  

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