From a bitter church split comes a novel

Little Lies Final Cover LL Mar 13

YOU’VE HEARD from time to time about a split in the church.

Two factions of the congregation disagree and can’t get along.

One side is angry.

One side is hurt.

Souls are all simmering with hatred.

Well, let me clarify the matter.

Churches don’t split. Churches are torn apart with the power and fury of an earthquake.

I know. I’ve been in the middle of one. And I don’t ever plan to go through another one.

I had the misfortune of being on the Session, which is the governing body of the Presbyterian Church.

The pastor had been around for a long time. He had his own clique, mostly those members of the congregation who sat on the richer side of church

He was no different from any other pastor.

But there was an internal squabble that got out of hand.

One faction of church was angry.

The other faction didn’t give a damn.

In the past, any time the pastor faced any kind of criticism, he merely rolled his eyes in session, put a hand over his heart, and said piously, “Well, if you don’t think I’m doing my job, then I’ll just resign.”

Pity would sweep over the session.

Then here came the guilt.

And someone would pat the pastor on his back and say, “Oh, no, please don’t think you have to resign. We all love you.”

A few tears would be shed, and there would be hugs all around.

Well, here we were in the middle of another problem.

Members of the Session were fuming.

Voices were raised.

Accusations spilled forth.

And the pastor leaned back, rolled his eyes, put his hand over his heart, and said piously, “Well if you don’t think I’m doing my job, then I’ll just resign.”

I had heard it before.

I wasn’t buying it this time.

I spoke up and said, “I move that we accept the pastor’s resignation.”

And all hell broke loose.

It stayed broke loose.

Here came the angry phone calls in the middle of the night.

Bitter voices.

Pointed promises that sounded a lot like threats.

I was shunned like a leper.

My best friend, an attorney, strolled down to the front of the church on Sunday Morning and asked the congregation to throw me out.

He received a lot of amens.

Quite a few considered it, I’m sure, and probably would have done it if they hadn’t been wearing white shirts and ties.

The church was torn with rumors.

It was assailed by gossip.

The church shuddered beneath the lies, the next one worse than the last.

Everyone was right.

And everyone was wrong.

There would be no winners.

Everybody lost.

I wrote Little Lies to free myself from the demons that tormented me in the years after the church did its best to come apart at the seams.

It, too, is the story of a church in turmoil.

The story is different from the one I experienced.

The characters in Little Lies aren’t the ones who threatened to excommunicate me if only the Presbyterian Church allowed excommunications.

But the pain is there.

So is the gossip.

So are the rumors.

And the next lie is worse than the last.

As I wrote about the novel:

“Little Lies” is a chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered too long in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death. The story cuts deep into the anger and anguish that boils deep inside the congregation of a Presbyterian Church, as the pastor battles back against gossip – or maybe the truths – of those who are committed to having him removed from the pulpit at any cost. All are caught in a crossfire of vengeance that is fought behind closed doors with sex, bribery, blackmail, and murder.

Friends are forever wedged apart by the turmoil. Generations of conflict erupt with violence. And a maddening horror grips the lives of innocents who become as demonic as the Satan they curse with their nightly prayers. A woman is desperately in love. A woman is scorned. A woman is betrayed. Someone will pay a terrible price.

I wrote the story to cleanse away the torment in my soul.

The church fractured a long time ago.

The torment remains.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    I lost a lot of good friends, and I still miss them.

    • It sounds as if the pastor was passive-aggressive with that line about, “I’ll just resign.”

      Pastors have too much power – it can be a problem. Just like CEOs, they’re not always right. I have personal experience in something similar, and it wasn’t pretty.

      • Caleb Pirtle

        It’s never pretty, Alicia, and, as I wrote, nobody ever wins. Even the winners lose.

  • Most of us who have spent several years in the same congregation must endure a similar experience. It’s one of the factors that drive people away from “religion.”
    When Bob and I had a beach house in Gulf Port (pre-Katrina) we went to a different church every Sunday. We kept our memberships in Baton Rouge. We never got on a committee. Never stayed at one congregation long enough to get into their internal politics, but we never lost touch with God.
    Oh, and your motion made me actually laugh out loud.
    Sounds so much like you–and me.
    Must be them Price genes.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Those Price genes will get you in trouble every time. The best way to go to church is to walk in, then walk out, each Sunday without anybody ever learning your name.

  • jack43

    Damn. You beat me to it. I’ve experienced the same thing twice. Both instances were incited by a clergyman’s infidelity.

    …and who said “history repeats itself”? It’s true, very true.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      When session meetings become a war zone, you can figure the pastor is pulling the strings, and sometimes the strings are cut.

  • Darlene Jones

    Ironic that those who profess to be good and love God can be the most un-Godlike and cause the most pain to others — all in the name of God of course.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Darlene, nothing’s changed since Genesis.

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