“I’m sorry Norman, but as long as you continue to sin, you are not welcome in this church.”
Norman Walker had been attending First Church of the Baptism for over a year now. At first Pastor William “Billy” Hubbard was excited that someone in his twenties wanted to attend. Over half the current membership was over fifty and they needed to be able to reach out to the next generation. Most of the younger people who worshiped on Sundays were the children or grandchildren of the aging parishioners. They just weren’t bringing in very many young converts.
“I love her, Billy. We’re going to get married.”
“It’s not only a matter of getting married to Chrissie. You have to repent of your sin with her. In fact, you should probably either move out or have her live elsewhere until after the wedding.”
“I can’t do that to her. She’d be heartbroken.”
“I’m talking about living a transformed life Norman and so far, you aren’t doing it. For that matter, she’s not even a believer and you know what the Bible says about being unequally yoked.”
“The Bible also says that if one person in a marriage is a believer and the other person isn’t, as long as neither one objects, they don’t have to divorce.”
“Norman, that applies to a person who is already married when he converts to Christianity. You’re playing fast and loose with Scripture now.”
The young man looked over the Pastor’s shoulder casually reading the titles of the numerous books on his shelves but really scrambling for what he should say next. It was Tim Page, one of his co-workers, who suggested coming to his church and “trying it out” after nearly six-months of debating back and forth about the Bible. Mom used to take Norman to a Lutheran church when he was little (Dad never wanted to go) but by the time he got to high school he said it didn’t interest him anymore and got Dad to back him up.
He didn’t think he was missing anything until he started talking to Tim. Then his life seemed empty and shallow. Work, partying, and sex started feeling like a dead-end. There had to be more to life than just doing what made you feel good and working to pay the bills.
“Well if that’s how you feel, Billy…”
“It’s not a matter of my feelings, Norman. It’s a matter of the Word of God. If you had really accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior over your life, you wouldn’t be arguing with me right now.”
“I didn’t think I was arguing. I have a right to fall in love.”
“Love yes, but not commit sin. You don’t have a right to thumb your nose at Jesus Christ.”
Norman stood up. “Then I guess this is good-bye, Billy.” He put his hand out not knowing if the Pastor would take it or not.
Billy stood. He was a big man, maybe six-foot four and two-hundred-and-fifty pounds. He extended a catcher’s mitt-sized right hand and engulfed the twenty-six year old’s. “I’m sorry it had to come to this, Norman. Our church is open to you when you’re ready to repent.”
“Thanks, Billy.” Norman released the other man’s hand feeling like an orphaned child.
“I’ll see you to the door.”
It was a Thursday night and they were just about the only two people in the building. As Billy walked him out of the office and down the hall to the front of the church building, Norman it was like walking the proverbial “last mile.” He remembered all of those lectures about Calvinism and especially the parts about how God has already chosen everyone who gets saved and that Jesus died only for those people, not everybody.
Norman still thought that was not only unfair but unlike God. Why would He choose only a limited number of people who could ever possibly get saved and abandon the rest of the human race who lived from Genesis to Revelation to automatic and eternal torment in Hell? What if there were people like him, people who God didn’t select but who ended up in church anyway? Didn’t that matter?
Billy showed him all of the parts of the Bible that supported a Calvinist point of view and why Arminianism, the opposite perspective, wasn’t Biblically valid.
“Good night, Norman. Drive safe.” Billy held the door open for him.
“Thanks, Pastor. You too.” He looked at the older man for a moment longer and then turned and walked into the night. His car was almost the only one left in the parking lot. He could hear the doors shut and then lock behind him and Norman forced himself not to look back one more time.
It was over. Pastor Billy Hubbard kicked him out. Sure, it was based on the Bible too, but it didn’t seem particularly human. Maybe that was the problem, though. God wasn’t human and Jesus, though he lived a human life, never sinned.
Norman got in his car and sat there a moment in the silence. He imagined God’s cosmic Book of Life. Mentally, he ran a finger over the alphabetical list down the “W” column, subcategory early 21st century America.
“Walker, Nicolas…Walker, Nelson…Walker, Nico…Walker, Nigel…Walker, Neal…Walker, Nate…” He paused and then, “Walker, Norton. No Walker, Norman. I’m not on the list.”
He inserted his key into the ignition and turned, firing up the engine. The man with no hope of salvation or reconciliation with God put his car in reverse, backed out, and then shifted to “Drive.” Pulling out of the parking lot, he moved forward and away from the First Church of the Baptism and Christianity.
He’d been abandoned by God thousands or millions of years before he was born. It may be in the Bible, but why would God bother to create billions and billions of people just to have them waste seventy or eighty years eking out a pathetic existence and then the rest of eternity as human being flambé in the deepest pits of Hell?
I authored this for the Tale Weaver #158 – February 8 – Abandonment writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to take the theme of “abandonment”and either write about your personal experiences or craft a fictional tale.
I went to a church for a couple of years and the Pastor and I talked privately almost every week. He was trying to convince me to be a good Baptist but I had other ideas. In the end, we never did see eye-to-eye. He’s not like “Pastor Billy” above and I’m quite different from Norman in most respects, however Pastor staunchly believed in Calvinism and I totally rejected the entire Calvinism vs. Arminianism dichotomy in favor of a completely different viewpoint I hammered out in a four-part series nearly five years ago.
No, I don’t feel abandoned by Christianity or God. It was my choice to walk away from the Church for the last time. However, I can see someone who has bought into Calvinism experiencing a sense of abandonment if they believed their time in church was in vain. Of course, according to Calvinism, those who were not divinely elected wouldn’t even be attracted to church so that bind would never occur, but it hardly seems like a just God would create scores of people who were already abandoned and doomed to destruction.
Sorry if all this seems dry and intellectual. It’s probably only interesting to people who like to wrestle with theological problems.
17 thoughts on “The Unchosen”
Thanks. I’m honored. I just was looking at your blog and see you’ve posted something for the first time in two years. I read your “About” page. Interesting. Please continue.
Many thanks! Yes I thought it was time to get the writing muscles working again, for better or worse.
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Thanks James for adding your thoughts to the prompt. The whole concept of what God is has always fascinated me. Every day I see people wrestling with their view…the far right who fervently believe their prayer elected Trump and this morning I watched a doco on the Jehovah Witness and their responses, or non responses, to child sexual abuse. I was bought up Catholic and after my marriage broke up not one person from the church ever contact me and it was about a year later that the parish priest in passing asked if I was ok. I felt that sense of abandonment but I didn’t really care as it was only the Catholic far right who bothered to contact my ex and then it was all propaganda, a little like your Pastor.
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About fifteen years ago, I was working the night shift at the local US Postal Service processing plant when met a guy who used to be a Pastor. His wife had an affair and the church board decided to hold him accountable and fired him. It was the first time I heard the expression, “The Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.” Granted there are many fine Christians and churches that are doing good work, helping the poor, widows, and orphans and generally doing what the Bible says to do. However, the Church is made up of human beings and human beings are a messed up group. When they are also religious, they can bring down the Name of God rather than bring it up. No person of faith is perfect and in fact, some of the best are the ones that struggle with themselves the hardest. I’m not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, but I’m experienced enough to know how to tell when I should stay among a group of believers and when I should go. Screwed up religious human beings does not mean that God is screwed up. Far from it.
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I agree with you on that point its not God who is screwed up….then again so often the most flawed character can be the best in terms of understanding and compassion.
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Maybe you should ping this story on your Morning Meditations blog also, as the seed for discussion of other kinds of spiritual abandonment issues? For example, a number of gentile disciples have expressed such feelings vis-à-vis their differences from Jewish ones in praxis and expectations.
Not a bad idea.
Reblogged this on Morning Meditations and commented:
I wrote this as a fictional story on “Powered by Robots” but one of my readers, ProclaimLiberty suggested that it might be an appropriate reblog here for those “Messianic Gentiles” who may feel spiritually or theologically “abandoned” within this movement.
I’ve always liked to wrestle with theological problems. The post may be dry and intellectual but it’s good for someone like me.
Thanks. Tough for me to bring something like this to life, Larry.
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I found this a very interesting read.
There are parts of christianity that each of us struggles with – especially if we have loved ones that are homosexual. That’s a tough subject. They were born that way, no God wouldn’t do that – but who would choose that life on purpose?
That’s been a theological struggle for a lot of churches. There are liberal churches and synagogues that are inclusive so that’s one option, however the portions of the Bible that address homosexual behavior are complex and a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of these brief comments.
You’re a good writer and thinker.
This story brings back memories of when I got kicked out of a Calvinist church in South Bend, IN. It happened after a Wednesday night Bible study. I stuck around after everyone left to push back just a little on what had been taught about God hating most of mankind. I brought up the passage about it not being God’s will that any should perish and I also mentioned John 3:16. At this point there was a quick and scary transformation. The smile disappeared, the face became red, and he said, “How dare you question me; you don’t have a degree in theology. I do! Get out and don’t ever come back–you or your wife!”
That was my only experience with a Reformed church. Now I’m in a more liberal Christian denomination, but like you, I now have a completely different viewpoint, so I sometimes wonder why I’m still attending.
The need for fellowship is strong, and besides, there’s something in Hebrews about not neglecting meeting together. That said, for a whole lot of reasons, I don’t attend a congregation. It gets lonely sometimes, but given my rather unique set of circumstances, I think it’s for the best.
Different isn’t bad as long as people will hear you out and you’re willing to hear them out. It’s a great way to know what you believe and why. On the other hand, as you’ve discovered, even if they don’t kick you out but instead stonewall you based on them being right and you being wrong, you might as well be alone.
I’m sorry for your difficult experience. The only problem with Christians is that we happen to be human beings.
Thanks James, it was a long time ago and it’s now a fun story to tell.
The church I now attend knows that I was a missionary in China for quite a few years, but they don’t know that my views have changed on just about everything. I think they’d still love me if they knew, but I suspect I’d be viewed as a project who had strayed from the faith.
The part that I struggle the most with is whether or not I’m doing my children a disservice by making them go with me. After all, it took me over 30 years to shed the beliefs my parents lovingly instilled in me. I certainly don’t blame my parents since they did what they thought was right, but I wonder if I’m doing what I think is right…
Most Christians would consider me a heretic since my beliefs are far from “orthodoxy.” But I am slowly and surreptitiously letting the truth out on my website. I revised my “What I Believe” page and wrote that if I had to choose a label, it would be “Theist.”
There’s a part of me that thinks I’m finally being authentic and another part of me that thinks I’ve turned my back on common sense, and letting the truth out will only hurt and disappoint family and friends. It’s not easy…
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I’m a Christian and my wife is Jewish. When we got married, neither one of us were religious. That changed sometime after we had our children, and our journey has done them a disservice. By the time the dust had settled and we had defined our paths, they were in different directions, and the result is that none of our three children, who are Jewish because their mother is, have chosen to follow either faith. There’s a lot I’d go back and change if I could, but I was too stupid and naïve to know what I was doing back then. It rests on my shoulders as their father, but now that they are adults, they have to negotiate their own relationship with God.
The Jews are the only people on Earth who are born into a covenant relationship with God, whether they want to be or not. I realized that far too late. I wish I could help with what you are facing, but the legacy we pass on to our children is sometimes a minefield.
Respond with a link to your blog. I’d love to take a look.
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