Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales of the Lovelorn; Or Christians Behaving Badly

Yesterday afternoon a friend of ours who's a gifted carpenter came by, vehicle loaded with an impressive array of power tools, to help us in our ongoing garage renovations -- to finish a window and doorways, to cut down a workbench to a reasonable height.

Our friend has just gotten out of a disastrous relationship -- controlling behavior, passive aggression, belittling/patronizing, lying and, it turns out, infidelity.

"I just want to find someone nice," our friend said, sadly. "Why is that so hard?"

Making things worse was the other party's wearing of religion on her sleeve: Her sending her kids to parochial schools; two previous relationships sanctified in a church setting; her disapproval of our friend for "not wanting to talk about faith stuff."

"I have a whole new perspective on the kind of people who go to church," our friend muttered.


This type of behavior -- in the lesbian community and in the Christian community alike -- disheartens me. I hate the idea that someone who is not a part of the faith community can be hurt so badly by a fruitcake Christian; someone who doesn't get the idea that, as Christians, our relationships need to be grounded in mutual, self-giving respect and love. I also hate the idea of involving minor children -- and they will be involved, no matter what school they go to or how many weekends they're sent to the non-custodial parent or how platonic their parent attempts to paint her or his latest love interest -- in serial relationships.

Yes, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yes, church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. No, we don't always live up to our reputations as followers of Christ. No, we don't always treat other people, including our loved ones, the way we wish to be treated. But you know what? First we need to get honest about that, and then we make an effort to change the behaviors we know hurt other people and keep us from our own potential as persons who help mend the broken places in the world. We make ourselves accountable to something other than our own inclinations at any given moment.

It seems to me, in my currently peevish frame of mind, that 12-Step programs seem to do a better job at this than most churches. But even then, "First you need to admit that you have a problem."


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

You don't know you have a problem if you are dense or if nobody has told you you have a problem. Many people don't see that if they continue to have problems with others, that the common denominator is them. Duh, right. No, not so. And if they go to counseling, the counselor may see things, but not everything, because that person only reveals so much. I think that people just hope believing overcomes a lot of sh__ from the past. It doesn't.

LutheranChik said...

And because this ex-friend is not a part of our own circle of friends, we're not in a position to confront her about her behavior and its consequences for the people around her, most especially her young kids.

I know infidelity, along with abuse, are my two relational lines in the sand; but constant belittling and controlling -- this individual made our friend make actual appointments to see her, then ducked out half the time (which sent us major danger-Will-Robinson signals), got upset when our friend didn't answer the phone, pooh-poohed my friend's hobbies and interests and made it clear that she thought she was her intellectual superior...just a lot of sick, dysfunctional behavior going on. And when people are very lonely they may put up with this for awhile. But it's not right. And at some point you wonder, when this individual was sitting in church Sunday after Sunday, going through the corporate Confession, hearing the lessons and the sermons...what was she hearing, really?

angela said...

I agree about everything--too many people sit in pews and don't live day-to-day with the knowledge of the Spirit--no conviction seems to hit them. Sometimes I've felt like this is the drawback of sticking to lectionary, but then there are so many positives too.

And I do think we are supposed to deal with people and hold them accountable when we belong to their family but that is definitely not done much. Sometimes I wish everyone had a personal coach--

So sorry for your friend. It just takes years to find it in ourselves to forgive--that has been something God has helped me do on occasion and what a relief. The best revenge is living a happy life and not even noticing that person on the radar anymore.

mompriest said...

and then you have to make ammends....the steps hold people accountable to past, present, and future, behavior...good stuff for everyone, not just those in recovery.....

sigh. so very sad for your friend and those involved in this situation, and others like it.

Jo said...

In my experience these people use the sermon and readings as opportunities to collect sticks to beat others with and can sit through what ought to be the most obvious wakeup calls (motes and beams, depart I never knew you etc) with perfect equanimity. Then there are the ones who are drifting off thinking of what to have for dinner and what on earth Maisie was thinking when she wore that dress this morning.

LutheranChik said...

Narcissistic personality disorder may be at work here as well -- someone who sees everyone and everything as simply an extension of herself, who gets angry when one of these "things" doesn't adequately do her bidding.

Diane said...

yes, I feel sad for your friend. I've always liked the fact that our church stuck to weekly confession, where are lot of churches are getting away from it, because, you know, confessing your sins is a downer, and people don't like to be called "sinners." To me, confessing is saying, "I have a problem." But maybe people can do it every week without ever really realizing how it applies to them personallly.