I have a problem


Today is the 8th day of Lent.

Over the last year I’ve become aware of a problem that I have. It’s my problem. It originates within me. It has no connection to any external reality that would indicate blame or responsibility for any person or organization outside of myself. Not only do I acknowledge that this is my problem, I don’t expect anyone to do anything to solve it for me. If I am to overcome this problem, the solution will come from a change within my own heart.

I can’t imagine how anyone could own a problem more fully than I just did.

So here is the problem: I am filled with feelings of loathing whenever I come across an evangelical church. This could be just about any blonde-pewed, thick carpeted, center-pulpited, matching suit and hair cut pastored, arm waving music ministered church I come in contact with. These feelings are more intensely directed toward stand-alone mega churches that create their own insular world, independent of any denominational or ecclesial authority.

Rarely have I experienced feelings so powerful and so isolated from rational thinking. If I’m driving by The Family Church or Harvest Kingdom Fellowship or Riverside Blue Jean Chapel, I look away. I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to go inside them. The thought of the rousing hymn singing, the suited ministers with large smiles, and the oversized study bibles being toted around by smiling members fills me with dark feelings. It makes me think there is no way there can be a God.

The hymns by Fanny Crosby and the “praise and worship” music pouring out of these churches turns my mind away from God. I can’t bear to hear that music anymore.

I did confess that the problem is solely mine, remember? So if these descriptions remind you of your church, forgive me. It’s my problem, and I’m seeking help through open confession.

I accept these feelings as a message from my unconscious that tells me I have some work to do. I suspect I have wounds and resentments from the years I tried so hard to be part of that world while feeling so deeply conflicted about it. I have work to do, but I don’t know what kind of work. And I don’t know how to get started.

Maybe this is how one gets started with this kind of work. By owning up to a thing and then paying attention to stirrings of the heart and wisdom from without.


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  • Rachel Barenblat

    I hear you, with love.

    When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I understood my job description to be sitting with people, lovingly, and manifesting the listening ear of God — whether or not they “believed” in “God,” or what form their beliefs took. I am listening to you in the same spirit.

    (Also, I hear you on the complicated feelings about a world in which one tried to belong. Boy howdy, do I.)

    Blessings to you as Lent continues to unfold.

    • Thank you for hearing. Nice pastoral touch. There really isn’t any other feedback needed.

  • Hilary

    I have a bit of the same problem. Around here (St. Louis), we have gigantic billboards with a handsome young pastor and his equally handsome wife with her head on his shoulder advertising for the Church of the Living Somethingorother (with a website) and I cringe every time I see it. I am also in the land of Joyce Meyers Ministries, so there’s that.

    • kurtboemler

      I too am in the STL and I know exactly the billboard you’re talking about Sometimes his picture is up there with that really smily TV preacher.

  • Kurt N

    When I’m feeling like that, I tell myself that life can be a baffling and discouraging experience, and while I’m put off, sometimes even horrified, by other people’s coping mechanisms, my own bag of tricks isn’t anything to brag about.

    That helps me to feel more pity than anger, without getting smug about it.

    • I’m still at the stage of wallowing in the feelings a bit. I wouldn’t call it smug. It’s more of an aversion. Sort of the way you feel about handling something icky. It’s just a wave of negative feelings. It’s not as though I sit around trying to pull them apart. I just turn away. Or find myself not wanting to listen.

      But anyway, I think I’ve got the appropriateness of it covered by my clear recognition that it’s all within me and not in any way a statement on the worth or lack thereof of anyone else’s spiritual journey. That part seems very clear to me.

  • pastordt

    I’d say this is a very good beginning for the work ahead. A gifted spiritual director might help you do that work. Also? I SO GET THIS.

  • Mary

    I dislike the mega churches also. No denominal affiliation? What is the doctrine? What do these people preach beyond acquisition and greed? How can one possibly feel a part of a church when one is nothing more than a walking ATM? But those are only my opinions.