My non-Christian friends thought it hilarious that I of all people had been thrown out of the church and denounced as being responsible for destroying the church and its subsequent closure. They gathered round giggling with delight, and waited for juicy details in response to ‘oh my god, what the hell did you do?’. What I’d done was to try and support the pastor when he was going through a bleak time and wanting to quit. I felt the church’s attachment to a large and abusive organisation was the crux of the problem and offered support if he should want to go it alone. And that, my friends, was my crime, and the reason I was never again fully accepted in any church.
The next I heard, after my visit to the pastor, was that a church meeting had been called to which we were all summoned. The church members were informed that the church would be closing and the pastor would be going to work with the leader of the larger organisation, who was shutting the church down. Naturally, people were upset and wanted an explanation as to why he had chosen to do this. So did I, and what happened next blindsided me. He pointed directly at me and said ‘that man and his wife are responsible for this!’. The encouragement I gave to the pastor had nothing whatsoever to do with my husband, and I said as such, but apparently, as I was viewed merely as my husband’s property with no right to my autonomy, whatever I said was his fault, and he had to be held accountable for everything I did. The leader looked surprised and disappointed that we hadn’t dropped dead on the spot. I think he expected a reenactment of the scene with Ananias and Sapphira, which I believe to be an example of spiritual abuse in the early church. Most church leaders I knew used it as proof of the God-given power and jurisdiction they had over people, and as a warning of how God would punish those who did something as trivial as trying to look more generous than they were, let alone people who actively challenged the lack of integrity among leaders.
We left there alive and on the way home reenacted parts of the Piranha brothers scene from Monty Python, with phrases like ‘he’s a fair man,’ ‘he had to nail my head to the coffee table’ and ‘I had transgressed the unwritten law.’