Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday, at church......

Yes, you read that right. I spent Sunday morning in church. And I'm still here to tell the tale. My Godless, liberal self did not burst into flames or anything. I was there to attend the dedication of my newest niece. Mother of the niece is sister to my husband, but was he sitting in church with me? No. He laughed and said there was no way he was going to put on a shirt and tie on a day when it was going to be 90-some degrees and sit in a church. Ass. So I went by myself because I am good and kind (even though I am a Godless liberal). And the rest of his family and all the family of SIL's husband. Lots of family. Anyway, here are a few observations:
  • When did churches start using Power Point? Seriously, when the sound that signifies that the service is beginning is that annoying little Windows startup chime, things have clearly gone down the wrong path.
  • The church I attended was a Church of the Brethren. A little bit removed from Mennonite, a little more modern. Maybe too modern. There was absolutely no structure, no formality, nothing. No choir, no acolytes, no robes, no nothing. I like a choir....in robes....not a Kathy Griffin doppleganger with her hands in the air, eyes closed, swaying to a pre-recorded track. Words to the first three weird comtemporary Christian songs we had to sing were on Power Point.
  • People were really, really friendly.....creepy friendly. Like members of a cult that have targeted you as a potential member friendly.
  • During the "Praises" section of the service (where people stand up and give reasons they are praising God), a man stood up and praised God (actually raised his hands up in the hair was was CRYING) because GOD STARTED THE TRUCK OF THE GUY THIS MAN HIRED TO TAKE DOWN ONE OF HIS TREES. Apparently this tree really, really needed to be taken down and the tree-removal guy was having problems with his truck earlier. But the man prayed for the tree-removal guy and God started tree-guys' truck the next day and he was able to come remove this man's tree. Now, two things. I was pleased that apparently I am in good stead with Jesus because my car starts every day. Also, if you believe that Jesus resides under your hood and approves or dispproves of things as minute as your car starting, then what level of personal responsibility are you taking for anything?
  • In the little pamphlet that they hand out at the beginning, there is a sheet that lists people whose prayers have been answered and people's prayer requests. Under "Praise God for" was "Adam and Kelly both finally found jobs! And under prayer requests...."Michael and Elizabeth need less expensive health care". Maybe these people need to re-examine how they are voting instead of praying about things like that. And if you believe God is responsible for deciding every little thing in your life, why do you even need healthcare?
  • The last song we had to sing was "This is my Father's World", which is an old hymn and, having attended church at least twice a week for the first 17 1/2 years of my life (church, Sunday School, youth group, and choir), I knew the words to it. I did not need a hymnal to sing it. This did not stop the Pastor's wife, sitting behind me, from jabbing me in the back with a hymnal and offering it to me, assuming I was standing there not singing because I wasn't holding a book. I smiled nicely and said "Thanks, I know the words". I have a new favorite acronym and almost used it for the first time which would have been totally inappropriate.
  • Why does religion hate science? Twice in the sermon the pastor dissed science. Saying that it had come up empty and offered people nothing. Tell that to the list of people in the stupid pamphet that are recovering from surgery or are being treated for an illness. Science did something for them.

So there you have it. My morning in Church. It was weird and I don't plan on going back for a long time. Sorry if I offended any church-going folk that read this blog. I didn't mean to. I admire people that have faith like that. It must be comforting to know the Truth and to know that all evidence to the contrary is a product of the Devil.

Well, future Sundays for this Godless liberal will be spent how they are usually spent.....reading the Paper of Record..."all the Godless liberal propaganda that's fit to print."

**Actually, I'm not entirely Godless. I do sort of believe in God. Only my God is wearing a white lab coat and is clinical in his detachment (is totally hands off), sitting back watching his grand experiment run itself into the ground and taking notes on things to change for next time.

26 Comments:

Blogger Liz said...

You're a pisser. How I wish I could be as funny as you are. Seriously. I'm glad you lived to tell the tale of church. I think we have the same God.

Maybe this should be your new theme song? ;)

4:29 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Thanks for calling me funny. That song is funny. I think there are a lot of people with the same God. Too bad we can't all get together and change a lot of this crap.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Pennie said...

Thanks so much for the laugh...I'm known as the "tree hugging liberal" by my family. Maybe I should tell the to change it to "Godless"?! Nahhhh...I've already shocked them enough in the life time. =)

7:12 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

I use the term Godless liberal cause I think thats the title of Ann Coulter's new hate screed. It's a funny label....so scary sounding.

9:35 AM  
Blogger EFB said...

you had me laughing out loud. i've never been in a church like that. i must not be in good standing with God because my car is on its last leg.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Of course you're funny. Have I not told you that before? I can be funny in person, but somehow when I start writing for my blog I become *so* serious.

I heard that the Christian Left is finally standing up for themselves. They're tired of the bible thumping crowd speaking for them. It's about time.

3:15 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Oh EFB, I'll submit your name for next Sunday. They'll all pray for a new car for you. I wonder how long things like that take? And if it does work, why do I see so many WWJD? stickers on the back of hoopdees? We'll see I guess. Shall I request a particular model? I think Jesus frowns on imports.

Liz - It's about time somebody starts standing up to these freaky zealots. How scary that they have the pResidents ear!

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well all i can say is that poor tree did not need to be taken down. On the list of things that need praying should be a section for people to understand that not only do we need to "keep older trees and look after them, we need to plant a lot more yong ones" (Marjorie Harris.)

5:05 PM  
Blogger swamp4me said...

What a terrific post! You had me laughing and nodding my head in agreement. Godless liberals, unite! (Ann Coulter is one scary person, don't you think?)

6:12 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Ann Coulter is pathetic.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Xris said...

Hail, fellow godless gardener!

As the atheist partner of an ordained minister, I've been known to find myself in a church on some Sundays. I describe my experience of this as being like a dog in church. I'm well-behaved, I don't bark or growl at parishioners, I sit and stand appropriately to be polite. Theatrics are appreciated: music, procession, candly thingies, and so on.

Thank you for your observations. They struck a familiar chord in me.

Peace - Xris

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Judith said...

How could I have missed this post! I am still laughing. It is a comfort to know I am not alone. Your poignant observations are those that have always set me wondering what some of this religious 'stuff' is all about. I am on my knees in the garden so much that I do confuse some people. I have a naturalistic worldview & am a bit of a Plain Jane, no frills or extra perks attached, please. And I refuse to be categorized as 'liberal'--I'm human like everyone else--I have values, I am a worthy citizen of a culture, a good neighbor...

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the tree huggers:
Romans 1:20-25 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

10:41 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Romans 2:1

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Anonymous posts are cowardly.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Fellow Church of the Brethren minister sent me this blog. I am sorry for your experience in one of our Churches. I wish you could get to know us; most of us are pretty conservative in our theology, but liberal in our politics.

I am sorry that people are so excited about their faith that they try to shove it upon others. The Bible tells us to share our faith "with gentleness and respect." Most of them do have something to rejoice about.

Someone asked me once to document a true miracle and I told them the story of a miraculous healing I experienced. (It would have been an amputation, medical science was exhausted.) They then asked me why God would heal my hand and allow children to starve in Haiti.

I realize it doesn't seem fair that at times God gives faith to some people and they experience a great blessing. I can't explain it. But having been in Haiti, I realize that for all the arrogance of the Church in the West, the only real effort of relief and aid is happening at the hand of the Church. We are slowly learing that missionary work does not mean Western indoctrination, but grace and mercy to people with whom God has given us the resources and power to help.
And I think I understand the anger toward, (or fear of) many people against the religious right. C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said that the best way to distract a believer is to confuse his religion with politics. So often I cringe when I hear what is portrayed on the radio by some Christian broadcasters.

But that doesn't mean that people still can't find hope and healing at the foot of the cross.

I didn't laugh when I read the words to the song, but I certainly understood where it came from.

The Jesus of the Bible was a friend to sinners, just like me.

Phil Reynolds, Pastor Mohler Church of the Brethren, Ephrata, PA (Lancaster Co). And oh yes, our service also starts with power point.

12:04 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

The fact that you're helping people in Haiti is great, but it has nothing to do with religion, you're just being a good person. I do however like the fact that you are not using it to indoctrinate people.

I'm not sure why you mentioned that Jesus is a friend to all sinners. I am not a sinner. I treat all people as I would want to be treated and always strive to do no harm (even though the hippocratic oath is not required of biologists). I was raised in the church and do not have much respect for it. Some of the worst people I've ever had the misfortune to run across have worn their religion on their sleeve and attended church regularly. I also think many people use religion as an excuse to not be resposible for their own actions. When you can explain anything away as "God's Will" is doesn't give you much incentive to achieve.

BTW, the church I attended was in Mechanicsburg, so don't get paranoid it was yours. Lose the Powerpoint though. Microsoft has no place in a house of worship.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right, religion has nothing to do with my being in Haiti; but my faith does.

My reference to sinners was a response to the link to the song that liz posted.

Thank you for your advice about powerpoint. It sounds to me like you still have an affinity for the sacred. I appreciate that. Most of us Brethren are not from a "high church" tradition. Even our name defines our sense of community. We emphasize community, and our responsiblity to the community at large (global or local) to be peacemakers. That is why we are using video. (We actually use video software called Sunday Plus by Grass Roots software instead of powerpoint). One of our old members (above 80) visited a church that used it and noticed that he could read the scripture and actually see the words to the hymns. He asked us to put it in. My initial reaction was "bring televisions into the santuary? I think not." I wondered if we should keep the place seperate, or holy and exclude modern media. But then I thought that maybe we should go back to horse and buggies as well. It may be a good idea to revert, but we have decided to become modern -hence, the video.

And again, on behalf of the Church, I apologize for the insincerity in which you have encounterd the religious. Most of the evil done in the has been done by greed and has used religion to justify it. But not Jesus, nor His teaching. Wasn't it Ghandi who said that he would convert to Christianity if he actually met one?

I have 2 questions for God when I get to heaven. 1). Why didn't He warn Adam and Eve about snakes? 2). Why did He entrust the good news of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ to the Church which has so often and terribly messed it up? (Think of the black eye my collegues and I are facing right now with the arrest of David Eller.)

Maybe God's answer to the second quesion is: "Because I value women and men so much."

God bless you, my sister.

Phil Reynolds

9:17 AM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

No need to apologize on behalf of the Church. I recognize that not all religion is bad. I do think that Jesus and his teachings are pretty far removed from most religions today, however. Jesus would do a doubletake if he dropped in on a lot of what is being preached in his name these days.

I can imagine the poor light David Eller sheds on your religious community. If I were the judge and the jury, he would get extra punishment simply because of his position. Absolutely disgraceful and disgusting. Why do so many molesters of children operate through the church? Do they somehow think that their good works in religion somehow offsets the horrendous acts they commit or is it because it is easier to manipulate from a position that commands automatic respect? I often wonder about that.

I can understand the use of video for older people I suppose but it is still unsettling. I attended an Assembly of God church in Mechanicsburg a few years ago with a scrolling, red digital board behind the pulpit alerting parents if their kids needed them in the nursery or if your lights were on in the parking lot. I would not have been suprised to see 'Cindy Rowe Auto Glass' roll by. It was extremely distracting and disrespectful.

I eschew modernity in most areas of my life because I truly believe that society is headed in a very wrong direction. I've chosen not to have children because I honestly think that I could not raise a child today and shield them from all the ugliness and selfishness that characterizes our world. People just plain suck these days and I swear it gets worse every year.

I question your claim that your church empahsizes community and the responsibility of being peacemakers. Many of my farming neighbors are Church of the Brethren, yet they are also STILL Bush supporters. You simply cannot be devoted to promoting peace and support this administration. That it is total disconnect to me and I do not understand it.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the whole modernism and PowerPoint thing is that it demonstrates how the consumerism of our culture has invaded the churches.

It feels to me like people are going to church to get something for themselves instead of giving themselves to God and one another.

In regard to David Eller. I don't know if it is power or vulnerability. We actually have incredible safeguards against abuse -and it still didn't help. Every NEW clergy member goes through rigorous psychological evaluation. Every church has to have a child-protection policy in place and all youth/children workers go through mandatory training. Since churches have ministry to children, pedophiles learn that this is a place where they can have access. Most of our policies are designed to prevent easy access to a pedophile that comes into the Church. The problem is it cannot screen a closet pervert who may have had these tendencies for many years. It is getting worse because now the Internet has given them access to their perversions in what they think is the safety of their own homes. I guess the saying is true, be sure your sins will find you out.

In my experience as a counselor, I believe that over %50 of women men have been sexually abused in one form or another. It is an epidemic. Here in Lancaster Co., I find many women staying with terribly abusive husbands because they are more afraid of the religious stigma around being divorced. What a tragedy! Because of religion, they believe that they have no moral choice, so they choose to stay. I think that is the worse choice. Because of religion, it is hard for me to assure to them that to choose the lesser of two evils is the right moral choice. It is too bad that because of religion they cannot have faith in a loving God who isn’t waiting to pounce on their mistakes but wants to shepherd them into peace with Him and perhaps their families.

Speaking of the lesser of two evils. I apologize for voting for Bush last time. I thought he was the lesser of two evils. (I was wrong) Unfortunately, we didn’t have a “none of the above” candidate like H. Ross Perot (not that he would have been better, but I hoped it would send the message "we are not amused"). I realize that the Republicans have been stringing out the abortion debate just to keep the religious right in their corner. It is time to move on to more important matters. (Didn’t you ever wonder why Churches are passionate about National Right To Life Sunday and ignore Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday the week before?). I combine them on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday –my term. This year I preached about how the increases in non-reproductive sexual deviations (like pornography, harlotry, the HO* word and abortion) are the result of the global injustice created by our narcissistic society. In other words, if Christians would start truly caring for the poor, then God with give them the revival they seek (Isaiah 58). Next year, I think I’ll preach on opening our border. As scripture reads: “Be kind to the alien and stranger among you, for you were once aliens yourselves.”

Anyway, I ramble. It has been fun talking to you.

With Love,

Phil Reynolds

8:32 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

It has been fun talking to you too. It isn’t often that I get to have a conversation with a COB Pastor. David Eller is a predator and no amount of screening can detect a predator 100% of the time. Predators (just like ones in nature) are adept at becoming invisible, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack their prey. People like David Eller always know how to answer questions on a screening survey or psych exam “correctly” to avoid detection. I suppose you are right about your sins always finding you out. I just wish that happened more spectacularly in certain people’s cases.

It would be nice to hear more of a voice from the COB community calling for change. I’m hearing silence from your corner but maybe I’m just not listening in the right places. This country is in a very bad way because of the “leadership” of the past 6 years. Going back and reading MLK Jr’s speeches are heart breaking. They were so moving then and also sadly prescient today. Many of JFKs speeches are the same. I never noticed that churches don’t celebrate MLK day (other than African American churches).

It will be interesting to see how your congregation reacts to a sermon about opening the borders. I would have liked to have heard the one on non-sexual deviations. Although that kind of thing doesn’t bother me too much. Human nature is cyclical and goes round and round from periods of mostly chastity to where we are now, with 10 year olds dancing like strippers and moms buying their daughters t-shirts emblazoned with some inappropriate saying. Although I would say that the reason this behavior occurs and much more of the foul cultural mood of the country is in direct correlation to the anti-intellectualism that has permeated the country. It is now ‘cool’ to be stupid. Time was that people revered education. Our founding fathers spoke several languages, were interested in literature, architecture, science, natural history, horticulture, music, and generally reveled in the Enlightenment. And while that has slowly declined over the last several hundred years, we are going downhill at a fevered pitch now. And particularly with women, when it is not attractive to be intelligent (and girls are not encouraged these days from the get-go), the only thing some feel they have to offer is their sexuality, which is terribly sad.

Okay, one more question about religion and I’ll stop bugging you. What is the connection between fundamental/evangelical religion and corporate America/capitalism? Why does the religious right pretty much act as an echo chamber for corporate America on issues like unions, minimum wage, corporate greed, the actions of companies like Walmart, regulation, etc. I do not understand that. It’s almost as if there is a passage in the bible that only some can see that says Jesus really likes when you turn a profit, no matter who you screw in the process. That’s not in there anywhere, is it? When companies like Horst say that their first imperative in their mission statement is to honor God and then they make millions covering the most valuable non-irrigated farmland in the country with cookie-cutter tract houses, it really make me wonder. When greed takes the guise of religion that is particularly disgusting.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Revnerd said...

You could have preached my sermon about sexual deviations with your comments about the materialism of the religious right.

I believe the connection between evangelical/fundamental Christianity and Corporate/America Capitalism has to do with a theology of power. With the emerging post-modern culture, I pray a paradigm shift in the churches will occur. With that happening, there will be another side that “digs in” to the last vestiges of Modernity.

Let me explain what I think is happening. Take, for example, the Charismatic renewal of the 70’s. After we recovered from the 2 great wars we entered an age of personal (instead of corporate) empowerment. People were looking for power. It affected Christianity as well. We (I) studied the Bible to master it. We (I) wanted every Spiritual gift God had to offer. We (I) were (was) going to be the best possible Christian we (I) could be. We (I) were (was) living out the tenets of Modernity in that survival belongs to the fittest and we have to out-compete to survive. The Charismatic revival is still taking place third world cultures (especially those that are emerging into the first world culture –like Brazil) and it is still strong within the marginalized groups in the West (like the Hispanic community here in America). It is happening because people, through God, are finding personal power. That can be good, if they find the value of worth that Jesus placed on every single man and woman by dying for them on the cross. However, the end result was negative because people began to worship the God of money instead of Jesus Christ. I don’t recommend Fred Prince (or TBN with the Crouch’s), but you can catch him on Sunday Afternoon preach the health and wealth heresy. To him, faith is all about personal power.

Is this what Jesus taught? Of course not. We got sucked into it by reacting to the claims of the Modern world and the tenants of Secular humanism that taught that belief in God was merely superstition. We found power, and it went to our heads and we began to worship the God of America, which is money. I think we fell into honestly, and the attraction of wealth has kept us there. Let’s face it, we want to be comfortable and responsible with our wealth.

My hope: Enter the emerging post-modern culture with syncretism and pluralism as its underlying value. I find that most people love Jesus, but hate the Church. http://www.holyobserver.com/detail.php?isu=v02i01&art=homeboy We need to get back to the simple message that Jesus taught: He came to seek and save what is lost. You were raised in Church and have been to weddings, so I am pretty sure you are familiar with the great chapter on love: 1 Corinthians 13. It is actually in a section of scripture dealing with the theology of power, verses the theology of love (chapters 12-14). The apostle makes it clear that God did come to empower us, and without faith (power) we really don’t understand who God is and what He wants for us. But, love is the real goal that God has us. We got stuck on power and I pray earnestly that God will move us toward love.

I know He will because He is doing it in me. It started in Bible College when the theme verse for my 4th (out of 5) year was “He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. To do justice, Love Mercy and walk humbly with God.”

Remember my angst about the women who are more afraid of the religious stigma of divorce than the safety of their own children? God does hate divorce, but not the divorcee. He hates it because He knows the pain that caused it and the continuing pain it will cause. He also hates the addictions, adultery, and physical and emotional abuse that leads to divorce. Jesus was very merciful to the divorcee and others who were outcast by their sin. The Church has stood for what is “right” so hard that they have forgot that Jesus loves the entire world. We need to be tempered with mercy.

There is great hope. Habitat for Humanity is primarily an evangelical movement. My youngest son is attending Eastern University in St. David’s, PA and he is learning social justice from an evangelical position. There is a magazine, Sojourners, which has been proclaiming the importance of social justice for 20 years to the evangelical community. Although Promise Keepers waves the flag to much for me, they are working very hard a racial reconciliation. I heard a pundit on national TV say that 33% of evangelical pastors believe the borders should be open. (I would have thought the number would be closer to 5%.)

And finally, let me recommend 1). a book that kind of introduces this whole emerging Church movement A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. 2). Tomorrow night, a sacred new kind of Church, based on these values, is meeting in Long’s Park, Lancaster. I plan to go for my first time (and take my daughter and her fiancé –she also says to me “I love Jesus but hate the Church.”) The Church is called Veritas. I know nothing else about it.

God bless you

Phil Reynolds

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I probably overstepped my bounds by inviting you to this worship service. I am not trying to imply anything, but wanted to invite you because I think we are experiencing a common journey. Anyway, I found out that the Veritas service is not going to be at Long's Park but at Hempfield COB in Mt. Joy and it will be @ 6:00.

Phil

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was forward the address to this blog by my friend Phil Reynolds. My name is Ryan Braught and I am the Pastor of the church that Phil has mentioned to you called Veritas. Just wanted to say Hi and that I appreciate and resonate with many of your comments. Anyway if you want to check out a little bit about Veritas.. you can go to www.veritaspa.org.

Thanks.
Ryan Braught

9:54 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Thank you for the explanation of the whole Christian/Corporate thing. It makes a lot of sense. And glad to see that it doesn't necessarily apply to all Christians. I work so hard to eliminate thinking in stereotypes where so many people are concerned, yet I tend to lump all Christians together and that just isn't accurate. Must work to change that. Thanks for the invite to the Veritas service. And no, you weren't overstepping your bounds and I didn't think you were implying anthing. I would consider attending something like that, although I didn't read the comment until Monday a.m., so I missed it. I have never read Sojourners magazine but I did read God's politics by Jim Wallis which was very good. What he believes (similar to the views I believe you have) just seem to be so in the minority. There was a great article on the Front Page of Sunday's New York Times about Rev. Gregory Boyd of Minnesota who has pretty much disavowed Conservative Politics. It was a suprising article but one that gave me hope that things are finally on the brink of turning around. I hope that you are right in that there is a shift coming soon. If we work to close the divide in this country and bring together the compassionate people that exist on both the right and the left, we can do great things in this country. We have before, and we can again.

And thanks Ryan. I will check out the website and perhps attend a service. It would be interesting.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Revnerd said...

Wow,

I just read the article in the NY times. What a blessing to see this continuing to happen. I choose to see the good in the church instead of focusing on the bad. And when I read about the boldness of another pastor who is willing to preach Isaiah 58. I rejoice. Thanks for leading me to this article.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to see if you would have any interest in receiving our montly schedule Postcard with what Veritas is doing in the month of August? let me know. Send me an e-mail to ryan@hempfieldcob.org with your address and I can send you a postcard if you want.

Take care,
Ryan Braught

8:31 AM  

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