Made to feel worthless by Christians.

(18 Posts)
drudgewithagrudge Thu 18-Jun-15 19:20:38

I was brought up in a Christian home and most of my adult life I have been a churchgoer. I would be the first to admit that I have very strong doubts about some things that the Church believes but I believe in God and pray when I need guidance.

For the last ten years I have not attended church as I re married and my husband was not a churchgoer and the church in the town we moved to I found to be unwelcoming and cliquey.

A few months ago my husband died and I was devastated. He was the kindest,gentlest man I ever knew. He never had a bad word for anybody and was a good man. Throughout his illness I felt the hand of God at work in the care he was given by medical staff and the kindness of my family and friends and I was truly thankful for this. I heard that there was a new vicar at the local Cof E church and I thought I would give it another go, hoping to find some consolation and perhaps make new friends.

At first it all went very well and I found the vicar to be friendly and non judgemental. He made sure that I was introduced to people I had things in common with and I have made several new friends who are also widows and understand what I am going through. I have been going every Sunday for several months and finding it very helpful. Unfortunately I couldn't leave it at that and when a new house group was formed I thought it would be a good idea to join as I had attended other such groups at my last church and I have always enjoyed Bible study since childhood.

It turned out to be a very small group consisting of a six people including the curate. They all had one thing in common in that they tended toward the charismatic side of Christianity and preferred worship of a "happy clappy" nature. I am quite a bit older than most of them and hate guitars and Christian pop songs with a vengeance. However I was prepared to give it a go. One member in the group I felt was gunning for me from the start probably because I asked a great deal of questions and I won't be fobbed off with soft soap and flannel.

It all came to a head this week when we were discussing how to encourage more people to attend services and I said that lots of people I know, myself included,have lots of questions about life and Christianity that they don't get any answers to at church. They asked for examples so I sited why do bad things happen to good people, why is the God of the Old Testament so different from the one in the New Testament, why aren't we Jews like Jesus was, what happens to people who unlucky enough to be born into another religion etc etc.

Well this chap really laid into me aided and abetted by the rest. I must be an atheist to think these things and why did I go to church if I had such doubts it was hypocricy and I would be better spending my time in the pub! They really had a go at me and made me feel dreadful that I don't have their faith and that I haven't been saved. Perhaps I touched a nerve but I don't think it was a kind way to treat a newly bereaved widow who had gone to the search seeking some comfort in her loss . How can I ever go to church again when they will all think I am a hypocrite?

Thankyou for reading my rant.

sunnyspot Thu 18-Jun-15 20:26:10

So sorry you had that response and I am amazed they were so awful. I would immediately find another church as the vast majority would not react like this.
The questions you raised were perfectly valid questions and in our church community we often debate them, as I'm sure most church communities do, without fear of being judged as you were.
I really hope you find some comfort in your loss.

TheMoa Thu 18-Jun-15 20:35:10

How odd.

Does Catholicism or the Lutheran church appeal?

They tend to love questions, discussions and debates (possibly because they are so sure their way is the right way grin).

Lutherans are more into bible study/scripture study than Catholics generally. Catholics tend not to have study groups, unless you find a very outgoing church.

Tuo Thu 18-Jun-15 23:14:40

Oh drudge, that's awful.

First of all, I'm so sorry to hear about your DH. I am glad to hear that he received good care and support, but it must all still feel so raw and hard for you.

It sounds as if you really need to find a different church if there's another one in your local area. Those questions are in no way illegitimate, and asking them does not make you a bad Christian. I'm sure that everyone struggles with these and other similar issues, and talking about them is the only way in which we can hope to resolve them, or at least to understand them better and work towards a resolution. Please please please don't think that all Christians (or all Anglicans) think like this: they don't. I'm so sorry that you've been made to feel bad in this way. You are not worthless and I hope you can find somewhere where you're properly valued, cared for, and respected.

Meanwhile, you're always very welcome over on the prayer thread. No religious judgey-pants over there - just lots of love.

loveareadingthanks Mon 22-Jun-15 15:24:25

Is this group officially affiliated to your church? If so, I think you should speak to your vicar about it. Most churches encourage debate and questions as a way of gaining closer understanding. This group might have 'gone rogue' away from the teachings of the home church.

If not, ignore them, just stop going to that group. Yours were very normal questions for Christians to ask and unfortunately you found yourself stuck with some of the loony fringe.

Alpha courses look at a lot of these issues - is there one run near you?

(and I say all this as an atheist myself, but knowing a lot of people with faith).

Dutchoma Tue 23-Jun-15 07:34:44

I'm very sorry this happened drudge. I am in a slightly similar situation in that I lost my husband 18 months ago.
I think you definitely need to speak to your vicar because, as people ^^ have said the questions you asked are questions every mature Christian asks. The people in your group sound very immature and may well stick together because they feel more comfortable accepting a very shallow 'faith' and feel under attack by your questions.
The only difficulty in that course of action is that the vicar may feel he has to accommodate the happy/clappy brigade in his church and you would not feel very happy with that.

MagicalHamSandwich Tue 23-Jun-15 18:44:27

Agreed: Speak to your vicar or find another church if you can't face it.

Those questions are not only legitimate but also really harmless in that I've seen each and every one of them addressed in a manner which is presumably acceptable to mainstream Christianity. Wonder what they'd think if they ever happen to run into an actual atheist who enjoys a good argument. (I'm free for dinner parties, just saying grin!)

Don't let those people bully you or make you feel bad, OP, that's not what you went there for! They have no right and even an unbeliever like me can see that unquestioning faith doesn't make them better Christians.

Also: sorry about your husband!

I'm really sorry for your loss and the way this curate has treated you. The questions you asked are nothing out of the ordinary so I'm surprised about this reaction. Curates are trainee vicars so if you can face speaking to the person in charge (probably called a rector or vicar) about this incident it might help the curate in his training. Or find another church - perhaps a more liberal or an open evangelical one.

momb Tue 23-Jun-15 23:03:10

I'm so sorry this happened to you. My experience is that some Christians do ask these questions, find the answers where they exist and accept that some things don't have a simple answer and that is what faith (belief in the absence of proof) is for.
I agree with others that you should speak to the vicar: I struggled with my faith for a long time: a cognitive dissonance if you like: asked these questions and more. Things I felt in my heart to be true but logically didn't make sense.
Your questions are absolutely valid and worthy of discussion: there will be people in your congregation who will be able to embrace such a discussion.
The bullying and meanness you experience is atypical in my experience. The curate is clearly inexperienced: evidenced by the fact that they didn't step in when you were being attacked.
Christians aren't all necessarily good people: they are people who look to Christ for help to become better people. It appears that you joined a group where they were a little less far along the road than others.

madhairday Wed 24-Jun-15 16:51:24

I'm also so sorry you've been treated like this. It's really horrible and I'm surprised, as they are really normal and important questions to ask.

A church should be encouraging such questions and debate - if they are not, I would question my place in that church. It is possible it's just this faction that are like this, that you've been unfortunate enough to end up in - it sounds to me like they are pretty insecure in their own faith, and afraid to question it - hence the really disproportionate and defensive response. They sound very conservative - ie a background of blind acceptance, almost. What a shame.

But we're all just humans, rubbing along, and we all get it wrong sometime. It may be really important for these people to realise that questioning is actually fundamental to any kind of genuine faith and will help rather than hinder. I would have a talk to the vicar about it.

I don't think worship style comes into it - I'm a card carrying charismatic type but fully open to and embracing to questioning, doubt and shouting at God when I don't get it. grin

Really hope you can find another group or church, one that is right for you, listens to and nurtures you.

I am so very sorry about the loss of your dh. He sounds absolutely lovely. flowers

springydaffs Fri 26-Jun-15 23:47:57

You poor thing. I know what you mean and how you may feel because I have had so many similar experiences in the church. Ime there is nothing like Christians religious zealots for kicking you when you are down.. or just have a different perspective. It is so awful, and so upsetting that you were treated like that when you are so vulnerable. I'm so sorry.

QuintShhhhhh Fri 26-Jun-15 23:54:49

Sorry for your loss, and sorry for your awful experience with church.

I am Lutheran (dh is Catholic) and it is true that we love discussions, debates and philosophizing over spiritual matters. Questions are welcome, and a sign that we think about our faith and the teachings of the Bible. Faith is not always rational. Everybody has something that the struggle reconciling with, and it does not mean that your faith is week, only that it needs meditating over.

drudgewithagrudge Mon 29-Jun-15 20:24:47

Thanks for the replies. I am a bit calmer now but still smarting. I agree that the curate is inexperienced but the chap who had most to say is a reader of quite a few years experience.

I would hesitate to bring it up with the vicar as I don't want to cause trouble. Someone mentioned the Alpha Course. The people in this group run it at the church so I feel sorry for anyone that puts a foot wrong on it.

Quite a few local C of E churches that I know seem to be splitting into the charismatic side and the old school side. They want young people to join so they tailor their message to suit that generation. For every thirty year old who joins a church a 60/70/80 year old leaves.

I really feel I can't go back to this church and I would be very wary of getting involved with another one. All I really want is to go to Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer, shake hands with the vicar and go home but I know I would get pounced on by some well meaning person and the whole grisly saga would happen again.

TribbleNamedDave Wed 08-Jul-15 11:36:00

Drudge I am sorry you experienced that, and that your church is catering to the more 'charismatic' side of things. Have you checked out any other churches in the area? It might be worth a look, maybe look on ship of fools (I think it's called that, its a church review website).

My church tends to the charismatic side of the spectrum, but we do run mid week groups for different groups (toddler groups, coffee morning, breakfast and lunch club). It may be if you find a church you're happy with on a Sunday, you could always look at the midweek stuff that other churches hold if you want to meet people. I know with ours, the coffee morning is very chilled.

steppemum Wed 08-Jul-15 11:47:32

drudge I am so sorry that this happened to you.
dh and I go to a 'happy clappy' church smile and we run a small mid-week group. We actively encourage discussion and we all wrestle with the big questions that you have.
We don't come up with answers, but we do get comfort and reassurance from seeing how God has moved in other peoples lives and from sharing things that have helped us along the way, and we try and support and help those who are struggling.

We very much feel that God is big enough to deal with any doubt and questions we have, and that it is a good thing to talk about them. God isn't surprised by our questions! There are one or two at our church who would give a glib answer or who are scared of asking questions, but the vast majority welcome questions.

It is sad that this group is so unhelpful.
Please don't give up on church because of a couple of people.

legohurtswhenyoustandonit Sat 11-Jul-15 10:22:32

Drudge I am sorry you have had this experience. I have had similar in the past and know all too well how it can leave you feeling. When I started at the church I now attend I would turn up at about 30 seconds before the service started and would be the first out the door afterwards - no time for anyone to pounce on you.

springydaffs Fri 24-Jul-15 21:56:07

I went to the cathedral for quite a while - big enough to run away if I clocked anyone making a beeline - though generally a good place to be anonymous. Or at least to pick and choose.

I have to say your story reminds me of that quote along the lines of wo anyone who causes the needy to stumble, it would be better if etc

If it's at all a consolation, God's approach bears no resemblance to, is nothing like, that curate's. Imo.

Morley19 Mon 27-Jul-15 18:16:00

This sums up the hypocritical, brain washing, sanctimonious nature of many 'christians' to me.

Their view is the 'only' view and if you dare to question that/have a different view, you're not welcome.

Not very 'christian' like!

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