Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Losing my religion
Why do we stick with Christianity? And with the church? I was reading a thing on Beliefnet this morning about celebrities who've changed religions. And the majority of them had changed from some Christian denomination--Baptist, Methodist, Anglican--to something else...Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Scientology.
This is the question the Affirmation Group spent most of our time discussing on Sunday. Why do we stick with the whole Christian thing? And why do we think about chucking the whole thing? What might make you "lose your religion?" I asked everyone to write their reasons for staying with it and reasons for leaving it on sticky notes and we put them up on the wall. On two separate walls. Then another woman and I read the notes out loud for the whole group, one at a time, a reason to stay, a reason to go. The reasons to leave were things like: "Wondering if I'm believing a fairy tale," "God not answering my prayers," "It's boring and pointless to me." "Ministers who abuse children, emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually." "Missionaries who care only for the soul and not for the whole person." "Christians who picket funerals, bomb clinics and hate those that are different." "Sometimes my parents push it on me." "Some Christians frown upon homosexuality and someone I love is bisexual." "Children are hungry, abused and dying. God and the church doesn't intervene." "It's messy."
The majority of what people listed as their reasons to stay were some variation on the theme of community and "The beauty of people caring for each other." There were a couple who admitted they were staying now because of "my family" or because of "tradition--it's all I know." Other reasons were "The idea of someone greater out there." "I really believe that God has to exist." "God is good, all the time." "Something positive, something there, all the time." "Selflessness." "The Church, when it gives up its power, in situations of race, class and money." "People who make significant sacrifices for their beliefs and to help others." One person wrote something I really liked, and really want to believe is true: "God is bigger than all the crap." "Hope" was a reason to stay someone else said. "Music" was also listed. I certainly resonated with that one--sometimes singing together in church on a Sunday morning makes life feel worth living to me.
One of my favorites was something someone wrote to be funny (maybe) but it also was honest I think, and maybe also more profound a reason than it seems at first glance. They wrote: "I like the bread." And isn't it sometimes as simple as that? I like the bread too. Not only the taste of it and that we stand there in a line and are fed together, but because we are fed bread and fed the idea that our spirits and our bodies matter, this world matters to God, we are reminded that we are all in this together and that God is encountered in the daily stuff of life, in the standing shoulder to shoulder, in the eating and drinking, in the hungers of our lives, in our need and our loneliness and our hope and longing.
And yes, I agree, most of the time, the whole Christian thing seems too messy. We've been doing this for thousands of years and we can't seem to get it right very often. But I keep coming back. For hope. For community. For the music. Because God does, amazingly enough, feel bigger than all the crap. And I come for the bread. Bread broken and shared. It tastes good.