Something about a stereotype
‘She’s from just from a churchy family, and that’s the way they think and what they choose to believe. Let it go. That’s just how she was raised’.
They’d left the door open, accidentally, I reckon.
I get what ‘churchy’ is. And it was my response within a conversation quickly landing at the Big Bang theory that kicked off the series of comments. The guys had made some headway, sorting out where I’d come from and why I thought what I did.
‘Churchy’, by dictionary definition, is to be ‘excessively pious and often narrow-minded’. Team that with a google image and things don’t get much more attractive.
I’d been to church a few times as a small child. I remember the smell, decor and language. I remember how the faded pew cushions revealed faithful support to several decades of worshippers and the one mug on the urn trolley which had avoided being completely stained by tea. Industrious grandmothers shared knitting patterns for baby beanies, and the men were championing the congregation to partake in the church’s ‘Busy Bee’. The building and its consumables were always functional over fancy.
Looking back, I knew, even as a child, that at sub-culture existed. A certain type of people were attracted to the church. People generally conformed. They talked about safe topics and sung when instructed. Generations of families went to church, and the hope was, those following on from them ‘wouldn’t stray’.
So the comment had hemmed me in as ‘churchy’. Or at least from a ‘churchy’ family. The comment cut. And I had to do a little prod around my head and heart to see which nerve it was hitting.
I felt stifled, categorised and written off. My belief in God and subsequent worldview was ‘inherited by default’, according to the fact I’d likely come from a ‘churchy’ family. I felt so boxed in and so boxed up I could have moved house.
To that point, I’d done some pretty intentional stuff to get where I was with God, ‘churchy-ness’ and all. It didn’t exactly fall in my lap. As an individual, I’d searched for three years to find a church community. Plenty of times I’d sacrificed comfort and adapted my expectations to connect and function as part of a community.
Making my faith my own as an adult meant inevitable exposure to general life experience: the discovering, the seeking and the testing. And it was the ‘church search’ that catalysed some pretty definitive character refining. I was challenged to take a fresh look at what ‘church’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘faith’ looked like and how my lifestyle was going to respond to that.
Circumstances meant I had to take risks, be open minded, push past complacency, question others, question myself and invest in people, emotionally and relationally. I didn’t have it down pat. If only they knew. I was sure I’d been outside the box!
I’m actually pretty agreeable on what being ‘churchy’ constitutes. Aspects of my first experience had long stayed with me.
Most people are relational and want to understand – with the safety of some steady expectations. And I can see how stereotyping can accommodate that. Using one gives the flexibility to provide an explanation, or can create one where one needs to be found.
The Bible offers advice for living in response to this:
“For it is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover or pretext for evil, but as bond-servants of God.
Jesus? His example was out of the box. He lived seeking, questioning, thinking, feeling and was totally up for being known and understood by those who were interested.
As I discover God, out of the box, my hangups, fade. When my nerve is pinched because of another’s disregard for my story of a long haul pursuit in finding a church, my contribution to my cause seems pretty petty.
But He gets put back in the box time and time again.
And it’s often by me.
Understanding him from that modular and predictable package just reflects my finite understanding of Him.
But there is always more.
And I’ve not seen a stained teacup, since.
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