Why do they stay at these churches and schools? Why don’t they just leave?
Why don’t they just leave their family ties and life-long friendships?
Why don’t they just leave the college degrees that are only valued in one of these “ministries”?
Why don’t they just leave their community?
Why don’t they just leave their livelihood?
Why don’t they just leave the cultural comfort of having the world make sense?
Why don’t they just leave their certainty for doubt?
Why don’t they just leave the time and money they have invested?
Why don’t they just leave their children to fearful futures outside the center of “God’s perfect will.”
Why don’t they just leave to go and live as strangers in a strange land?
I think the real surprise is that so many have managed to leave at all.
In fundamentalism we were often told that church rules made to restrict our personal freedoms were for our own good, even while being told that the government doing the same thing was a violation of our rights. So where should we draw the line between personal responsibility and public welfare?
The last hymn is sung. The prayer is said. The people mill around in the back of the church chatting and herding their offspring towards the church doors and the promise of Sunday dinner. The pastor stands by the door shaking hands and sweating profusely from the effort he has just expended in the pulpit.
He wipes his brow with a hanky and smiles at one of his adoring flock.
“I felt real freedom to preach today,” he says.
The congregant smiles and nods. This phrase is standard pastor-speak and not to be thought about too deeply. And the line at the local buffet is growing longer so there’s no time to dawdle.
But for those of us who are peeking in this little scene, the question remains: what exactly did the pastor have freedom from while he was pounding on the furniture and yelling himself into apoplexy this morning?
Was it freedom from common decency and common sense?
Freedom from goodness, meekness, and gentleness?
Freedom from “human logic” and the confining bounds of actual meaning of the text before him?
Freedom from critiques and questions from those listening as to how he managed to get an entire sermon point about the evils of imported cars out of Ezekiel?
And most importantly of all, did the truth of his sermon leave his people feeling as free in the pew as he felt in the pulpit or did that “freedom” merely wrap them in tighter chains of bondage?
“I just felt a lot of freedom up there today,” the pastor repeats as the next church member in line smiles and nods and scurries away.
It must be a nice feeling. If only everybody else had felt it too.