Talking about religion and church and God is one of my favorite things to do. And being away for two months has made me wonder new things about religion and church and God.
I’m now wondering if I’m now considered “un-churched.” If you haven’t heard that word before, pastors and religious sociologists use it to describe people like me, people who don’t regularly attend church.
I’m now wondering at what exact point one qualifies for being un-churched: after missing three Sundays, or five, or 8, or 52?
I’m now wondering who makes the un-churched determination. Pastors? Sociologists? Is there a committee?
I’m now wondering—if I attended church this Sunday, and the next, but then skipped 8 more Sundays—would I be taken out of the un-churched category for the next two weeks?
I’m now wondering why some people think that taking a walk alone on the beach is church. Or, having coffee with a friend at Starbucks. What a big huge pile of nonsense. A nature walk on the beach, no matter how spiritual you might be feeling, is not church; it’s a walk on the beach. Calling a coffee at Starbucks “church” would be like Nadal and Federer doing the same, and calling it a tennis match.
I went on a run on the beach last Sunday and took a picture of my new Asics and put it on Instagram and prayed a bit but it wasn’t church; it was a run on the beach.
Just admit it. If you miss church just say you missed church. It’s okay.
Even though I haven’t been to church in two months, I still pray. Usually at least once a day. I pray especially for my mom and my three children. Yesterday I listened to the Book of Psalms on the way to work. But that wasn’t church; it was a commute.
I still uphold the creeds. I still far prefer the Nicene to the Apostles’. I still have deep esteem for my heroes of faith. But when I think about the creeds or my heroes of faith, I’m not at church; I’m thinking about the creeds or my heroes of faith.
I wonder a lot about “high” church like the Roman Catholic and Anglican liturgies. I wonder about how remarkably irrelevant they are, from a cultural perspective. The robes. The incense. The aged music. Prayers of antiquity. Sermons that typically drone on and on, and are typically deep, and typically invite mystery, and typically are delivered in monotone style. The austerity of wooden pews, natural lighting.
And I wonder about the “low” non-denominational Protestant services. I wonder about how remarkably relevant they are, from a cultural perspective. The peppy sermons with lots of cute jokes. The skinny jeans. The theatrical lighting. All the large screens with videos and lyrics and photos and text-to-give and numbers to tell you your kid’s crying. And the blaring sounds of the worship band, the band with Fender Guitars and drum kits and female background singers . I wonder where all the old people have gone. I wonder why the services aren’t culturally relevant to that generation.
I wonder if I’m just getting older.
I wonder if I’m getting more cranky in my old age.
I wonder why the Catholics preach shorter sermons.
The Protestants preach longer sermons.
I wonder about this paradox. Catholicism is said (by Protestants) to be based in merit, guilt, works—God is basically mad at you and you’ve gotta do a bunch of things to make him happy. Protestantism is said (by Protestants) to be based in grace, love, acceptance, John 3:16—Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross and there’s nothing we could ever do to win his love or acceptance.
I wonder why I feel guilt at the “low” non-denominational Protestant services—that I’m not serving enough, giving enough, loving enough, sacrificing enough. I wonder why those services, generally make me feel guiltier.
I wonder why I feel peace at the Catholic services—that’s it. I just feel more peace.
For the first 15 years of my life, I attended Mass virtually every Sunday.
Having taken this break, I wonder if I should resume that practice.
Mostly, I’m wondering if you think I’ve backslidden.
Would you want to win the $1.5 billion lottery? Not me. Seriously. No thanks.
I already like my life, just the way it is. I like my friends and family members, just the way they are. Making ends meet is part of the challenge. I love challenges.
I know you think I’m full of crap. But I’m dead serious. I’ve never purchased a lottery ticket. I’ll never purchase a lottery ticket. And if you were the winner and gave me yours, I’d say no thanks. I don’t want things to change. And, I know a bunch of millionaires. None of them have “arrived.” Many have flat admitted to me, many times in moments of despair, that their wealth is like a noose around their necks. A few are flat miserable. It’s not a surprise. Extensive studies have been done on wealth. After around $75,000 per year in income, happiness just flattens out.
Years ago, Steve Jobs talked about wealth on his interview with 60 Minutes. He talked about when Apple went public. Suddenly many of the team members became multimillionaires. He talked about how they were buying mansions and the wives were getting face lifts. Jobs said they became different people.
They forgot who they are.
I’ve told people what I think about this. That I don’t want to forget who I am. They all say the same thing. “I’d be different.” “Having millions of dollars is a problem I’d be willing to deal with.”
If I was a millionaire I think I’d become lazy. I’d probably stop writing. And who’d want that? 😉
Quick Tuesday rant therapy.
Part of the problem in life is that of organizing stuff. And I’m a single dad, as you probably know, with no wife to tag-team the laundry and closets and refrigerator and mail and and and.
It’s really bad right now with my computers. I have posts and journals and ideas and thousands of priceless photos and you name it on at least five hard drives. Two iMacs. One MacBook Pro. Some Iomega disks from 10 years ago that I can’t open. Some backup CD that I can’t open. And a new Seagate backup hard drive.
The idea was to dump everything on the Seagate then keep the Seagate in the car in case the house burned down. But I’m so disorganized that I lost the Seagate. In the house.
Then within each of these hard drives I have duplicate folders with overlaps galore.
Evernote was a solution for a while. As was Dropbox.
If you’ve never used Evernote I highly suggest that you do. I’m not going to explain it here, but just go download it. Everything I think goes onto to Evernote.
It makes me feel good when everything’s organized in Evernote. Really good.
But the problem now is that my Evernote life is a cluttery as my hard drive life.
Then iTunes and Apple Match. It’s also a cluttery mess and half of the bands I’ve never heard of and Bree or Edison or Elliot put on there from the days when we they were on my account:
Boys Like Girls
Death Cab For Cutie
I don’t know how to organize stuff. Because I procrastinate. Then it all piles up. And just throw it all away. Because it’s way too painful to go through it all and make a decision for each and every item.
I was going to end 2015 by cleaning up, organizing, getting rid of all the clutter.
And get rid of all these bands.
But my New Year’s resolution list was too long, too cluttered. So I’m going to add to my current list of 32 2016 resolutions.
“33. Learn to live with clutter and disorder in 2016. Just surrender to it. Acceptance. All that yoga 12 step mindfulness stuff.”
Anyway, I’ll see how it goes.
So far, not too good.
“Always give thanks.”
“Don’t question God, just praise him and trust him in all things”
All that fake Christianity. Happy, clappy, keep it thin, keep it Disneyland.
I’ve heard these instructions. For decades. I’ve heard it from the pulpits of mega churches. I’ve heard if from the mouths of America’s greatest television preachers, people like Joel Osteen. I’ve heard it from glazed eyed Evangelicals who’ve always resembled robots, Ned Flanders, people without hearts. I’ve heard it from well intentioned friends.
But I believe, as a consequence of fake Christianity, a generation of people have given up on church. Actually, they’ve thrown away that kind of Christianity.
Fact is, sometimes God seems distant. Sometimes really hard stuff happens. And sometimes…is he even real?
Mother Teresa will always be known for her unwavering love, and love that sought the very least in the world. I hope that she will also be remembered for her deep and painful wresting–for a very real faith, one that disappeared, often.
This spiritual giant followed in the footsteps of her savior: caring, sacrificing, drawn to the broken, and brutally real.
Bishop Robert Barron, axillary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was so apt in his recent comments on Mother Teresa’s words:
“‘If I ever become a saint, I will surely be a saint of darkness.’ She was referring to something that only a handful of people knew in her lifetime, that for upwards of fifty years, Mother Teresa experienced the pain of the absence of God. The living saint often felt abandoned by God or even that God does not exist”