Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Dark Side of Christianity

I think I just experienced a first - I was chased out of MOPS. The letter below is about my life. Incidents that happened years ago. Nobody whose hands would fall on my letter from the editor were involved in past incidents. The newsletters were scooped up, and torn out of readers' hands as I tried to pass them out. I think 1st Amendment rights exist even in a church gym.

MOPS International has NOTHING to do w/ this. Let that be clear. As editor and creator of Den(ver) Mother, I wrote a letter to readers. Read on and see what sparked an explosive reaction. Pray for me b/c I don't know now, who my friends are. I'm hurting.

The senior pastor knew about this and approved of it a week ago.

The Dark Side of Christianity
A letter from the editor, Darcie Gudger

A few days ago I stood in my back yard, camera in hand, experimenting with the effects of sunlight on my face. An odd exercise for someone who despises having her picture taken. I twisted, turned and tilted with my arm extended away from my body at an awkward angle, praying I didn’t drop my Nikon.
The best shot was one with my face washed in brilliant, warm sunshine. My skin glowed. The premature wrinkles carving deep canyons across my forehead vanished. Dark circles lurking under my eyes fled the sun’s rays. It was like I had a new face. Maybe I do.
When we shine the light of truth on the dark places, that icky, stinky, mess disappears. Darkness and light can’t co-exist.
My calling as a writer is to shine light on things all of us would prefer to ignore. Failure to do so would be an act of disobedience. I’d rather pay the price here on earth for igniting fury, than come face to face with Jesus to explain why I shrunk away from His call. The Bible never promises that our lives will be all nice and pretty if we answer His calling. I’m resigning my position as publicity coordinator because God is leading me further into the world of professional writing. The commitment is enormous and the opportunities are ripe.
Before I go, I must expose what’s been on my heart for years. Please take a moment and read my story along with a few others, then prayerfully consider joining the army to annihilate the dark side of Christianity.

Seventeen years ago-
I traded my guard uniform for a bathing suit in the sweltering heat of Myrtle Beach, SC. Landlocked all my life, I’d only seen the Atlantic twice before. I had to revel in jumping over big waves, allowing the buoyancy of salt-water carry my body in its currants as if I were a piece of seaweed. Houghton College, where I was headed in August, was even more landlocked than North Eastern Pennsylvania. Sand sprayed from under the balls of my feet and I sprinted into the water without pause.
But -
My period was late. I prayed it would stay away until I got home. Already a social outcast, I didn’t want everyone to add another item to the long list describing my “weirdness”. I’d be horrified if they watched a thick red gooey trail of blood snaking down my leg or laugh if I collapsed into the foamy surf, screaming in pain.
Greenish brown water lifted me gently up and down in a steady rhythm. I can’t remember how long I floated, but it was long enough for the sun to kiss my skin.
What of my period? It never came. Not a week later, not a year later – or even a decade later.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my body hurled itself into menopause. Being an active young 18 year old, spending my weekends rock climbing in Canada, or backpacking on the Finger Lakes Trail in western Upstate New York, the benefits of not having a period outweighed the annoyance of the monthly visitor. I told no one. Not even my mom. I feared she’d haul me off to another doctor who’d rape me with a speculum. Again.
During my junior year of college, she grew suspicious. My sister was a freshman at Houghton, living in a different dorm. Mom sent incredible care-packages; our friends drool with envy. Mom saved on shipping costs by sending one box. Before the package went out, she asked Tammie and I if we needed anything. One request, er… lack thereof, was apparent. Tammie needed tampons and pads, I didn’t.
On a frosty afternoon when Houghton sponsored a parents’ weekend, Mom and Dad ventured up for the festivities. Mom was only out of the car for a few seconds before she accosted me on the front lawn of Byerly House. The house stood silent, holding onto its stony wisdom garnered over the past century. Now’d be a good time to share a bit of its knowledge!
Fiery red oak leaves rained down on us while Mom interrogated me about my health. Was I having a regular period? No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t lie to my mom. Not to her face. Her ‘mommy gut’ told her there was something seriously wrong with me. She was right.
However, not menstruating was a relief. My life cruised along uninterrupted. I was content about it…
…until years and years later when I met John Gudger, the man who’d become my husband. A man whose dreams included a houseful of children.
We stood on a rocky ledge at Mount Falcon Open Space, overlooking the 3-foot vertical tube lights of the cross on the hillside. His fingers danced like spiders on speed as he chattered on about the fun adventures we’d have as parents.
By then I’d seen many doctors. Endured horrible tests. Denial of my problem was futile. I was infertile. Medical science couldn’t allow me to carry a baby in my womb.
I interrupted John in his soliloquy touting the wonders of parenthood.. I had to stop him. Shatter his vision of the future. Allow him to release me so he could find a “real” woman who could do what “real” women were created to do.
Violent sobs knocked me off balance. I tumbled to the sandy, rock sprinkled ground. John reached down, raised me to my feet then looked me in the eye. “I’ve already fallen in love with you. God is a God of miracles. Maybe He’ll surprise us.” The optimism in his voice made me cringe. He didn’t get it.
After we married, the years passed. No miracle. John held out, yearning for the doctors to be wrong about me. I was already taking the same hormone replacement drugs my 80-year-old grandmother took. Heck, my own mother still waited for The Big Change to happen.
John and I applied to adopt but our file was frozen for five years because we didn’t make enough money to provide for a child in the eyes of Colorado.
Friends had growing families. More and more I felt stripped of my woman-hood. People drifted away from us as if infertility were contagious.
Week after week we sat in Sunday school classes where pregnant women complained about being pregnant. Others complained about how annoying their kids were and how they wished they stopped at just one or two.
Plunge a long sword deep in my uterus and thrash it around! How could people take for granted what God deems a gift
. Everyone else could control whether or not children entered their lives. No one invaded their private lives, looking for reasons why not place a child in our home. John and I were at the mercy of the State of Colorado and the adoption agency.
Even after God brought Kyle to us, I was battered with messages of how I was a terrible mother. I was confronted about the vileness of using a bottle instead of a boob. Last year, a missionary stood in this gym proclaiming how the miracle of breast milk was what defines a woman as a woman. I wasn’t the only one who fled those hurtful words. Again, I had no choice.
Christians can be the meanest people on the planet. Not just to the sinners of the world, but more so to their own kind..
Not once did any of my unsaved friends say anything hurtful in regards to my infertility or other extreme hardships in my life. They offered open arms and words of empathy. Some provided aid.
Christian women like to make my barren womb something shameful. They assume I committed some unforgivable sin.
I’m often questioned about the severity of the love I have for my son. “Well, uh, how can you like, love him if he didn’t spend nine months in your stomach? You can’t tell me he’s fully bonded to you. I mean, he’s not, like, your real child.”
What do you think he’s made of… toothpaste? Real child. Give me a pickin’ break!
What’s the deal?
Folks claiming the name of Christ inflict the most painful experiences in life. A boss who mistreats his employees and cheats tax and labor laws. ‘Friends’ who left me for dead on the side of Mt. Quandary. Christians who upon finding out I couldn’t have kids said things like – “are you right with God? Are you sure you confessed all the sin in your life? You’re being punished for something you did in the past.”
The gut-wrenching truth is - Christians acting badly is universal. It’s not just in my realm of experience.
An unsaved neighbor of mine was invited to a gathering of Christian women. Sad to say, the experience pushed her farther away from the Lord who pursued her. “I thought Christians were supposed to be content with their lives. Why do they sit around and complain about their prayer life and how they want to be closer to God? Why do they sit around and talk mean about other women? Darcie, I’m not sure about this. It doesn’t seem real to me. I need something real.”
My dad has been in business for himself for over 30 years. He’s a heating and electrical contractor. Several years ago, I puzzled over why Christians were the most difficult people to get along with – especially when life was hard, and trials never-ending. His lips curled up into a tight-lipped smile. “Let me show you something,” he said.
In his office, he pulled out oh, maybe two filing cabinets worth of invoices. “These are all the people who owe me money for jobs I’ve done for them. These files go back to when I started.”
His next words stole my breath; “Darcie, 85 percent of these names belong to ‘Christians’. My secular clients either pay me early or on time, or even encourage me to charge them more because they are so pleased with the work. On the other hand, brothers and sisters in Christ seem to think I owe them a favor or should do the work for free. They try to talk down my bids. They sign contracts then fail to pay. I’ve heard every excuse in the book. I’ve never had this problem with a non-believer. Just because someone uses the word ‘Christian’ doesn’t mean you can blindly expect him or her to act like one. I’m sorry you’re learning this the hard way.”
Christianity has a dark side. A mother here in Denver worked hard for the music boosters at her daughter’s school so t he kids could put on great musicals and plays. Concession stands at big venues hire high school kids and parents to help with fundraising.
Two concerts were held at Fiddler’s Green. The first, a Christian music group. Concert attendees fought over open seating, were rude to the kids working behind counters. Demanded to be waited on hand and foot, then left a monstrous mess.
The next even was Lilith Fair. A secular music festival for women, by women, many of who are gay. The kids were treated with utmost respect. Generous tips were given to the boosters. And those audience members cleaned up after themselves.
Who was more Christ-like?
Why do we put up with this garbage? No wonder people On the Outside think believers are nuts.
As a writer, I’ve been called to use the light of the Son.
Lest you think I’m full of self-righteous muck, I’m not. I’ve been fighting for my life against the beast of depression. My marriage is falling apart due to unending trials of life. I’m plagued with physical problems in addition to the menopause. My precious son has special needs – some far greater than I’ve realized. I’ve hated God. I’ve called Him all sorts of names. I even tried to end it all with a bottle of Ambien a few weeks ago. John came down and tackled me to the ground.
I’m a mess. A bigger mess than what’s left in my backyard after the snow melts and the dog piles are exposed.
But you know what? Jesus loves messes. He’s not afraid. Look at whom he chose to hang with. Who he called to follow him.
Everybody is a mess, smelly and repulsive. Jesus is here to clean it all up if we ask him.
My prayer is that whomever takes over this newsletter will not be afraid to use the Son light. Exposing darkness and revealing the glaring hope of Jesus. Without him, we will disintegrate into the ground. Into nothingness and eternal hell.


Joe said...

Don't know about "chased out", but I heard there was a big fuss about what happened today. Did you clear the l2e with the MOPS team? Sounds like that might have been the rub with the way it all transpired.

Hang in there... there's a lot of people who care for you through this ordeal. Might take a few tough conversations to make it through, but be open to hear the care and concern your friends show.

Wishing you the best as you move forward in focusing more on the professional editing/writing work.

Jesse said...

You hit the nail on the head with your letter. When I was 18 a youth pastor basically said I was a bad influence because of the way I dressed and from what the other youth had said about me. Yes I had made mistakes and still do but I was trying to live my life right for God--thankfully they didn't deter me from getting to know Christ. I hope everything goes well for you.

Jan Parrish said...

I'm so sorry for your pain and the way it was compounded with hurtful words. You are an amazing woman and I see great things in store for you.

Some good insight and truth in this post. (((h)))

I have something for you on my blog.

Danica/Dream said...

And I missed out on all the fun...

Praying for you and for healing for the hurt in your heart.