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Foot-In-Mouth Disease IS Curable … Sorta’

Foot-In-Mouth Disease IS Curable … Sorta’

se·man·tics
səˈman(t)iks
noun
the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. There are a number of branches and subbranches of semantics, including formal semantics, which studies the logical aspects of meaning, such as sense, reference, implication, and logical form, lexical semantics, which studies word meanings and word relations, and conceptual semantics, which studies the cognitive structure of meaning.

the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text.

plural noun: semantics
“such quibbling over semantics may seem petty stuff”

There is an outcry going on for Christians who are attending churches where the theology, etc, are bad to leave those churches (and seek new faith homes).  The Twitter hashtag to follow the conversations is #EmptyThePews. The most current discussions on this are based on the failure of many prominent Evangelical church leaders to rebuke President Donald Trump’s statements on the tragedy at Charlottesville, VA.

My brain went straight to seeing spaces where there used to be faces in the congregation and one of two things happening:

  1. No one noticing … or possibly even caring that some were missing.
  2. Someone noticing some were missing, but not understanding why and not present enough to ever ask.

What I said on Twitter was:

“Leaving bad churches is wrong. Change the church you’re in. If you don’t, it never changes & healing never comes. Don’t #EmptyThePews 1/2”

“2/2 Stay in the pews and #EmptyThePulpits. Replace #plasticpreacher power mongers with true witnesses for Christ. #riseupchurch!”

The semantics I used in constructing my tweet sucked fetid air, and for that I apologize.

I created a misunderstanding, parts of which were/are/will be beneficial to my own education, but failed to make clear what I meant.  The key parts beneficial to me:

One participant righteously asked of my tweet, “Is that an order? Or my choice? 😐 thanks for judgement 👌🏽” It sure sounded like it was an order and, again, I do apologize for my poor choice in wording. I wasn’t ordering. I was, however, admittedly imploring, but even then in a way that wasn’t clear and for which, I had not considered any of the following points:

  • Mega-Churches
    I have never been to one, have no desire to go to one and, in fact, pretty much solidly don’t like or even approve of them – not even the Methodist mega-churches. I’m not even wild about churches with attendance in the “hundreds”.  My home church typically has Sunday morning attendance of <70, one church I subbed at over a two-year period had attendance of <60, and another I speak at occasionally has attendance of <40 … easily. I do not have a permanent appointment at this time, but have specifically requested to be considered for smaller churches of <100.
  • Personal Safety
    There are those among us who are extremely vulnerable and are targeted by bad theology and, even worse, bad theologians. Acknowledged. Outraged that anyone has to suffer this in a church of all places.
  • Wrongful Involuntary Unintended Assumption
    I acknowledge that some (many?) have been fighting for change for far longer than just the present times. My brain didn’t pick up on that. Again, I apologize.

On a separate note: To the person whose response implied, “you’re a woman, sit down, shut up, 1 Timothy says so”, I offer absolutely no apology. Just making that clear and adding this, “Dude(tte?), I forgive you, but … Grow up. If this was an attempt at sarcasm (yes, I looked at your profile and tweets) about a book you don’t like, next time practice self-control. It wasn’t your argument.  If you really believe what you said, go apologize to your momma for somehow thinking she and every woman like her are less than equal to you and to God for belittling half His children. Meanwhile, I’ll pray for your soul.”

Back to the task at hand.

  • I, again (and again and again ad infinitum), apologize for miss-stating myself on this and inadvertently offending anyone.
  • Some may need to leave quietly because of circumstances, I get that (see above).
  • Some may need to leave quietly and quickly for personal safety, I get that (see above).

I hope that’s now clear.  And I pray that the point I failed to make will now be made clear and perhaps benefit those who actually take the time to read this article. But … as I said above … I used bad semantics in the Twitter post when I was trying to verbalize that thought, and it resulted in an initial conversation that went sideways (deservedly, so).

My gut reaction to #EmptyThePews was, “Oh, but wait!”

Ask any of my pastors for the past 10+ years and they’ll tell you I don’t have a problem saying, “Oh, but wait!”

Or, ask my mother who’s known me all my life.

Or those I worked with in the state-wide American Indian community, anyone who has the misfortune of representing me in Government, people affiliated with running the schools where my children attend(ed)  … you get the idea, and this list could get long – I’ve been this way for most of my 60 years.

Please also understand, I’ve been an unofficial but constantly practicing agent of change for many years. I’m a stand and fight for what I believe in and love kind of woman.  It was natural to who I am for me to react in the way I did and my thought for a few days now has been:

“If people just up and leave, nothing changes.”

And I still believe that.  Even in the church-related situations listed above that, now that I’ve been reminded of them, warrant departure, I’m the one that wouldn’t leave quietly, whether it was vocally on my way out the door, publicly via social media or letters to the editor of the local newspaper, or through letters to the chain of command upward from the specific church.  I’m the one that has never done much of anything like that “quietly”.

Because I watch so many of today’s good theologians and progressive Christian leaders (some of whom were participating in my now regrettably infamous Twitter thread) speak out candidly on so many church-related things, I (cue Wrongful Involuntarily UnintentionallyASSumed most people reading my tweet would share my point of view.

My viewpoint/opinion was based on the lens of my own experience:  I was born in the 50s, a child in the 60s, a teen in the 70s, survived the 80s, parented in the 90s through now. Churches were the center of local culture.  You didn’t schedule secular things on Wednesday evenings because that was “church night” and you knew every kid in town was going to be at youth group (where I come from, they didn’t do Wednesday night services or fellowship meals; that was YOUTH night). Schools were the venue for secular activities, but churches controlled the community calendar by and large. The ministers and priests got together over dinner at local restaurants and communicated with one another. Most of us had never heard of a non-denominational church, let alone a mega-church.

Even today in the communities I grew up in, inter-denominational events are not unusual and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you still don’t schedule non-church activities on Wednesdays.

Now add the lens of someone who will be (hopefully) appointed to an existing church (as opposed to a new church plant). Basically, I’m going to walk into someone else’s interpretations and theology, more than likely someone who is far more conservative (from a faith standpoint) than I am by virtue of where I live.  This area was divided during the Civil War, remained divided after including division within my denomination in this area, and voted heavily for the person at the core of what triggered the whole #EmptyThePews hashtag.

So now who is the one that’s going to (at least initially) be accused of bad theology?

You know what they say: “A progressive southern woman preacher’s work is never done …”.

So, please allow me to reword my original tweet as follows:

“I cannot participate in #EmptyThePews without doing everything possible to change the church I’m in if it needs changing. If I don’t stay and fight for it, it has no hope, it won’t change, & healing will never come. Further, I will feel forever guilty for walking away knowing I left a dying patient on the table. FOR ME PERSONALLY, it is better to stay. FOR ME PERSONALLY, it’s better to try to re-educate.  I pray I’m not alone in this, but if I am, so be it.”

For the participants in the thread especially and for any others, thank you for taking time to read through this and if I’m STILL not being clear or you STILL feel like I’m judging, tell me so (Twitter: @SheSeesFar).  And please accept my apology for at least the initial “failure to communicate”.

And to the leadership of mainline denominations and their many churches, stand up, damn it, and call out those Evangelical leaders who are silent or sinning against God by condoning in any way (even their silence) the sin of racism, marginalization and oppression.  Of ANYone.