catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 1, Num 5 :: 2002.11.08 — 2002.11.21


Church is bad (but I still go)

This morning on my way to church I surprised myself with the realization that I was looking forward to it. Not that I wanted to go. But since I was going, I was determined to enjoy church today.

Most of us intrinsically know that churches are bad. We go to church to have our narrow views confirmed, to feel pangs of guilt about our habitual sins, to chuckle at stale jokes, to pat each other on the back for being stellar witnesses of Christ in the rare instance that we run across live non-Christians, to croon sentimental love songs to Jesus through misty eyes, to have masterbatorily repetitious discussions using devotionals we bought at smelly Christian kitch-stores.

Nevertheless we repress our misgivings under a veil of vague obligation. The Bible is virtually silent on the topic of church attendance, yet we feel quite certain that God want us to go at least once a week, and if possible 3 or 4 times.

Even asking the nearly-infallible “would Jesus attend my church?” question doesn’t help us out here. Most of our churches would kick Jesus out if he tried to attend with his entourage of whores, IRS bureaucrats, pimps, idiots, and smelly dudes. And I would venture to guess he wouldn’t have felt comfortable trying to worship his father while sitting in one of our cushioned royal-red pews, listening to a touchy-feely, self-esteem-building sermon, or while enduring one more lousy turn-of-the-century hymn. Besides, he was Jewish, so who’s to say he wouldn’t have wanted his followers to have stuck with the synagogues?

All rationality aside, I can’t squash the notion that church is good for me. Especially not this morning. Why? Because church meets two of my most important needs.

The first need is social—church can be an excellent place to meet and spend time with other people who dislike church. Going to lunch afterwards to talk, for example, about how much the sermon sucked can be truly enjoyable.

The second need is spiritual—not because of anything particular that goes on during the service, but because of my spiritual absence from it. Although externally my aesthetic needs are not being met, I have learned to enter the building with the low expectations, and am able to rise above the mediocrity of it all by tuning it out. After tuning out, I dream. Even as I’m going through the motions of the church service, I am able to move toward inner peace.

Church exceeded my expectations this morning. Not only did we sing one hymn that predated 1850 which in this case meant that it scored high in terms of musical and lyrical quality, but the sermon was creative enough to send my dreams spinning off in unexpected and delightful directions.

Afterwards, we had a potluck.

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