Keegan Osinski: The Church of the Nazarene Made Me This Way & Now You’re Stuck With Me

This month’s guest writer is NazToo’s own Keegan Osinski. Keegan is a librarian and MTS student at Vanderbilt University. She grew up in Southern California and received her BA in Philosophy & Theology from Point Loma Nazarene University before moving to Nashville, where she now lives with her partner and two pugs and has cultivated an appreciation for biscuits and lightnin’ bugs. You can find more of her work at keeganosinski.com and follow her on Twitter @keegzzz.

In the academic circles I run in, I’m often the only Nazarene people know of. This is funny, of course, because if you know me or my work you know it’s not exactly your typical Nazarene fare. Don’t get me wrong—it’s thoroughly Christian, and decidedly Wesleyan, but you probably won’t be seeing it in Holiness Today anytime soon (but Frank Moore, if you’re reading this, holler at me).

The joy of this work of witness (or, we could say, Mission) is that people mistakenly think the Church of the Nazarene looks more like what I wish it could be than what it is. They see me and my work and think the Church of the Nazarene must be a bold and fearless kind of church, open to all kinds of intellectual and theological possibilities and experimentations, passionate about justice for the poor and the marginalized, filled with the fierceness and vigor of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ. They think the Church of the Nazarene must be a safe and welcoming place for the queer, the childless, the challenging, the skeptic, the rough-around-the-edges.

And it’s not that they’re wrong, exactly.

After all, I’m Nazarene, too. And the Church of the Nazarene, in part, made me like this.

I’m often asked why I stay in the Church of the Nazarene, or why I chose it to begin with. I’ve only been a member for 2 years, and attending for 6, so I wasn’t born into the Church, but I like to say that I was dropped off squalling on its doorstep, abandoned and vulnerable, and that the Nazarenes took me in, adopted me, and loved me as one of their own.

Nazarenes made me brave. Nazarenes made me a feminist. Nazarenes taught me intellectual hospitality and social justice and church history and Greek. A Nazarene institution gave me my bachelor’s degree and my first real paycheck. And it was in a Church of the Nazarene where I kneeled at the altar on some grubby-ass orange carpet and received the body and blood of our Lord and knew that my body was part of that body and that these people were my people and I was theirs and that nothing could ever, ever change that.

So when a Nazarene, however well intentioned, asks me why I don’t just find a denomination where I might be a better “fit,” I wonder when the last time was that they received the Eucharist. I wonder if they don’t realize that I am already a part of them—my cells in their bloodstream, my atoms in their lungs. I wonder if they think that sending me on to the Episcopalians or the Lutherans would really rid them of me.

Why would I leave the people I have such a fierce affection for and loyalty to? Why would I forsake the people who accepted me and loved me and taught me how to think and care and fight?

When people find out what the Church of the Nazarene is really like—that it’s not quite as welcoming as it could be, that much of it is haunted by anti-intellectualism and hounded by fundamentalism and harried by legalism—they’re usually disappointed. I don’t blame them. I’m often disappointed in it myself. But I hope that won’t always be the case. Because while the Church of the Nazarene has a lot of issues, Nazarenes are pretty great. And goddammit I’m Nazarene too.