Kari’s father was a minister at our Baptist church. Did I mention our church was Baptist? It was.

I’ve since left the Church (capital C). I guess she, being a pastor’s kid, hasn’t. Which is okay, of course. I had my reasons for leaving, and I’m sure she had her reasons for staying, and neither of us is right or wrong, we’re just different.

Saturday was my first time inside a Baptist church in years. It was a lovely one, as far as Baptist churches go. I think because it was one of the First Baptist variety. Those tend to be fancier than the congregationalist ones that meet inside school gymnasiums and old movie theatres.

Our church growing up was in an abandoned outlet mall. Another reason early ’90s department store decor creeps me the hell out.

There was even some stained glass at this First Baptist church. It was enormous, of course, but still had a somewhat intimate, traditional feel to it. Vaulted, beamed ceilings. I’m not good at measuring distances, but they were very high. Several stories high.

Ever-practical Boyfriend asked me how they change the lightbulbs. I told him they didn’t need to because of God. It was like the menorah.

The service was, of course, extremely evangelical. It was shocking, the way the pastor spoke with such emotion in his voice, like he was about to burst into tears with every word, like Sally Struthers in those commercials talking about saving the children, like he was God himself speaking to us. Maybe he really does think he is.

He emphasized how important it is to have God at the center of a marriage. I began to wonder about my own feelings regarding marriage. How impossible it is. How we’re not built for it. How it’s outdated. How it’s historically misogynistic. How it’s a social construct imposed upon us to propagate the species while maintaining order and civility.

Maybe the thing that was missing from my marriage was God. Maybe marriage really is impossible without Him. But either way I’m not sure I’m willing to try again.

Of all the things, the pastor got the reading of I Corinthians 13 wrong. He said, “Love is not patient, love is not kind.” Then he corrected himself and said, “Love is kind,” but he left the “not patient” hanging out there in the silence.

When he said, “Let’s pray,” the entire congregation bowed their heads except me (an Episcopalian who now often prays by reading words off a page) and Boyfriend (an apathetic Deist who’s attended church only a handful of times in his life, most of them with me).

We sat there with our eyes open, looking straight ahead at all the bare necks in front of us. I wondered when it was I stopped bowing my head. He was probably thinking about his new video game. Which is okay, of course.

We find God in different places, in different ways, all of us. None of us is right or wrong, we’re just different.

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7 Responses to Baptists

  1. Julienne says:

    I’ve been having similar thoughts go through my head about whether a marriage is doomed to fail without God. I’m a believer, the verdict is still out with the boy and our wedding is less than four months away. Neither of our parents are believers and have nearly 65 years of happy marriages between them. I’m still not sure what I think, but I know that I will marry that boy and we’ll do the best we can with what we’re given and I’m not sure I can ask for anything more than that. 🙂

  2. pinksilkjournal says:

    I don’t like evangelical wedding ceremonies. I feel that it’s kind of like ear-rape for your wedding guests, because if they want to witness your wedding they must suffer through a half hour of beliefs that might not be theirs. Or yours. Also, the ceremony, imho, should be the shortest part of the wedding, and the celebration/party/funtimes should be the best part of the whole shebang.

  3. Deb says:

    In the many discussions I’ve had with both believers and non about marriage, I keep coming up with this- most people will leave a marriage after awhile unless they have something keeping them together, such as the belief that marriage is a holy covenant with God. Otherwise, what’s to stop you from leaving when the other person doesn’t make you happy anymore? Even in my short and very happy marriage, I could have already picked a reason to cut loose (he wants to move, I don’t, I have to give up my job for him, but I don’t want to…).

    I’m just saying that if I personally didn’t believe that ending my marriage would be breaking a covenant I’d made with my Heavenly Father, I would probably give up, because otherswise, it’s too hard. But, trusting that my husband believes the same things as me about marriage takes away a huge amount of fear and uncertainty. What’s left is freedom to grow together and make mistakes knowing that the other is going to love you in the model of Christ. And that works for me.

    • Kathleen says:

      I agree with this wholeheartedly. Marriage is hard, but it’s the best thing I ever did because I get to experience (in an imperfect way) the unconditional love of God through my husband. Also, there is absolutely nothing else that can teach me in quite the same way how to be more like Christ.

  4. Holly says:

    I just found out about a month ago about how they change those lights way up high. I had a patient doing some exercises while looking out the window, and she noticed a little bird caught by its foot upside down in the power lines, struggling to get free. She called city hall first, but of course they did not come to the rescue. Then she called her husband and he came, assessed the situation, called his pastor, got into their church, and came back with this huge long pole with a cup on the end, and said that it was the thing they use to change light bulbs. He scooped the little bird up and it flew away.
    I had actually never thought the bulbs before, but I do remember spending many sermons when I was younger imagining myself swinging from chandelier to chandelier.

  5. Word Perv says:

    God, or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with the failing of my marriage. Ultimately we wanted different things and though we tried to align them, we couldn’t. Well, we tried for a bit, then we ignored them and pretended everything was fabulous. Then we booked a vacation to Paris and pretended some more. Then we returned home and 2 weeks later separated, realizing the pretending wasn’t fixing anything. All that aside, it wasn’t the lack of God that lead to my marriage crumbling, it was a lack of us being able to make it work. Sometimes things simply don’t work out. And as my therapist reminded me multiple times in those months following the separation and leading up to the ultimate divorce, love is NOT all you need. It takes a lot more than that to make it work.

  6. mrs. darling says:

    i grew up baptist. spent two years (after college) in west africa as a baptist missionary. fast forward six years (and an african civil war, PTSD diagnosis and the baptists washing their hands of me) and i now find myself struggling to feel at home in any church. my faith is in Jesus and it is firm. but church? religion? i’m so disgusted with it i could puke. it’s hard to be in this place…

    and about marriage. i absolutely believe that my marriage would not have survived the past 4.5 years if it were not for Christ being at the center of it. we have been to hell and back more than once. and more than once i had every valid opportunity to walk away. but i stayed. and so did he. because of the covenant we made to each other and God. and marriage has taught me more about grace and mercy, more about Christ than anything else in my life. and no doubt our marriage will not survive the coming years if it is not centered on Him.

    and i completely agree with word perv…love is NOT enough.

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