I went into Wednesday night thinking, I’ll give this a try. It was the men’s bible study at this episcopal church and for whatever reason, episcopal church is synonymous with progressive in my mind, so there was excitement. An entrance into a world that was not set with evangelical short answers, but holy curiosity, and liturgy, and stained glass windows.
I walked passed the room, peering my eyes in to get a feel for those lounging on the couches and chairs, and I probably would have kept walking straight for the door had the men not noticed me, asked if they were the ones I was looking for.
I hopped in saying hey! This is the men’s group? And they all gave me introductions as I settled in the corner chair, furthest point away from the door and stayed quiet and smiled, but was completely on edge.
Really, it’s hilarious that I was even offended by the conversation that took place, because I chose a men’s group. A gender segregated study grounded in the assumption that men and women walk different avenues of faith. Separate, but equal.
Oh, if only that was all they had said. If only they had just talked about how men find God in sports or the grill or chopping wood or some other crap.
But no. This felt both completely irrelevant to me and seriously mistaken for a Bible Study. The question that we all huddled around was What does it mean to be a man? And it was made clear that the answer could only be found in scripture, so we looked at the passages about how men are fighters, the nice piece in Timothy about how stay-at-home dads are worse than nonbelievers, and then some about breaking your children (although, not everyone agreed with he who brought that up), and then the nods of agreement, exhales of pent up frustration, when we talked about how to keep The Wife from assuming our role as spiritual leader. As the medium through which she meets God.
The problem with my seat was that to leave, I would have to cut through the center of the circle to get to the door and I didn’t want to say anything. I wanted to run, but not have any of these guys chase me, ask me, what is it something we said? Because it was clear that we were living in two different universes. Reading two different books. Living in two different families. Adhering to two very different definitions of love.
So I sat there the whole hour and fifteen. Afterwards, by my car in the street, I called my mom, because that’s what I do when I’m shaking. I told her every last sexist detail of it and she was like, where are you!? as if I should be expecting her any moment to cross two hundred miles to pick me up. I said the Episcopal Church! I thought it was progressive like me! And then she laughed, and I admit, I laughed too. I told her I was smoking a cigarette outside, I needed to calm the hell down, but also, as a way to show my resistance. Mainly to show them that I was not like them.
Mainly because of the heterosexism and the ego-inflated completely by the Y chromosome in their genetic code stunk worse than the smoke. Mainly, because I was sick of going to this church and that church and finally taking time to give them a Wednesday night chance, and then finding well-meaning men with horrifying beliefs. And that was what saved me, I think. They are ignorant, I told myself, not evil.
And it is that difference that has been sawing my prejudices in half through the week up to this Sunday. The moments when I need to hear that not all Christians are like that, but not all Christians that are like that are evil.
That the ones who’s well-meaning spirits match their good loving teaching are out there, somewhere, and they are not too sophisticated, too far removed for a relationship with Jesus, and they aren’t shallow abusers of the Bible, using their relationship with Jesus as proof of their authority. These perfectly reasons Christians are out there, somewhere. And I am coming to them, sometime soon.
Venturing back into the proximity of the church, the place that can and has hurt me the most, left me feeling exhausted and strong. For now, this day, I will sit by myself drinking coffee by the big wide window. I will listen to my brother preach a sermon on podcast, or maybe download that Jonathan Martin everyone is talking about (thank you Micah.) I will not feel a bit guilty, that has no place here, and in today’s kitchen chapel, I’m not trying to hear my own frustration, I am trying to hear his loving whisper breaking through my prejudice, anger, ego and apathy. Over the fresh coffee and my laptop and the sun pressing through the window.
And this is Sunday. It is enough.