God is a God of order” is something I’ve heard countless times from conservative pastors. What they’re referring to is 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” In many churches it’s used as the reason that church services and worship must follow a specific format, and the reason that the established pastor is the primary person to speak, to lead. “Order,” it seems, is when nothing out of the ordinary happens; it is when only certain types of people decide what can be said and done as part of church, what is holy and what is Christian.
As church members who do not want to upset the cart of this “order,” you are expected not to speak up unless called upon (unless you are a cishet white man you probably will not be called upon.) “Order” has come to mean that silence is a sign of holiness, and that anything unusual is not godly. Stay quiet and don’t be weird. Ultimately it suggests that following established power structures and not speaking out are the holy things to do.
Over the centuries, Christian culture has become about telling people to hide. Hide our bodies, hide from positive talk of sexuality, hide our strange thoughts, hide our questions, hide our weirdness, hide different ways of wanting to do things, hide our hurt, hide our thoughts and hide our needs. Hiding has become holy. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Smile and do what’s expected.
But the fact is that hiding was the very first fruit of sin. It was the clear evidence to God that people had become broken. The Garden of Eden was a place of freedom and openness, but then Genesis 3:10: “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
Hiding is diametrically opposed to God, to who She/He is, and to who She/He created us to be. God is color and expression and creativity and weirdness. God is certainly not One who hides, and did not design us to do so, either. God created each one of us to contain unique pieces of the Godself. Each one of us is meant to display and bring something new. But humans — especially humans in power — can always be counted on to fear that which is unfamiliar, and that over which they do not have control. Yet every time one of us chooses to hide, that is one more facet of God’s nature that is stifled.
Silence is not order. It is fear that seeks silence as a moral touchstone — fear of oneself, fear of others, and fear of anything that one cannot understand or have power over. It is easier to regulate than to open up Church — open up the world — for people to bring whatever they possess, and then see how those things can fit together. We can never expect to see the fullness of the Church’s capacity when we utilize the natures and preferences of historically accepted leadership figures alone.
The word for “peace” in 1 Corinthians 14:33 is the Greek eirḗnē, from the root eirō, which means “to join” or “tie together into a whole.” It is a reference to wholeness, which by definition can only occur when every part is tied in. And that is not achieved by mimicking others or adhering to conventionality, but by bringing who we are. We are meant to discover what the tapestry of the Church actually looks like and how great its capacity for creativity. Anything less is not the body and is not truth.
So many leaders within the church would rather make art by way of copying and pasting a stock image rather than by utilizing all of the supplies at our disposal and fostering an atmosphere in which new things can be made. If we were truly utilizing what we could, each successive generation would contain even more color and expression than the previous. The true order of God and of the universe is to bring the pieces of glory contained in all creation — in every person — into play in all beauty and truth.
Hiding was never something godly and lovely. God is always saying and doing new things out of Her/His unchanging nature of love, and we were made to do the same. “Sing to the LORD a new song… all the earth,” Psalm 96:1. We need to push ourselves and love ourselves, learning about the pieces of who we are. We cannot continue to see unconventionality as disparate from God. Our goal should always be to make the most that we can with all that God has given us, not to gatekeep which parts of people are worthy, or who, by making us the least uncomfortable, deserves to be heard.
If we value a peace of silence over a peace of harmony, God’s creation is stifled and the world becomes off-kilter, like an instrument playing out of tune. Until its frequency has been made harmonious with (and by) the spectrum of creation, the music it plays will never be beautiful.
As usual, the solution is less simple than people want it to be, but more glorious. God has never asked us to avoid being different, outspoken, strange, expressive, etc. God simply wants us not to be discordant. That means fostering the true gifts that are within all members of a community and learning how they can be interwoven. When each instrument is played well, it brings out the glory of the others. We need to learn how to love ourselves and love others — including all of the unusual pieces — otherwise our holiness will always be hidden, buried in the ground.
Megan Mercier is an author and homeopath living in Madison, Wisconsin. She writes the fantasy series The Innerland Chronicles and other fictions under the name Windy Phillips, and also passionately writes, speaks and advocates on the topics of abuse, feminism, and the Church's responsibility. Follow her on Twitter @nutmegisme and her blog at sherlocktam.blogspot.com. She owns and runs Freedom Homeopathy during her spare time as a single mom.“