On the Friday following Mother’s Day I wrote a post about my reaction to a woman I saw preach the previous Sunday; the title of the post was “Preaching In 5″ Heels?” In the post I discussed the attire of the woman, whether or not her clothes were appropriate, and my struggles as a recovering pornography addict watching a provocatively dressed woman preach. While I noted in my post that I don’t want to be in the fashion-police business, I did argue that church should be a place where Christians try not to create ‘stumbling blocks’ for other believers. I believe the woman I saw preach was inappropriately dressed, I contend that she was naive, intentional, or apathetic in her clothing choices, and I acknowledge that I should have stood up and left that day rather than sit there and struggle with my lust.
If you don’t remember reading my “Preaching in 5″ Heels?” post, don’t worry: I was ‘asked’ to remove the post by a member of the church’s staff shortly after I posted it. It has taken me seven weeks to reach this point, but at the advice of my counselor I now want to write about the events that transpired that day and the days that followed.
As I noted above, I wrote “Preaching In 5″ Heels?” the Friday after Mother’s Day. The service was on my mind all week and I was wrestling with my feelings on the subject. The more I thought about it the more convinced I became that I needed to share my perspective on immodesty in church, particularly with regard to women who are given the opportunity to preach. Not once did I name the parties involved, the name of the church I attended that day, or anything else that would publicly call out the church or its staff. Yet a member of the church who is a friend of mine on Facebook read this blog, put two and two together, and determined that I was writing about his church.
Some time after 10pm Friday night while I was watching a movie with my wife, my cell phone rang: It was a member of the church’s staff. He said he was “shocked” at my post and though he couldn’t force me to take the post down, that is what he wanted me to do. It was late, I was tired, I’d had a few beers…and suddenly I found myself in a confrontation I was wholly unprepared for. In my state of confusion I agreed to take the post down immediately. This person told me we would talk on Sunday.
Let me pause the story for a moment to make a few comments:
- I am an American citizen, and I believe our nation’s freedom of speech is one of our most precious and protected rights. It is completely inappropriate for one person to censor another in this manner
- It is inappropriate to use personal relationships to manipulate others for purposes of ‘protecting’ your church, particularly when you are on the paid staff of that church
- It is inappropriate to call someone at home because you dislike something written in a private blog. If you disagree with the content of a blog, stop reading it or comment on the blog itself
Needless to say, Saturday was a nervous day for me: I had never been involved in a situation like this before and I had no idea what to expect come Sunday. However, I was eager to sit down and ‘clear the air’.
We found each other Sunday morning and sat down to talk. Or at least I sat down to talk; he sat down enraged. His face and voice were carefully controlled and masked, but the anger beneath his calm veneer was so palpable that I was genuinely scared. The talk that ensued was angry, hurtful, and threatening. Some of the highlights from the conversation include:
- “I’ll haul you in front of the Elder Board if you ever do anything like this again.”
- “You are writing out of your sickness, I need you to see that!”
- “Everything we do at this church is for a redemptive purpose, including this conversation.”
- “You cannot write in your blog that you wanted to go in the bathroom and masturbate after seeing (the woman) preach!”
With regard to any masturbatory intentions, I had not said anywhere in my post that I wanted to act out that day; there is a big difference between being ‘triggered’ by someone and acting out. With regard to that being a ‘redemptive’ conversation, it was anything but redemptive; condemning would have been a better word. With regard to writing out of my sickness, being called ‘sick’ by a church staff member shows that person to be insensitive, unbiblical, unprofessional, and abusive of his authority.
I have told this story to friends, family, my mentor, and my counselor. When people hear about his threat to “haul” me in front of the Elder Board, their advice is the same: Do it. Call his bluff. Do it, you did nothing wrong. Demand to take this situation to the Elder Board. He abused his authority, hurt you deeply, and behaved angrily, irrationally, and unprofessionally. Go to the Board.
I regret I did not stand my ground that Friday night, and I regret I did not stand up for myself that Sunday morning but instead took his abuse as an indication of my own guilt and shame.