If you've Googled the words "church" and "Kentucky" over the last couple of days, chances are you didn't stumble up on articles about fried chicken establishments accused of deep frying animals other than chickens. Most likely you read about Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church and a recent vote by its members to control the movement of interracial couples within its four walls. In a previous post I've mentioned some of the dynamics my husband and I experienced while dating, engaged, and married as it relates to our experiences in church, but in light of current events, I found it apropos to highlight some additions that at times left us scratching our head:
Referring to someone in the third person while he/she is standing right in front of you.
Last Sunday I noticed my husband chatting with a gentleman I didn't recognize, so I walked over to introduce myself, standing next to my husband and across from the gentleman, politely listening as they carried on their conversation. The gentleman kept asking my husband questions about me even though I was standing right in front of him. I thought it was a bit strange as he went on talking to my husband using the term "your wife" but then I realized he hadn't put two and two together nor my husband and I. When he finally stopped long enough for my to introduce myself, I did so as: "Tinu DIV-HER. HIS WIFE." And yes I did roll my neck and raise my voice while I said it (forgive me Lord).
Placing the entire responsibility for the "test" in your testimony on one ethnic/racial group.
Recently, my siblings and I were discussing some of the crazy shenanigans that go on during testimonies at New Year's Eve/Watch Night church services. Invariably, the first people to grab the microphone are people you haven't seen at church since last year's New Year's Eve service. But my personal qualm is the inappropriateness/irrelevance/offensiveness of some of the things that people get away with sharing. I've heard everything from people blaming the white man for their delayed promotion, to referring to someone that treated them unfairly as "oriental," to talking about situations where some is trying to "Jew you." So essentially what is meant to be a moment for the body of Christ to come together and encourage one another by hearing about how God is at work in individual lives gets hijacked by people who want to vent for forty-five minutes about topics not suitable for anyone under the age of eighty-five. Yes, you may be tired and your feet hurt and your gout is flaring up again, but consider whether bringing that up in front of an entire church congregation (including visitors) on New Year's Eve in the right venue for sharing that information.
Degrading an entire continent, nation, or people group... through prayer.
When it comes to churches supporting mission trips and missionaries, historically the continent of Africa has been a "popular" destination for people, money, and resources. So to sit in a church service and listen to a prayer for the individuals and the work they are carrying out is nothing new to me. However, what does catch me off guard is when these prayers are basically a laundry list of diseases that people hope to avoid contracting during the mission trip. Now don't get me wrong, I have no issue with people staying healthy while traveling, however, I do have an issue with the single story that we tend to project on the people and places we consider "the other."
Because this is a humor blog about interracial relationships, I was a tad reluctant to write anything about this topic. I can't say I find anything funny about a congregation determining that the only church activities my husband and I should participate in are each others' funerals. And yet it reminds me of the need for grace and the fact that there are no perfect churches, but rather broken churches filled with broken people.