Since it's the Lord's Day, I think it is only appropriate to include you in a letter I'm writing to Doctor Steve Crane. He is the Senior Minister of Eagle Christian Church in Eagle, Idaho. My old stomping grounds. And I still have connections in the area which is how I come to know of this giant evangelical church. I've been there, several times. Each time is quite the experience. But my big deal with the church is the actual, live people that I know who attend it. That's where my issue comes in. It's how they talk and live their lives. The words I hear coming out of their mouths. The attitudes they have toward other human beings. And then they go to Eagle Christian Church on Sundays and sit under Doctor Steve Crane's preaching.
Dear Doctor Crane:
What a pretty building you have. Larger than it used to be, isn't it. To accommodate the masses. The Eagle area has grown so much since I was a child in the area. I remember the old ECC on State Street in a little, old white building....with steps leading up to the front door, I believe. I've moved away now. But I've had the opportunity to visit your church a couple of times in recent years. The services are nearly exactly as I assumed they would be -- staged, perfect, music here and there, scripture reading at the appropriate times, and the sermon placed just-so in the grand scheme of things. And communion at just the right time when indicated so by the overhead visual TV monitors that say something like "Communion is Now Being Served." To me it feels eerily staged, sterile....less than authentic, even. Oh, I know, every person's perception is their own reality. Apparently, my perception is off. I have met you. And I've met the ever-famous Doctor Beckman. Seems all I ever hear when I'm back visiting is "Doctor Beckman this or Doctor Beckman that..." He is obviously well thought of. I come back for a visit and hear frequent references to the church, you, Sunday School, how many people come to church, and a variety of other things going on around your parts of the world. They love you.....those folks I know who sit in your sanctuary on Sundays. And Pastor Mark. They love him too. But I have questions. Because I hear bantering about how great the church is, the pastors are, and all of that. But I see and hear things out of your congregants mouths that cause me pause. Cause me to wonder. Even cause me anger, dare I admit that.
I hear words and phrases that don't seem to add up to the positive, beautiful, Christian world that I know you promote inside your building. I sense feelings of hatred, intolerance, and a less-than-stellar view of those who don't share the same opinions or viewpoints. Now, there's nothing wrong with someone having a differing opinion -- but my concern is when that opinion continues right on down the road to downright nasty and filthy words like "spic" or "schvartze" (because using "schvartze" sounds so much better than nigger). And the Jews. They don't like them at all. Yes sir, right out of the mouths of those who think the world of you and sit in your pews each week. Sort of makes me squirm a little, you know? I've heard things like "That school is a top-notch school full of smart kids because there aren't any little spics attending it..." And I hear how they refer to our current President and the First Lady. It is so far from a simple differing of a political opinion. It is deep, dark, and horrible. It is hate, clearly hate. It is vile, venomous. It comes from a place somewhere deep below the surface of their mouths. Even below the heart level from a place of buried mixed-up, unresolved emotions and feelings. And it springs forth from the mouth like a black, putrid stream of words that Jesus would never use. And it goes without saying that they don't like Mormons. Not just the Mormon religion. Or the way that Mormon people believe. They hate Mormons. The people. Not a visit goes by that I don't hear about what horrible people the Mormons are. In fact, looking back to my own childhood, I think that my very earliest memories of how to not like someone else were bred in Idaho. With regard to Mormons. And I find that sad. Thankfully, I'm a quite different man today. I've been able to shed many of those feelings and have a markedly different vision of today's world than I used to. My Christianity has migrated to a healthy place not stained any longer by predisposition, name calling, and teachings which are nothing remotely related to those of the Bible. Balance. Care. Concern. For all.
I remember leaving your church one Sunday morning after a nice little one-hour service. We all got into the car and headed east on the highway back in toward Boise. "Let's go to Taco Bell for lunch," I heard from the back seat. Within minutes, it began. Bad mouthing others, name calling, a lack of understanding or acceptance. And I actually said out loud, "If you don't stop, I'm going to turn this car around and drive you right back to the church -- and you can go inside and tell Doctor Crane right to his face what you are saying....I can't imagine he would be happy." Oh boy, that didn't go over well at all. Talk about uncomfortable.
And there's the murder. Late one Saturday night out in Meridian a few years back. The first thing I hear out of one of your congregants is "that it's probably a Mexican who did it." Guess what? It was a white female. Caucasian. Female.
And then I wonder if they talk about me like that. Behind my back. You know, when I'm not around or actually in front of them where I can hear. You see, I'm gay. Homosexual. A real life, honest to goodness fag. And I have trouble believing that they can possibly love me, think highly of me, when I hear such degrading terms coming out of their hearts when I'm around. They say they do. But I must wonder. Oh, I grew up in the church, Doctor Crane. I know all of the terms, the phrases, the scriptures. How to act in church, what to say, all of it. I know your beliefs, your visions of heaven and hell. Again, all of it. I'm no stranger to the church or the Bible. I've been a youth group leader, a church musician, a teacher, a leader. I've played all of the church parts well. Quite well. But today, I wonder and think. And it all makes me feel sort of sad for the work you do. With all of your dedication, education, and devotion to changing the direction the world is headed, I'm not so sure that that honest hearts and souls of today's mainstream, right-wing evangelical Christians are being changed. Perhaps some phrases, words and outward appearances when it is convenient and acceptable. But it's the insides that are still quite dark and murky.
I have this funny feeling that there are a whole slew of so-called Christians in today's world that are going to be in for a very rude awakening one day. You know, on that day -- that day when the world comes to an end, that day when the sheep get separated from the goats. I just have this feeling that things are not going to play out in quite the way that many are assuming. So, I'll be back. To the area. Certainly not to the church. I just can't stomach it any longer. I've tried. But if what I see in the lives of those who attend your church is a manifestation of what you're teaching, training and believing at Eagle Christian Church, I just can't be a part of it.