Today is Sunday, May the 27th, year 2012. Churches across the nation are packed, preachers standing in robes and suits behind their sacred pulpit lecturing on the love of Jesus Christ and the depravity of the world. Sanctuary lighting is being controlled by some team of behind-the-scene men, carefully dimming the lights as the messenger of God speaks gravely about Hell, and then bringing them into full magnitude of brightness as the choir sings triumphantly, "Hallelujah!"
When Jesus spoke to people about Heaven and love and sacrifice, I don't really get the feeling that he had James and John working the lighting somewhere and Matthew and Luke singing baritone behind the crowds to provide a nice "mood setting." I may be wrong, I wasn't there.
So this morning, rather than attending a nice performance, I opted to sleep in. Heathen, I know. I'm preparing myself to go to Hell. One is a sinner, after all, if he or she is not a dutiful church-going Christian. In fact, if you're reading this now instead of sitting in church, you too should prepare yourself for fire and brimstone. (Unless you're Seventh Day Adventist. They get a pass for Sunday.)
Ahhh....Am I going over the top here? Should I reign in my sarcasm a bit? After all, I do have many good memories and LOTS of wonderful relationships as a result of growing up in church. I really do. Most of my dearest friends I met in the church nursery as a child and grew up with, going to church camps together and spending school breaks on mission trips. I've had some wonderful years in that environment. What bothers me now as I grow older is simply the ritualistic approach that I see permeating the halls and sanctuaries of churches. So much is dependent on what needs to be done, how to bring someone to Jesus, ways to improve your testimony. Now, some of my issues with these approaches stems simply from a difference in belief, not necessarily a disdain for the practice itself...though perhaps a bit.
May I take a moment to digress? I feel so relaxed right now. Sitting up in my bed with a warm blanket across my lap, doing what I love -- writing. I don't feel the Sunday morning pressure of being on a time crunch to find a parking spot, tearing through my closet trying to find something to wear -- all parts of the ritual that I don't so much care for.
If I'm going to attend church, I pull on an old long-sleeved shirt and slip on some overalls. I throw my hair up in a bun and tie a bandanna around my head. I grab an old satchel and place inside a water bottle and Leaves of Grass. I head to the back door where I don a jacket, depending on the weather, and then slip my feet into some boots. Off to the woods. Nature serves my soul. So willingly. So inviting.
I do not condemn the church. The church itself, after all, is the body of Christ. The people. But I think we've lost so much truth. We're not focusing anymore on absorbing the love of God and loving other people. We focus on whether the TV screens are operating correctly, if the coffee stations are well-kept, and if the nurseries have child-proof locks and gates for liability reasons. Damn it all, people. Tear down the church building and gather in a field! Forget the legalities, those man-made encumbrances that structure your philosophies! Damn it all, people...