From J.S. Park/The Atheist Pastor: “My Brother Got In A Fight At Church Today”

A friend of mine posted this on his Tumblr blog last night and I thought it definitely worth a repost.

One caveat: It involves the Catholic church but it is not about the Catholic church. As J.S. said in a follow-up comment on Facebook, “The sad thing is that it’s already receiving backlash because some are making it a “Catholic” issue. I’m hearing that him being yelled at is an “acceptable reaction” at a Catholic Church. But if I wouldn’t have even mentioned that part, then it would be completely unacceptable whether it’s at a mosque, synagogue, gym, or school club. I have nothing against Catholics at all, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have brought that up because now the focus is in justifying it. It’s an irredeemable abuse of authority, in any type of church, anywhere. (emphasis: mine)

Yes, J.S. got/gets a little heated; justifiably so IMHO. His point still stands, whether it be how someone eats a wafer, how they dress, how their kids act, etc., etc. The part of this judgmental mindset we (as church-goers) tend to miss is that Church is, was, and always will be until Jesus’ return, a hospital, not a country club. The part of this scenario we are overlooking is that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if these people weren’t there in the first place! Where they (and we) should be! Where they (and we) should feel safe, accepted, welcome, needed, encouraged…

And corrected, yes, but only if this correction falls under Jesus own model. The adulterous woman comes to mind, the woman at the well…

Jesus called out the Pharisees as well, but if you remember correctly, these were the men that felt they had the law down, they knew, just knew, they were right. And, to them, that was everything, to be right; to keep order; to make sure the faithful ate those wafers in just the right way…

Anyway, here’s J.S. Park to tell the whole story, I’d love your take on this topic and J.S.’ as well as his brother’s reaction to it all:

My Brother Got In A Fight At Church Today.

My brother does not regularly attend church, and today he was yelled at in front of an entire Catholic Mass because he broke the communion wafer.

A lady at the altar accused him of “sharing the cracker with his girlfriend,” so my brother opened his mouth to show her the entire thing — already an embarrassing gesture — and the lady called him a liar.  Repeatedly.  My brother argued back, it became loud and heated, and then he walked out.

My brother didn’t know this was a rule, and neither did I — but even if it’s a rule, this is not how you handle things.

The most hurtful thing though is that my brother texted:

“I’ve never been picked on anywhere else except in church. When I went as a kid, those older kids bullied me.  I’m trying to find out the truth but these people won’t let me.”

I felt sick to my stomach.  I remembered when my dad took us to church a few times and those older kids mocked us every Sunday.  They only stopped after I splashed a cup of water in one of their faces.

This is exactly why I was an atheist for over half my life.  And I completely, totally, overwhelmingly understand my brother.

He is genuinely curious about faith — but the church has gotten in the way.  The egotistical few who care so much about their stupid “sacred” rules over living breathing human beings are the very reason that people think the church is a joke, and one jerk makes us all look the same.

I don’t mean to disparage the Catholic Church.  It’s not about that, at all.  I know the church sometimes gets an unfair reputation too.  But if your faith is making you more of a jerk and less gracious, there’s absolutely no point to your faith.  Zero.  It’s better you toss that out the window and start over.

If you’re using the Bible as a weapon against others instead of a mirror to truly examine yourself first, then you have nothing to do with God.  You’re in it for yourself.

I know that no church is perfect.  No community can cater to your every need.  And church-people don’t always accurately reflect who God is.  But every week, I keep hearing about how Christians are hurting other Christians, and I’m so helplessly outraged.  Not even normal everyday people do the kind of crap that so-called Christians do.  I keep remembering that my deepest hurts came from other ministries, from racism and nepotism and favoritism and gossiping and straight up two-faced betrayal.  I’ve met some of these popular Christian bloggers, and the majority of them were a-holes.  I’ve met some megachurch pastors, and a handful of them only lust after the money and the power.  Even deacons in the background be creeping for prestige like a title means so much to them.  I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of some of these things too.

I love my brother.  He’s one of my best friends and one of the greatest people I know.  He’s at least twice as smart as me and he’s been running his own business for over the last half-decade. He is not the kind of person to get in a shouting match this way.  And it’s amazing to me, a damn miracle, that my brother still wants to attend church.  He still wants to go next Sunday.  He still wants to know about God.  Even after being shouted down in front of an entire congregation, he is still seeking.  I think honestly that this is so much more grace than I’ve seen from even the best Christians that I know.

So I exhort you two things.

That 1) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you’re just a jerk, then step down.  Immediately.  Don’t lead again until you realize that unless your idea of God is making you more gracious, however imperfectly, then you’re still just playing around with religion.

And 2) If you’re in a position of authority at church and you have anger issues, then get some help.  Get counseling and mentoring and go to a recovery group.  Your anger doesn’t just “get better” over time.  Get the help, or other people will suffer.  You don’t want to stand before God to explain that one day.

Please pray for my brother.  Pray for our churches.  Pray for grace to permeate our ministries.

God, forgive us for lifting up our buildings higher than You.

— J

(He’s also on Tumblr as well, and worth the follow! )

4 thoughts on “From J.S. Park/The Atheist Pastor: “My Brother Got In A Fight At Church Today””

    1. Thank you! It’s easy to forget sometimes that we don’t simply attend the church, we ARE the church. J.S. will be happy to read your comment as well.

  1. The examples you share are heartbreaking. While these things should never happen, they sometimes do. This is also a reminder for us to look around in our congregations for those who seem alone and to offer our fellowship. Church should be a place where people feel love and acceptance. My church is generally filled with loving people, but there was a time when a leader (NOT the minister) shouted at my teenage daughter and really hurt her feelings in front of a group of people. He didn’t realize she couldn’t hear him (hearing loss like me). I gave him a royal chewing out in my mind—mama bear to the rescue. I realized, though, that I attend church to worship God and to renew my covenants with him—–and I could never let someone else’s behavior cause me to stay at home.

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