About two years ago, I refused an internship with Christ Community Church. I was going to be working with the youth ministry. I went out on a houseboat with the youth ministry staff for a time of getting to know each other before the scheduled summer activities kicked off. We watched "The Hangover," went over some responsibility details, ate dinner, and spent the rest of the night in two jacuzzis on the roof. Cigars and cigarettes were smoked while we turned into prunes. I was the only person with a pack of cigarettes. The youth leader asked me if I would be smoking when the church's summer schedule started and I said that I would be. I was honest, "I'm a smoker. I'm addicted." He said that some of the parents would have issue with a person in my position being a smoker. I asked him if parents ever had any issues with him. He smiled and said yes. "It's an opportunity to teach," I said. He assured me that neither he nor the church had any issue with smokers, but in the interest of keeping nagging parents off his back, I couldn't smoke in any church oriented context. "Are you serious?" I asked. He was.
The next morning, we went through names and pictures of the youth group. The youth leader asked that we pray for each youth member everyday, and that we pray in general and read scripture before we come in every morning. At the end of his speech, he said that we would be required to do these things, so that we would be right with God and so that God could use us. He talked about how crazy it is that Christians don't spend a shit-ton of time praying and reading the Bible before they start every day, and that if we took this ministry seriously we'd be doing it. "What quantity of scripture and prayer secures this rightness with God so that we can love these kids?" I asked. That's when shit hit the fan, and lots of boring and pointless conversation ensued.
When I got back from the houseboat, I emailed the youth leader and told him that I wasn't going to continue with the internship unless we could come to an agreement on some issues. We met to talk it over, and he was an asshole. I'm not saying he didn't change his mind and therefore he was an asshole. He was genuinely an asshole about the whole situation. He said that he didn't like that I was questioning his authority, and that I didn't care about the goal enough to compromise on some things. I actually did care about the goal. I wanted to work with middle school and high school aged kids and try to help them through the shit they were going through. He was right. Our goals were too dissimilar.
I thought about this ridiculous experience yesterday when I came across an article authored by the founder of Christ Community Church, Scotty Smith, on the Gospel Coalition's website. The part that first caught my attention wasn't the author. It was the title of the article: "A Prayer for Parents Learning to Love Their Gay Child." The moment I saw the title, I said aloud, "Oh my god, what the Hell is this person going to say?" That's when I realized the author was the pastor of the church that nearly had me as an intern. I began to read the article, and I was absolutely disgusted. Scotty Smith describes a phone call he had received: "a mom and dad in tears, shame, and great confusion—devastated to discover their son is gay." This quote alone was enough to make me feel like shit. Kids are growing up in families like this everyday. The article is a prayer, full of passive anti-gay rhetoric masquerading as a notion of love. Maybe this provides the most accurate example of prayer. I can't handle covering much more of it.
This quote is the last I'll examine. It absolutely destroys me: "The effects of the fall play out in our lives in so many ways—all kinds
of broken sexuality, the idolatry of greed, and the lust for power, to
name a few." I feel an extreme amount of sympathy for the son. He has lived inside of a paradigm where his good desires are misconstrued as "all kinds of broken sexuality" inherited by original sin without a choice and labeled as evil. I've already cried multiple times just from thinking about the son's situation. His parents have given him a false paradigm, and the paradigm is now threatening everything.
The pastor doesn't seem that different from the youth leader. Both end up compromising on really important issues. For those interested in peaceful and virtuous living, you will find, as I have, that the goals of religion are too dissimilar to warrant participation. If you want to read the full piece, here is the link to the prayer from Scotty Smith, founder of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN, and Council Member in The Gospel Coalition: