The church I attend is spread across two campuses. I go to the North Campus. Not sure why I capitalized that, but there you are. It wasn’t always like that, though. Not the capitalization thing, the two campuses thing. There used to only be one campus. It was the South Campus. But of course, back when it was the only one, it wasn’t called the South Campus. Or the south campus. Or even the campus. It was just called the church. And if I capitalize that, you’ll start thinking of Under the Milky Way.
Anyway, the point is that when it used to be just one building, and that’s where I went, I was married to a different woman than I am now. I have nothing negative to say about my ex-wife. She’s a lovely gal. We just weren’t meant for each other like I used to think. When we went through our divorce, which was one of the most difficult times I’ve ever gone through, I stopped attending that church. I also lost forty-five pounds. That should tell you how stressful it was, and – therefore – how seriously I took it. I hate divorce, and can often be heard saying I don’t believe in it. But that’s a whole other column.
At the beginning of the year after my ex-wife and I separated, I met my current wife – the one I call my red-haired wife. I have nothing negative to say about her either. I think we were meant to be together though. And seriously, if you were to have a beer with me and hear me tell you all the small-world stories where we were in the same place at the same time but didn’t know it, you’d probably agree with me. It’s actually quite freaky. She’s from a different part of the country, but would hang out in the summers across the street from where I grew up. There’s a greater-than-zero chance that I had seen her many, many times. But again, that’s a whole other column.
After a couple of years of being married to my red-haired wife, I finally talked her into trying out the church I used to attend. I assured her that they wouldn’t be judgmental, because this is a really cool group of people who go here. And we’d be going to the North Campus, anyway, and I hadn’t even gone there with my ex-wife. That was her fear, you see, that they would shun her because she was the second wife of they guy they used to know. Well, they didn’t. And she fell in love with the church, and we are now regular members. We go just about every Sunday.
It’s funny though. No one in that North Campus ever looks down their nose at my wife. They are all very welcoming, and – as I had said – non-judgmental. She goes to women’s retreats with a lot of the women there. The South Campus though? Well, apparently, that’s another story.
When we have extra-curricular functions, both campuses attend, and I frequently see folks from the South Campus, with whom I used to spend quite a bit of time. Small group studies, men’s retreats, people who were at my first wedding… And when I see them, they treat me differently. And my wife, too. I think it’s the fact that most all of them continued to go to the South Campus once the new one opened up, and therefore that I almost never see them, that I think of this church as a body of non-judgmental people. I guess I’ve been naive.
So why am I writing about something so personal on a public blog? Because, I feel the need to call them out.
I took my four-year-old to a function tonight, and witnessed some really tacky behavior. Of course, I saw a bunch of people from the old campus, and shook hands with a bunch of guys I used to run with over there. The church had rented out a water park for four hours tonight for a private party, so no one but our church folk were allowed in. This is important because at a water park, men don’t typically wear shirts. I am a man. I didn’t wear a shirt. I have a lot of tattoos.
I think some of the guys and gals were surprised by the amount of ink I have been hiding from them for years. I mean, think about it: how often does someone at your church have the opportunity to see you with your shirt off? I’ve known some of these people for fourteen years or so, and I guess they never had any idea I was so liberal with the ink. I was not, however, the only guy in the park who has tattoos. In fact, some of our ministers have them on visible places on their arms. Altogether, not a big deal. But combine that with the fact that I divorced my ex-wife, and now they feel justified for being tacky and judgmental to me and my wife.
I almost never bring up religion on my blog, and certainly never politics. But I’d just like to say, because I know some of you South Campus folks read this site, that I’m really disappointed with you. I sat in on small groups with you one night a week for several, several years, and we discussed things like being judgmental, arrogant and unkind. And though none of you were really unkind tonight, I saw your true colors.
Who do you think you are? You squirm in your trunks at the thought of talking to me because I committed a cardinal sin. I left my wife of seven years and God hates divorce! Yawn. Yeah, but you know what else he hates? When you try to do his job for him.
I’m not mad. I’m not being a little whiny butt either. I don’t really care. I don’t need you in my life. I live a pretty decent life. I have three wonderful, well-behaved and well-mannered children, a gorgeous wife, two cars that run and a house with a view of the lake. I haven’t spoken to you in the five years since I divorced my ex, so I haven’t missed you. I just thought you should be called out publicly for being judgmental holier-than-thou assholes who think your sins don’t count as much as mine. And I’ll just know better than to ever think I need to shake your hand again.
We’re starting over now. I have a whole other group of friends in the church now. Some of them are in the band. Some are elders. All of them are humans. But you know what? They’ve all accepted the fact that I, like them, have done something that’s not exactly what the good Lord would approve of, but that he’s probably forgiven me for, and they’ve moved on. Like adults. I’m done trying to be friendly to all you who I used to know. If I knew you in the past, and you’ve turned into an arrogant jerk, you’re a blank face to me from now on. And I won’t remember you tomorrow. I won’t hold conceit and judgment and hate down in my heart. Five years? One year? What’s the difference? If you’re that stuck on someone else’s past, you’re just a sad, miserable jerk and deserve to be depressed with it for as long as you’ll let it plague you. Good riddance. I’m happy to live carefree without you.
Oh, and psst… Can I give you a piece of advice? My ex-wife and I have a better relationship now than we ever did when we were married. She went on vacation with my current wife and I a couple of years ago. So, um, if she’s cool with it, maybe you should think about minding your own business. Find something new to latch onto. Maybe try worrying about your own sins. You know? Or have you forgotten where we met in the first place?