E is for Excommunication

The pastor stared at his hands as if he were avoiding looking at me.

“Are you sleeping with him?” he asked.

I wondered for a moment if I should lie and tell him no. But lying was as much of a sin as fornication. Maybe it was less of a sin. I wasn’t sure anymore.

“Yes,” I answered. I was tired of pretending, tired of hiding who I really was behind the mask I had worn for as long as I could remember. I wanted the pastor to look at me, to see what kind of woman I had become — passionate, ripe, desired and loved. I wanted the pastor to realise that through the eyes of a man who wanted all of me, including my flaws, I had seen my true beauty for the first time.

The pastor’s eyes remained downcast.

“Then unless you repent,” he said, “and promise to never see this unbeliever again, you are no longer welcome in this church.”

I smiled as his eyes finally met mine. “I can’t repent,” I said, “because I’m not sorry. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”

As I left the pastor’s office, a new thought formed in my brain.

Who decides when love is right or wrong? How were my intimate sexual experiences any of the church’s business? If there was a God, why did he care who I slept with?

According to the church, my sin was great — great enough to excommunicate me from the congregation and keep me from heaven if I died. God and the church had turned their back on me, and I was utterly alone. The comfort blanket I had clung on to for so many years was ripped out of my hands. To get it back, I would have to forsake the deep, unconditional love of a warm human being. I wasn’t willing to make that trade.

I expected to feel dirty and worthless, to eventually break under the weight of my sin and run penitent back into the arms of Jesus. I was about to experience what I had been taught — that the life of an unbeliever is orchestrated by the devil, that selfishness and greed would turn my heart black, that the sharp rocks of a godless existence would slice gaping wounds in my skin.

To my surprise, none of that happened. The longer I stood with my back towards God, the simpler and happier my life became. In this new world my sexuality was celebrated, I didn’t have to submit to the will of a man, no one questioned my choice to remain unmarried, and the people who became my new friends were kind and tolerant, and delighted in the way we each were different.

My excommunication from the church was designed to be a punishment, a taste of how dark and lonely a life without Christ could be.

But it turned out to be nothing of the sort. The day that pastor sent me out into the wilderness, he opened a door to a brand new, wonderful, difficult, exciting, and meaningful life. And I wouldn’t go back for the world.

e is for excommunication twitter

Have you ever been thrown out of an organisation for not obeying the rules?


This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge

 

About Katie Paul

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing • Join the hottest group on FB → Sassy Ageless Women

66 thoughts on “E is for Excommunication

    1. Katie:
      Thank you for your honest article. Life is seasonal. I am also in an awkward, transitional spiritual place after my divorce. I taught a weekly women’s bible study in my home for over 15 years. Divorce made me feel unworthy as a Christian because I am doing some of the same behaviors that I condoned and I now question God. As a former church leader, I left my “home church” to attend a mega church to remain anonymous since I am uncomfortable at my former Pentacostal style church. At the same time, I still use my prayer language and have a relationship with Christ, asking him for mercy and guidance–despite my current lifestyle. Remember that once you are HIS, you are ALWAYS protected and a child of God for eternity. Blessings my friend.

  1. God is Love.

    Your pastor isn’t following the Word with what he did to you and I’m sorry. Jesus spent his time here amongst the sinners not the righteous. No one is perfect.

    No matter what you do or what you’ve done, God is Love. And He loves you repentance or not.

    xxx

    1. Probably — but I’m still pretty certain most churches have a problem with people living together without being married. And as I’m never getting married, I’m pretty much screwed.

      1. I’m sure there are some that don’t ostracize and look down on living together outside of marriage, Katie. Let’s not stereotype all spiritual organizations based in a few organizations… An open mind tends to be better prepared to see those open doors when they present themselves…

        1. I’d be interested to hear of a Christian church based on Biblical theology that approves of sexual relationships outside marriage.

          My observations are based on my experience within the evangelical christian faith and aren’t intended to apply to all the various types of ‘spiritual organisations.’

      2. I fell out with my vicar too after my divorce – he was shocked that I didn’t forgive & forget my ex husband’s little indiscretion;the vicar also told me, whilst I was in the early stages of having a miscarriage that I was immature to get pregnant at any rate! I was running the church toddler group at the time & most of the mums were just as shocked & stopped going too in support to me.I ran home in tears & boyfriend (now husband) told him what he thought. I stopped going to church that day – 12 yrs ago – my two younger boys haven’t been christened. I feel much better with my life & am upset at how judgemental people can be!

  2. I loved this read. And I’m pretty sure God made us to love one another in every way. Sometimes organized religion misses the whole point. Some people do need a set of rules to follow and to judge one another. I for one, don’t think that is my job. I think we are put on this earth to live, love, laugh and grow. So I think your doing it right! I feel pretty close to God spiritually without being part of an organized church.

    1. I find it hard to believe in a benevolent God when there is so much suffering in life. For me, it makes much more sense to believe there is no divine plan, and all we that we can rely on is the love we show each other.

      I agree with you though that we’re here to live, love, laugh and grow — a philosophy that works no matter what we believe.

  3. HA! Yes! Last year I left the Mormon church. I was given the ultimatum: leave or be excommunicated. Which rules did I break? Well, a few. I stood up for the civil and spiritual rights of the LGBTQ community. I advocated for a more inclusive role for women and demanded their equality was the same as a man in the sight of (fake) God. I questioned church leaders, doctrine, and historical inaccuracies. One church “leader” said many years ago that the demise of the church would be the “feminists, gays, and intellectuals”. I’m so glad to help his prophetic “vision” come to pass, because there are a lot of us and we are leaving in droves!

    I ended up leaving (with my husband and two kids). It was the best thing I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, I lost a LOT of people in my life. I have been judged, shunned, and locked out by several old church friends and family members. My marriage has turned completely black, although that started while we were still members. I no longer feel pain or guilt at being authentically who I am. I have given up mystical thinking and have rediscovered my passion for science. The list goes on and on. I will never be associated with organized religion again, and even only acknowledge spirituality in passing. I can drink my beloved coffee and beer, and have cigarettes again! I feel free to be or not be. I am kind and loving without the promise of some reward, but isn’t that how is should be anyway? I’m completely liberated. It’s wonderful and I suggest it to everyone!

  4. I could never figure out why our beliefs make us intolerant and judgmental? Was it not suppose to do just the opposite. Its so with all religions. Anyway I also believe God just shut one door so that another one could open and you could live a fuller life.

    1. I agree, Rena. History is written by the winners and rules set by them… Authority seems to be at the head of the various organized religions I’ve encountered… It is my desire to one day find a spiritual foundation that believes in a fully
      Compassionate God, not one who people claim to be kind yet wields punishment and uses scare tactics to keep his followers in line…

  5. Well said, Katie. Remember how I said you should always tell the truth, if it needs to be told? You told it well. Very, very well. And the church is sometimes the first place to forget….”Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

    1. Thanks Michelle. Perhaps we should abolish the idea of judging anyone at all, even if they are judgmental themselves. Isn’t that what forgiveness is about?

  6. Katie this is just lovely. I have such a hard time with the church on this issue (well, with many other issues too!) It just seems so against the teachings of Christ. Thank you for sharing this. xo

  7. As a teenager I was asked to leave the Salvation Army band – because I did not attend church services and refused to start. Thus ended my tortured musical career.

  8. So Glad you had that moment, Katie, that self awareness and awakening… How old were you?

    The members of my God-fearing church gossiped about a sixteen-year-old girl, accused her of trysts with a married man, the father of children she babysat for… These “Christians” shunned the young girl and whispered in her presence…

    That was the first time I understood the meaning of hypocrisy… My God doesn’t sanction that sort of behavior… <3

    1. I was in my early twenties at the time, so it’s a long time ago.

      It worries me how much church-goers are fascinated with the sex lives of each other. I wonder if there is something missing in their own lives …?

  9. Beautifully said. As you and many readers point out, Christ came to teach us Love. It’s strange how judgmental and exclusive His teachings can become through the eyes of authority; the very same type of authority He most wanted to teach.

    The sacrament of marriage, in the Catholic faith, is performed by the two people getting married. I never asked for forgiveness or permission for marrying my (second) husband outside of legal sanction or church blessing. We committed to each other spiritually and physically years before we signed any papers. I never left the church, I never asked them to understand. The church never asked me, never refused me, and never excommunicated me.

    I’m happy you are filled with love. That’s the way it should be.

  10. I have found that many churches have strayed from what the Bible teaches. I have not been excommunicated, but after my last experience several years ago, I will never go back. Good for you for going with your heart.

    1. You’ve touched on another problem I have — that as well as the good stuff, the Bible also teaches all manner of inhumane and intolerant things. It is difficult to know what to adopt and what to reject. When people insist the Bible is the ‘word of God’ they lose me.

      Going with our hearts is the only thing we can trust. I’m glad you went with yours x

  11. An interesting way of looking at it; God’s world and the world’s world are definitely different worlds and different things are celebrated there. Life is full of choices and consequences and there’s room for all. Whilst, I couldn’t choose your choice, I understand it. #MondayBlogs

    1. I wonder what you celebrate in “God’s” world that I don’t? And what you feel the particular consequences of my choices might be?

      Your comment seems to be hinting at something I’m not quite getting.

      1. O Katie, I wasn’t hinting at anything beyond my comment or indicating any personal feelings about the consequences of your choices. I merely summarised your last 3 ‘paragraphs’. No offence was intended and I hope none was taken. Sorry, if my comment caused any annoyance.

  12. No, I haven’t, but I don’t tend to join organizations, either. I fell in love with a man of a different faith when I was in college and my mother’s relatives declared me dead to them because of me intending to marry him. I’ve been out of touch with that side of the family for some 45 years. P.S. we’ve been married 41 years this June. What if I had given him up? I identified with your story.

  13. Such a powerful post Katie! I have never been part of a church, but being raised by two atheist parents I had many a friend warn me of the dire consequences of my sinful life and many friends try to ‘save’ me…. I think it’s enough that we love and live compassionately. <3

  14. It,s been long since i have decided i am a non believer and i am surviving!! Can be tough at times but actually the strength and love can be derived from our inner being and shared with like minded people…

  15. I haven’t been thrown out, but I know of friends who were thrown out, one an ex Jehovas witness who got thrown out for loving a girl in his early twenties. We can never label or control love, love is love and has no boundaries.

  16. Brava, Katie! Loved this: “The longer I stood with my back towards God, the simpler and happier my life became.” Having been raised outside religion (both my parents were atheists), I have no experience of leaving a congregation or going from being a part of it to being ostracized… What I do have is the perspective of a (somewhat) objective observer watching friends and family walk the religious path. And… well, to put it kindly, nothing I’ve seen has ever made me want to be a part of such a community. The core philosophy, at its simplest–god is love–is a good one. But that’s not religion, is it? Religion is about creating an Us–a group of “insiders”, of “chosen ones”, of “initiates”–and, by its very nature, an Us requires a Them to exist. And, when this Them is reviled as unworthy or otherwise sullied and unclean, then–I’m sorry, that’s not love. That’s fascism. The idea that no life can be well-lived without religion is profoundly flawed (and, to me, has a distinct whiff of passive-aggressiveness). I’m so, so very happy that you discovered the freedom of being human.
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

    1. What a great comment, Guilie (and I’m sorry to have missed it earlier).

      They say that the only way humans can commit atrocities is to see their victims as ‘others’ — hence things like genocide and racial violence. The paradox is that religion reinforces that idea — so instead of creating an environment of love and acceptance they divide the world into two halves and facilitate the very acts they preach against.

  17. I believe that because all religious books I’ve ever heard of were written by people far from science or any standards of logic, being raised on one of them creates a serious dichotomy in your mind. The logical gaps are being filled with hate, hypocrisy, and actually create the environment for sin in Biblical sense. For instance, God said we should love each other, gay people love each other, but God said gay sex is bad, so should we condemn gay people? What about that part where we all love each other? It’s too hard to grasp, so people cling to what’s easier: not thinking much, doing what everyone else does.
    Anyway, it’s just my humble opinion. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s religious feelings. Glad to have found your blog, Katie! I’ll be your devoted reader. Love your style and the choice of topics!

  18. When my grandfather left my grandmother for another one of his many women, the church excommunicated my grandmother, saying she had clearly not provided well enough for my grandfather. My grandmother was devastated. At the age of 5, she was put into a convent and left at age 17 when she met and married my grandfather. She was in fact going to become a nun. Slowly, she managed to piece back her life and bring up three children, but at age just 60, she died from ill health. My mother would regale this story to us and it was a gift because it taught us to think for ourselves. My mom, three months before she was diagnosed with lung cancer, would become a born again christian – a decision I never understood, but accepted. My mom, though, never judged. She was rare. Within the church judgement and sanctimonious thinking was rife, as was arrogance. I’m glad you made the decision that was right for you, but more importantly, I am glad you are able to live a life of feeling worthy and loved, and sexy to boot!

  19. I am so sorry for your experience Katie!! I actually have had a similar experience in my life and I know how that can feel!!

    Thankfully, I discovered God for myself and the true Being that He is, which is love! While I do agree that His will is something to strive to follow, He loves us, despite our sins. Luckily, I have found a wonderful church that conveys love! So nice to know that there are those churches that exist! But do know, God loves you.

    I’d be happy to talk with you if you ever want to talk to someone who is a big time believer but believes that our God is one who calls us to love and not judge! 🙂

    1. Thank you for the offer, but I’m certain I won’t take you up on it. I am surrounded by family and friends who are equally convinced that the right words will change my mind. While I understand and respect your dedication to your beliefs, I am not so easily swayed from mine.

  20. I was thrown out a Baptist church for a VIRGIN strawberry daiquiri on beach week, but really it was the youth minister being angry my father (on the finance committee) would’t let him live in one of the houses the church owned with plans on tearing it down for more parking on account it should be condemned. I too turned my back on God, and then I realized God is not a religion, He just is, so I prayed and avoided church for years except for weddings and funerals if I really liked you, and church actually gave me panic attacks, but then I had kids and live in a haunted house, so I’m back at a church. They aren’t too judgy, like my pastor knows I take EVP’s of demons like I’m some sort of demon whisperer, but he just avoids the subject and welcomes me into his church.

  21. Guess I was never in a position to be excommunicated. Though I was baptized Catholic, my family had nothing to do with church once the priest wouldn’t issue my ill infant sister’s last rites (I was 4). Pops walked away from the church right then and took us with him. Suited me fine. I’ve been a card-carrying atheist/humanist since I was a kid, and all the happier for it.

  22. You’re so brave and honest. It shines through in your internet presence and your writing.
    I wish organized religion was less judgmental. That aspect of it really alienates people.

    Thanks for writing this, Katie.

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