Divorcing the Church

I married a PK (preacher’s kid) from a small town church. This I can recommend if the PK is a wonderful person, but I must warn you that it comes with it’s own set of challenges, which I was not actually capable of living up to. When you marry a PK of a small church and continue to go there, it’s almost like marrying the church, for better or worse.

We went to my husband’s church for the first year or so of our marriage, and the church and I didn’t get off on the right foot from before the beginning.

One day when Luke and I we were still engaged, I was at an event at my church with the outreach team. Mrs. Billie, a good friend, asked me about going to Luke’s church after we were married, and said something about the baptism rule.

‘The baptism rule?’ I said.

It’s a rule that many Baptist churches have that says if you haven’t been baptized into a Baptist church, you have to, to become a member of a church, whether you’ve been baptized before or not.

I was surprised that such a rule existed. it seemed narrow-minded, judgmental, and divisive, as though only Baptists are real Christians.

Apparently not all Baptist churches have kept that rule. Since Luke had never mentioned anything to me about it, I told Mrs. Billie that surely Luke’s church (I’ll call it FBC) was one of the churches that didn’t have that rule.

Well.

I don’t know how Luke could have neglected to inform me of such a major barrier to my joining FBC with him, but he did. I guess it had just never occurred to him, perhaps it didn’t seem like a big deal to him.

I was furious and sad and disgusted and worried and confused all at once. The next day, I headed to my church library after class to look around for books on baptism, study Bible passages on baptism, and pray.

After Luke was out of his class, he met me there.

By then I had already resolved that I would not be getting baptized again. My baptism at age 12 (after getting saved at age 5) was very important to me for the statement I had made with it. I felt it would cheapen the meaning of baptism to do it again to join a church (after all, I had already joined The Church, and that ought to be good enough, I thought), and I was unsure that I wanted to go to a church with such an exclusionary rule.

But while Luke was okay with me not becoming a member of FBC, he was not willing to even consider going to another church. I felt that he loved that church more than he loved me.

It was a closed discussion, we were going to go to his church no matter how I felt for not being a member, and that was final.

We have always been a fairly egalitarian couple by default of Luke’s personality, even when we considered ourselves complementarian, but when it came to church, Luke’s word was law.

I never fit in there. I literally got sick every Sunday and Wednesday from the stress of feeling out of place and unwelcome, and Luke almost always insisted I go anyways, so I went, aching head, aching back, aching bones, nauseated stomach and all.

I wanted a fresh start for us together, not to be stuck some place where I was Luke’s wife who took his attention from the church where he belonged. Even one of Luke’s toddler friends hated me, she felt like I was cutting in on her attention. I was, of course.

Luke taught lessons at Branch, and he would always resolve to do some sort of Bible study at home with me, but never followed through on it. So i guess some of the church was jealous of me for taking away their beloved PK, but I was jealous of them for getting what Luke would never put forth the effort to do for me.

Luke also led worship, leaving me in a pew by myself every week during worship time (no one sat by me, i had an entire pew to myself).

When Luke and I entered a room together, people often said “Hi, Luke” and ignored me.

It’s hard to fit into a small church, and I think it was even harder because I almost never visited while we were courting; my parents said it should be saved for marriage and that I still had to attend church with them. Because attending church with your fiance is just way too romantic and intimate, amiright?

Aside from not visiting, it’s just hard to fit into a clique that is a small church, where everyone already has their friends and family and their set of people, and there isn’t really room for outsiders who aren’t willing and capable to work hard to make new friends.

A few people — older ladies — made me feel welcome, but mostly people were cold and distant, a few were downright nasty and antagonistic, and I am not good at making friends.

I remember sitting in church, by myself, not fitting in, when inevitably during praise time, at least one person would praise the church God, for the church being the most loving church that person had ever visited.

It hurt to hear that, when I felt so little love there.

This was all before the Easter program, which would have been the final straw for me, had I felt allowed to say ‘no more’. The Easter program, to which I had actually been looking forward, turned out to be a miserable experience when Luke got pressured into playing Jesus in the Easter program. More on that in this guest post I wrote.

After the Easter program, Luke started to reevaluate his decision to stay at FBC. I was pregnant with our first child, our beliefs were changing rapidly, and we didn’t really fit at Branch any more. The weekly invitationals bothered us, especially with an impressionable child on the way. We were still Christians at this point, but it was very important to us that our child become a Christian because he was called and truly believed it, and not because Grandpa was pleading for people to get forward and get saved. Also, it really bothered him the way people ignored me when we walked into a room together.

Eventually, Luke stepped down from leading worship and teaching, we started missing more church, and then in the fall, we stopped going altogether. Shortly afterward, we started visiting other churches, churches in our town and not 40 minutes away.

I still regret that Luke wasn’t more open about leaving, that we didn’t do it more intentionally instead of just slipping away. We probably hurt some people that way, which was never intended.

But on the other hand, no one ever asked. Ever. No one asked if we were okay, or why we had left, or if we were coming back. After you pour your life into a church, like Luke did as a PK, that stings a little.

We went to a new church, where we were happy for a little while, until problems we had pushed aside during the ‘honeymoon period’ started becoming more of an issue. Also, my beliefs were changing rapidly, heading on a very liberal trajectory. Then one Sunday, I walked out of church and declared to Luke that he could do what he wanted, but I had left for the last time, no more submitting myself sick. My mind was my own and I was determined to start acting that way.

And that’s been it. We’ve gone back to FBC to visit several times, to see Easter and Christmas programs and such because of our family, but I think we may be done with even that, after the last Easter program caused me to have a panic attack (we left early under cover of crying toddlers).

But now, for many other reasons than the ones discussed here, I am done with church forever. Had I had pleasanter experiences, it might have been harder to leave, but my changing beliefs would have led me to do it eventually anyways.

But that was me. Luke left of his own accord. In the end, it wasn’t the PK’s wife that took him away from church, it was the PK himself.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Divorcing the Church

  1. Lana

    Oh man, yea I could not deal with that either. And that’s incredibly hurtful that a PK could slip away without the church asing if he/you all were okay. It reminds me of the church who supported my missions outreaches to the poor but never once asked me why I did not come back to the church when I moved back. I’m tired of the institution of the church, yikes.

    Reply
  2. Faye

    I was a ministers wife for 31 years in the southern baptist convention. I came to the point where I could not believe what the SBC taught and practiced. Once I stopped enjoying the church, my husband stopped enjoying me. I felt the same way, that he loved the church more than he loved me. In the end, he struck a friendship with a lady in the choir. We divorced and three months later he married her. Yet I was the outcast heretic. I wrote my story in my book, “Religion Recovery” which can be obtained at Amazon.Com.
    It is wonderfully refreshing to be out of such a toxic environment.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s