I have a confession to make. I’ve been skipping church for weeks now. I know … I’m a terrible Christian, an unbiblical Christian, a heretic of a Christian who just doesn’t take God at his word. I’ve heard it before. I read it over and over again online. Today I happened to notice that my customers at work all came in wearing unusually nice clothes. I thought, “Must be Sunday.”
I keep on thinking about the Worship Wars – the epic conflict between old and new, stoicism and emotion, tradition and contemporary, etc. The thing is – it just boils down to not belonging; as in, “if you’re not like us, you can go somewhere else.” A church community might as well be a school cafeteria or playground. You have your various groups of close-knit friends; the good old boys, the grandmothers that keep everything running, the mothers keeping their kids from chaos, the young couples, the college kids, the high school kids, the middle school kids, the elementary kids, and so on. The ones that always sit together, always talk together, always have some inside joke or a conversation that isn’t the sort you can just barge into. To become included, you have to be like them in a way that they’re comfortable with. In all of the churches I’ve attended, that’s always been really difficult. It’s like everyone else has these circles – complete with all the right people in the right places – and then you show up out of nowhere asking for a seat at the table. You’ve upset the perfect balance that was just fine before you came along by suggesting that you were missing all along and they just didn’t know it.
Take conversations about hymns, everybody seems to know one that was their parent’s favorite or was played at their grandparent’s funeral. Hymns just aren’t my cup of tea. I could rock a conversation about contemporary music … but most everyone out here doesn’t consider it worshipful music. Or maybe last week’s pot-luck will come up and we just have to take Paul’s word that Judy’s fried chicken was better than KFC or Sarah’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was the highlight of the desert menu as we weren’t there because we didn’t want people to fuss about food that was safe for all of us or spend half of the evening explaining why we can’t eat what.
Bible studies have become exercises in futility, particularly when the Bible isn’t what’s being studied … but some best-selling material from the latest authors from Lifeway. I’m tired of wading in the shallow end of the pink pool … I want to dive into the depths of the ocean and ponder the layers of the mystery that’s down there.
But it’s so hard to feel like I belong when I’m just different from what’s the normal around here. Dressing up isn’t all that fun. I don’t get hymns. I’m not really where everyone else is at / was at when they were my age – so there’s not a lot of commonality. It sucks even more when I know that we’ve got some serious skills and talents that are getting rusty because there’s no use for them. I’m so amazed when I hear this wonderful music … contemporary songs, from the resident musician and she misses out every Sunday on speaking to God through her music. On praising God in harmony, on the same page with our brothers and sisters in Christ because we’re just not into the same music and not interested in performing a special as if we were a spectacle on display.
In a Christianity full of insiders, I don’t know how to be anything other than an outsider. In a Christianity where everybody else just fits together, I don’t know where I belong. If we’re all pieces in a puzzle – then it feels like I’m a piece that should have been a part of another box but ended up in this one by mistake. I guess it sort of helps to know that somebody somewhere would be missing me … but these churches aren’t that church.
You ever read about these guys who are glad to see the churches being empty … the millennials and members of other generations not showing up? I saw one that said that “As dross is removed from silver, the church is being refined, made more pure.” I guess I’d be that dross … the impurity that ruined the perfection of the silver church. They say it’s the cultural Christians who are nominal Christians – not really true believers, who are leaving the churches in droves to find whatever floats their boat or tickles their ears. It’s the authentic, genuine Christians who remain in church no matter what. Without the riff-raff like me gumming up the works, they can finally focus on teaching the true believers the true faith that results in true salvation. So I guess I really don’t belong in church, to them, I belong anywhere but church.
I guess Christianity these days is a culture to itself, different from cultural Christianity, but one with it’s own language, music, and traditions that have no place for me. I don’t belong in the real, true church because it’s culture is foreign to me. Odd. It demands that I change, I assimilate into it’s collective. It has no interest in changing for my sake. I’d have to give up a lot of what makes me … well, me … so that I’d belong to it. It seems to me that it doesn’t really want me just as I am and that is why I don’t belong. I’d stop being me … I’d stop being the person who Jesus loved so much that he died to save.
On top of that, this extremely frustrating writer’s block (seriously – it’s been months!) and lack of source material just leaves everything up in the air for now – particularly where blogging is concerned. Today was a Sunday and not one person suggested I try out their church. Not one person told me what I missed out on. Not one person said that I was missed. Not one person asked what I missed about church. Typical Sunday.