Thursday, April 29, 2010

Me In A Church

Where there is love, there is no question.

(Thank you Cindy)

Carl Sandburg was fond of saying that "exclusive" was the ugliest word in the English language. I'm reminded of the lyric from an old sang "I'm in with the in-crowd. I know what the in-crowd knows." We spend a lot of time drawing circles to determine who's "in" and who's "out."

The one thing I expect from a church is that when I walk through the door I am not only welcomed but accepted. In spite of what a great many people may think and what a lot of religious pastors may preach, no religion has all the cards on holiness. But the one thing, which no one can own, that every religiom should have, by nature of what it is, is love. A church, more than any other place in the world, should be a house of love.

In my younger years I did some church going, looking for a sense of love that I didn't find anywhere else. For a lot of youngsters there is no love at home. They seek it in the safety of their church, if they can. I can remember several times when I approached the door of a church and was met by someone who looked at me with an expression which said "What are you doing here?" Oh, a lot of churches preach love, "All are welcome," but once inside you soon see where the lines are drawn. I once entered a church with a sign out front that read "God is Love." The only love inside was of the hypocritical nature.

I knew a woman in Missouri, a mother of three young boys, who divorced her husband because he cheated on her. She went to live with another man, until the divorce was final, then married him. Her church completely ostracized her. She was no longer "welcome." Instead of compassion and love, she got rejection. She was a sinner!

Speaking of sinners, there seem to be a lot of those around. Some church goers have given themselves the right to decide whom God hates and what exactly the punishments are for the various offenses against the divine will. We have been told that Aids is God's punishment for homosexuality. We were given a similar reason for Katrina, ignoring the fact that the gay section of New Orleans was the only area unaffected by the storm. We have been informed that the earthquake in Haiti was because the nation made a pact with the devil. The sin is that too many people listen to and believe in this sort of clap-trap.

On the other hand, one block from where I lived in New York there was a Catholic church. Every Thursday evening the service was conducted by an old priest. I had no use for the mumbo jumbo that went on. I went for his sermons, which were sometimes lengthy but always deep and inspiring. He had no bigotry or exclusivity about him. He was a loving man.

One Autumn I went on a tour of the synagogues of the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We got to a small converted brownstone in the 90's and the rabbi was an Englishman with a bright, happy manner who greeted us with joy. The women had prepared cakes and tea for us. He spoke with love about his religion, the various rituals and what they meant. He was genuinely glad to see us even though most of us weren't Jewish. The other rabbis we met were cordial but none had expressed the love that fellow did. I vowed that if I was Jewish and living in New York, that's where I would go, just to be in the presence of that jolly Englishman and his humble, immediate and all inclusive grasp of spirituality.

I was talking about him one day to a woman who lived in a small town way up north, a Christian girl, who said that if she ever met a Jew or a Muslim she would convert him. How can a thinking person even ignore that sort of closed minded arrogance?

If I visit your church and you tell me that yours is the one true religion, that I need to be "saved" and that you "love" me "in Jesus' name" I am outta there. No need to show me the door, I can find it myself.

So now I don't go to church. Instead I study philosophy. Why? To become a better man. What does that mean? It means to become a more virtuous man. Philosophers have been thinking and writing about virtue and how to be more virtuous since way before there were any Christians, Muslims or Synagogues and they do it because they love humanity.

I'm not areligious, antireligious or sacrilegious, but I'm not an absolutist either. I'm a ponderer, a wanderer, a vagabond.

(This is not a contest.)

In your opinion what is the most amazing thing that could happen during this decade? Make it as outrageous as you want but keep it within the realm of what you consider a possibility.

Only 7 responses so far.

Answers will be published the first day of Summer.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

Exactly the same reasons why I do not go to church....too many rules and requirements for membership and none of them warm and welcoming. Too much hypocrisy. What they speak of they do not do and they have their own interpretations of worthiness. Most of this comes from so called Christian churches and very little, if any of it would come from the other religions of the world. The followers of these religions actually live their beliefs and adjust their lives accordingly because a lot is expected of them. For the others, they might want to practice more what they preach.

Liz said...

Since every answer that I have found always leads to another question I have obviously never found 'love'.
I doubt that I would be happy with what seems to me to be a dead end to my emotional development in comparison to the adventures both good and bad along the road of discovery.
In my youth I was a campanologist (bell-ringer) and choirgirl for my church. I did not realise it at the time but my sense of belonging was the result of a great rector who was 'in touch' with the needs of his parishioners of all ages.
Since then I have not found comfort in any church. I HAVE found hypocrisy, misplaced pride, ignorance, arrogance, malicious gossip and downright wickedness.
In other words I have found that a church does not remove the worst that human nature has to offer and fails miserably to give anything that could balance the experience.
The last time I tried I was told by the vicar to ‘take us as you find us’. I did and found both him and his flock severely wanting in Christian charity so I did not partake again.
Now when I am asked for my religion I state I am a Deist.
I usually have to spell this out for the person taking down the information who would obviously prefer the more common C of E etc. If I am in a good mood I add that it simply means I believe in God.

Anonymous said...

Let he without sin cast the first stone. Hypocrisy is the way of religion. Live long and prosper DB.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Well said.