Monday, November 29, 2010

My Evening At The Church...But Not-Church


It's the end of a busy weekend filled with friends and Christmas tree admiring and decorating among other things. And now I'm finally able to relax on the couch in my pj's with my jar of No Name Crunch Peanut Butter and unwind.

This morning I went to my spiritual centre Unity, and though I mentioned this in my last post it is worth repeating - actually a couple of things. I love Unity, don't get me wrong, but this morning after singing Deck The Halls and Go Tell It On The Mountain, the band led us in My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. This had got to be on my list of 10 Most Hated Songs of All Time. I don't want to sing about mittens on kittens or warm apple streudal!!! Secondly, these days at Unity there is a designated "Hug" entrance, and a "Hug-Free" entrance. Seriously. I suggested today that there be a designated kissing entrance (tongue or no-tongue). Not sure how that's gonna fly.

Last night I got a text (or wait for it..a Blackberry message 'cause we're cool) from a good college friend, Dan Grace. Other than the fact he once stole a girlfriend from me years ago and read the love poetry I had written for her, he's a great guy! Anyways, Dan invited me to go with him and his lovely wife to a worship night at The Meeting House, a self-described "church for people who aren't into church." It's one of these contemporary churches (oops...places!) that meets in auditoriums or movie theatres (just a question, but is it ok to sit in the back row on Sunday mornings and make out with your significant other?) Anyways, I had heard of this movement for quite some time and wanted to check it out, and this was a good opportunity. On the last Sunday of every month they hold a worship (music) service called The Attic (sadly there were no bats or owls present.) This evening, an artist from out west named Jodi King was leading worship as well as singing a few of her own songs.

I am glad that I went tonight. In particular it was very good to spend time with Dan and Faith again. Also, it was an interesting exercise to observe myself in how I was reacting to the messages that I was receiving during the evening. I have two predominant feelings whenever I go to a Christian church service nowadays. One is a feeling of nostalgia - I am taken back to my days in the church and the worship music scene. My life was so filled with both for 20-some-odd years that I find myself having feelings of familiarity when I am in those settings again. Secondly, I find myself wanting to "build bridges" or find common ground between what I used to believe (evangelical Christianity) and what I currently believe.

First of all, the things that I liked about this evening's service. I like the passion that is put into the songs; it is palpable and authentic (not just a show). Also, the quality of the presentation was excellent (acoustic, electric and bass guitars, drummer, keyboard, vocalists).

Now on to the content of the lyrics. I like how relational evangelical Christianity can be, that is, singing to God as if he is someone you are close with, like a very close friend or family member. I believe that the Divine is relational and that we experience the Divine when we are relating to people, nature, who we'd call God. A lot of the songs sung - actually probably all of them - were sung as if to someone who was in the auditorium.

Now on to some of the theology that I don't believe in and why I couldn't sing along. (And I am NOT trying to antagonize anyone or belittle anyone's faith. These are just some observations.)

1) In a couple of the songs there was language about darkness being driven away by the light, by God. This immediately brought to mind a conversation that I had with my friend Ken over Starbucks yesterday about darkness. He said that Christians can't seem to deal with their own darkness, so they objectify it, remove it from themselves and call it the Devil. I highly agree with this. Today I find it much more useful to "love my darkness," to love the parts of myself that previously I had thought unlovable.

2) The Trinity - There were a couple of songs talking about the "Three In One" and they weren't talking about a combo from Wendy's. Rather it was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Personally, I find this confusing and I just don't see the Divine that way. I see God as One, period. 'Nuff said.

3) There were songs that talked about how "undeserving" we are to receive of God's grace because of our sin. This is what I disagreed most strongly with and is one of the first beliefs I jettisoned when I started heavily questioning my Christian faith. This view of God is that we as humans are born with a sinful nature, there is a separation between God and us as a result, and we need someone to build that bridge back to God and make us worthy. I do not agree. I believe that we have a divine nature, are already one with God, and that we are indeed deserving of God's good gifts in our lives. I've mentioned this in a blog quite a long time ago, but evangelical Christianity can go a long way in reinforcing a person's low self-esteem issues.

4) Jesus - There were many songs about Jesus tonight, including an old hymn I used to really like called All For Jesus. Christianity is a religion based on Jesus' teachings (duh! I'm smart!) but evangelicalism takes it one step further and, in my opinion, makes an idol out of the person Jesus (wasn't there a commandment about making idols?) I have been thinking more and more lately that if Jesus were to walk into most Christian churches today, I think he'd say "Why the hell are you still talking about me?" (Then he'd go to the gymnasium and munch on chocolate chip cookies and coffee after the service.) I doubt that it was ever Jesus's intention to have people worship him the man. Rather, he was always teaching a way of living your life (peace, taking care of the poor and sick, etc) and talking about the kingdom of God (which he said, is within you!) I think he'd find it baffling that people were worshiping his name. He'd just be concerned whether the widow or the orphan was being looked after. Also, instead of realizing our divinity (not just his), we're more comfortable or used to putting one man on a pedestal. I personally believe that we need to spend more time concentrating on our own divinity and what that means in terms of the power we have at our disposal. God doesn't want worshipers as much as he wants co-creators.

Anyways, phew! That's a long blogpost at the end of a busy weekend. Again, I am glad that I went tonight, and my aim is not to "nit-pick" and critique everything, but I love talking about religion and thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

Blessings as you start out a new week!

Mark Andrew