I've prided myself on being multifaceted - a deeply spiritual man who also actively participates in and enjoys what the world has to offer. I believe on God in the Christian sense but I believe in tolerance -- inclusion of all in all parts of life.
Two things happened this summer which made me realize that I cannot go on two-tracking my way through life. One I can't talk about here. the other happened last weekend when I blundered into an event named "The Call" in downtown Sacramento.
As a worship leader in my church, I've become quite fond of rock-based praise music played by competent musicians which deep lyrics, not just the word "Jesus" repeated again and again.
Anyhow, I was downtown last Saturday night to see a friend play at a waterfront club. Of course his email to me was vague, and he had been there the previous night. And the guy now playing in the hot steamy bar that evening simply was not to my taste.
Walking the two miles or so back to my car, I hear music coming from the direction of the State Capitol. Good music. I quickly recognized it as "Praise Music". It was well played, and I walked into the free event to check it out. It was obvious that thousands had attended earlier in the day, and hundreds were still there.
Imagine my horror, when after the set a raspy-voiced Pastor-type took the stage and led the group in a "Prayer" that California would not repeal Proposition 8 and fall into the "sin of Homosexuality". I couldn't get out of there fast enough. As I trotted back to my car, I heard a prayer to "forgive those who murder the unborn, that they may not be consigned to hell". While I am unsure what to think about the abortion issue , “consignment to Hell” cannot be part of what I consider an agonizing personal choice.
Between the slice of life I'd experienced the previous weekend, and the complete cognitive dissonance of a message of love and peace interspersed with a massage of hate I realized a collision had taken place -- one that I could not ignore.
I still am a Christian; I am still feeling a deep personal connection to the Christ. I still like praise music. But the group at "The Call" and other Evangelical Christians I've visited in the last two years make me realize that this may not be not my road to walk. I question whether a message of hate and exclusion should be ANY Christian's road to walk.
And the joy and happiness I feel with my friends outside organized religion -- isn't that also fellowship in the truest sense?
I was so pleased the following morning to be part of the Litturgical completely inclusive service at my little church where "all are welcome at Christ's table". And I am so glad to be able to understand, study and quote from Rumi, Buddha, Monastic and many other schools of thought.
I pay a high price for this realization. For the last several years i felt "called to the Ministry" in my church. But many who fostered that Call for me were those who later left our denomination over the inclusion of women and LGBT people in the complete life of the Church. People who were more in line, it turns out, with what I heard on the Capitol Mall that weekend. I cannot walk down that path. Not ever.
I may not ever be more than a Lay Minister in my church. But that is OK if that if what s meant for me to do. However, I firmly believe that hatred and exclusion is not a part of my spirituality. And this is backed up in the teachings of Jesus, the Buddha and many others.
If I have to make a choice, it is a choice that allows me full fellowship with my friends from outside the church and those who worship Jesus inclusively. I love my other friends I still love their music, but as for the notion that LGBT and mothers who have abortions are "Consigned to Hell", I can not go down that road. Not a single step!