Sunday, September 21, 2008

Onward Christian Soldiers

I'm an agnostic who likes to go to church.

Churches often have nice people in them (although not always), and there's coffee and refreshments afterward. And sometimes, if I'm lucky, I can get a break from feeling agnostic, because, believe me, it's not a comfortable condition.

Churches, however, (with the exception of the Unitarian-Universalists, who I can't figure out) are made for true believers. They sing about how much they believe, the pray about how much they believe, and they talk about what awesome things they're going to do with all that belief.

I don't want to sing about something I'm really iffy about. I don't mind praying; I talk to my dogs, even though I know they don't understand English. But I don't want to listen to a sermon exhorting me to go out there and throw my belief around.

I want a sermon that tells me I'm not crazy to be in a church. I want a sermon that makes me take out my Bible, which is all marked up from the years spent studying why I should believe, and mark up some new sentence with some light. Some good news.

Since I experienced such a sermon last, 12 years ago or so in Bend, I've been to four or five churches looking for another. I know, that's not that many in 12 years, but have you ever been to a new church? It's exhausting, and for me, terrifying to meet all those nice smiling people.

I tried a new one this morning. I have nothing to report, sermon-wise, because they had a visiting pastor who was awful, but the lovely church lady who led me to the after-service coffee hour assured me that their regular pastor is way better. They sure could use some help in the hand bell choir, though.

I've been more diligent this year in trying to find a new church. The thing that is puzzling me about my recent church visits is that I spend most of the hour staring at the hymnal, inwardly criticizing the preposterousness of the words, trying not to glare at fussy babies, and critiquing lay peoples' reading abilities and styling choices, and then I go to take communion and get a big cry-lump in my throat.

What's that about? I've never really even considered communion a necessity to Christian worship. I always thought it a little over-wrought and not exactly what Jesus had in mind. I could go all theological on your ass right here, but I'll refrain. So why the emotion flood?

If you say it's God's will, I will hit you.

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