Mere Churchianity*

I know people who go to church regularly.  I do not.

But with the people I do know who go to church; we have nothing to talk about.  Why?  Because they go to church for the entertainment, the socializing, the activities, the children, the personalities involved, their own personal edification, then it’s over.  Church and them go their separate ways till next time.

They don’t study their own scriptures and much less anyone else’s in order to be able to speak intelligently about the writings.  I have been studying scriptures for  a long time, Biblical, Eastern, Psychological, Common Sense, Philosophical.  I’m happy to discuss anything spiritual and metaphysical.

Discuss objectively and not necessarily argue.  I am not a defender of any faith, I am a seeker on a journey.  Writings can give us tentative directions, and we can recalibrate according to the detours of changing experiences.  I highly respect people who do study their scriptures, even more if they’re fearless enough to go beyond “their own” and look at others.  But most Christians I know out here don’t study their writings as they should – as it says to in their writings.

Since they do not read and study, all we can do is state  an opinion not based on anything objective such as the scriptures, and entrench ourselves in it.

No dialog possible there.  Shame.

They don’t think they have to study  because they heard a sermon from their celebrity pastor.  A sermon that waters down the scriptures that they taut as perfect and infallible, with jokes, anecdotes, hooping call and response, and all other manner of theatrics.  There’s no seriousness to the church experience.  Sure, they slow the music down to a whisper, people close their eyes for a few moments, out loud say “yes Lord!” and wave their arms to give the impression they’re having a real moment with god, then WHOOPIE!  Back to the party!

What a cop out from studying the sacred, infallible, words of god for yourself.  You see, you can blow off the pastor once you leave his presence.  Be holy in church and around him, but away from him use language you wouldn’t use in his presence cause, well, he ain’t there now!  But, if you read “god’s word” and believe you are accountable to him who sees you all the time, and knows that you  know what his required do’s and don’ts are; it makes you really work on changing your behavior, full time, not just Sunday morning and on activity days.

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Isaiah – note the cross references between Biblical and Latter-day Saint scripture in the footnotes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a conversation with someone recently about that.  They were a participating member of a local mega church and they asked me why I didn’t like their church. I told them that I knew they did a lot of activities and had lots of programs.  But I felt it was all show business, because a lot of people who I know and go to that church don’t improve their behavior or grow in knowledge.  Behavior isn’t taught enough.  Nobody is trying to be holy, someone even outright said so to me once, with pride!

This person said “Jesus is coming back real soon you know!”  All you have to do is believe that we are saved by grace.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I think that subconsciously all of us, believer and unbeliever alike, really understand what a friend of mine who is a solid, studious, mindful Christian says: “A grace that cannot change you, cannot save you.”  Knowing the bible he’ll back that up with scripture.  But that won’t matter to people who don’t care enough to follow their scriptures.

Behavioral change is evident.  You don’t declare it, talk is cheap.  Behavioral change is witnessed.  It is what separates you from your old friends and family.  That you don’t talk or act like them anymore.  That you don’t enjoy the same things anymore.  That you choose to think differently about things.  That you study and train in order to support your change.

I don’t see that local church having that effect on people I know.

Theologically I disagree with them on the existence of a personified god, heaven and hell, angels and demons, blessings based on being a club member, the infallibility of their writings, and more.

But those things are moot points in relation to developing a higher character and being a continually better person.  Godless unbelievers become transformed people without those things.  Yet, the people who say theirs is an awesome powerful god, have a god that cannot transform gossipy, gluttonous, mocking, violent, selfish or lustful personality from his followers, although that’s what he wants from them.

Church just ain’t doing it.

*I use as a title the title of a book I’d recommend, click on it for the Amazon link:

Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

Easter event at a church.

An amusing experience I had recently.

It’s no secret I am an Atheist/Agnostic/Hindu/Buddhist/Humanist whatever.  Just not a “Christian” because I’ve been there done that, found better, and maybe I can spare someone the pain and waste of time and mind that involves.

For Easter I decided to check out what seemed like a liberal thinking new style Christian group and attend their Easter event.  It was going to be in the outdoor space of a cool bar restaurant, with music, bar-b-q food, minimal sermon, and some good vibes maybe?

We buy our tickets and go.  When we get there we get our wristbands and find a table near the front so that we can see the stage well, rather than sit off to the sides or back so as to just observe and not be bothered.  But hey, this is a communal event, their biggest after Christmas, and I figured the point was to get to know them and they get to know us, so let’s be present and visible.

The long and short of it is we were ignored.  No one greeted us, asked if we were first time visitors, or shared anything with us, even though we were right smack dab in the middle of everyone.  Lots of people wore dark glasses and when we did make the occasional eye contact it was quickly averted to someone else they knew.  We were obviously unknown to the leaders and regulars, yet treated with disregard.

They are loosely “Christian.”  They use the Bible.  They speak of Jesus.  They were celebrating Easter which is a Christian thing.

They were also pretty self absorbed.

I’ll describe it as a white hipster neo-christian social club.  They want to believe that they’re some radically different type of Christian.   Better than the old and traditional types.  But they were into their little cliques and family groups, looking to relate only to those they were familiar with.  Occasionally looking our way, then off.  Kind of like the “cool kids” that are exclusive, and pick and choose who they want.

We stayed a while, even sang along to some songs, ate our food, had our coffee, and left, just as apparently invisibly and anonymously as we arrived.

Knowing a thing or two about Christianity, the Bible, and its core customs and teachings; I had the expectation of being greeted and welcomed.  Of being shown some love and concern even though we were strangers and outsiders, especially because we were strangers and outsiders.  Of being shared their beliefs with.  Maybe a semblance of hospitality.  If not from the laity cause they’re unlearned and uninstructed, certainly from the various leadership and staff.

Well, we got zilch, zero, nada!  Some ministry, huh?

I came home and wrote them about it.  Told them how we were ignored and made to feel like we didn’t belong or shouldn’t have come.  Where was Christ in this group?  Actually, he was with me checking them out…Now it gets good!

You see the Christian and Biblical thing to do would be to apologize, ask forgiveness, extend an invitation to come again and demonstrate that they care, as Jesus would have them too.

A few days later I saw their reply.  Basically; too bad, fuck you, we’re the bomb.

They make excuses for themselves of being busy managing the event, having to entertain their own friends and family, and flip the script by saying I “judged” them after only a few hours of being among them.

Also from their reply: “some of us are snobs, some are unfriendly, some are not Christian, religious, spiritual or interested in imagemaking  friends…” Well, well, well!  Welcome to our spiritual community!

And some people wonder why I don’t want to be associated with being a Christian.  It’s cause I’ve known junkies, thieves, prostitutes, bums, godless all of them, that were a hundred times more loving, caring, and generous than 99% of “Christians” I come across day to day.  They were friendly, Christ like, religious, spiritual, and interested in making friends.  Unlike previously said “Christian” church.

Since dissociating myself from Christianity I have met some of the most wonderfully Christian people in the world, most of them also not “Christian.”  I know Atheists, Unitarians, Buddhists, Free Thinkers, who truly understand and look to live 24/7, the principal of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  People for whom the experience and presence of the divine is all in all, and not something to claim when you’re in church, around the pastor, or around others you think want to hear that kind of shpiel.

So, amusing as this Easter experience was, I realize I’m not missing anything worthwhile on their holidays.

I have a little more to say on religion based on another experience I had recently, and maybe it’s not as critical…

Sunday morning sermon

Religious people figure that anything they say or post is oh so awe inspiring and valuable to everyone, as long as it say’s “Jesus,” “God,” or “Bible” in it.

It’s not.

With this arrogance they post some of the weakest, lamest, least inspiring  stuff on the internet.  I have seen some awful singing, but since the girl said Jesus somewhere in there, it was posted with “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!”  and it was painful to the ears.

There’s lots of postings of church performances that reduce the Christian life to a third rate stage show.  They post framed sayings or bible verses saying “Jesus died for you” and ask you to click “like,” never mind that normally “liking” that someone died is bizarre and questionable.

Even worse is the call to pray for someone’s something that’s not gonna happen with a big guilt trip in it if you don’t participate, similar to the old chain letter thing.  They never post “yesterday, we got 1,000 people to click like on this prayer to cure Mike’s cancer and today he is verifiably healed.”  How about the command “If you love Jesus you’ll post this within 5 seconds for an hour and get a blessing.”  Oops it took 8 seconds, oh well, you blew it.

What would Jesus really do?  Would he be posting this mindless self indulgent crap?  Do you really think it’s making him happy that you trivialize his teachings (you do) and display a lack holy spirit insight and widom?

Please Stop!  It’s not “saving” anyone. It’s insulting to the true spirit of transformation, and even to average intelligence.  Share an applicable life insight, without presumption, which itself is a sin.  Demonstrate some depth, or results of deep study and contemplation, that everyone can appreciate.

You are entitled to live out your devotion in a closed relationship to your diety.

English: A Service at Lancaster Baptist Church

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pray, read, convince yourself you believe something, light candles or incense, that’s cool. You are entitled to self deception.

You are not entitled to force others to live out your same devotion, or self deception, or to live hypocritically.  That merits opposition and confrontation.

When challenged on proof  of your claims by atheists and non believers, put up or shut up.  Say you don’t know and are studying up on it, or admit it doesn’t work and there might be better options.  Don’t think that hooping and hollering, bible waving, jumping up and down and calling us angry, changes the fact that simple god given rationality disproves your arguments.

Here’s a verse for you:

“…What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  It’s there, look it up.

Try walking humbly with your god, instead of the arrogant pettiness you put out all the time.  We’ll all be better off for it. Amen?

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