Monday, June 12, 2006

Church Shopping

Faithful blog readers have likely noted my uneasy truce with organized religion. I unfortunately see most god worshiping in the world as a negative force, behind most of the conflict, hatred and discrimination we face. Look the Christian-Islam battle being played out today, committing atrocities comparable to the Old Testament battles. Closer to home, “Christians” are the sponsors of or support legislation that codifies discrimination, death, punishment and war. That I just do not understand. The church continues to be the most discriminatory and segregated institution in the US. Finally, I find most of the church leadership in all denominations to be hypocrites and power hungry, two sins that the Christian Bible speaks out against regularly.

I, at almost 50 years old, find myself questioning almost everything about religion. All the dogma, the divinity, the laws are suspect. I do not doubt Jesus lived, I do not doubt he was morally and intellectually superior to many of his contemporaries. He was a true liberal (take THAT Pat Robinson, revolutionary and radical. If he were a contemporary citizen, I am sure he would be in the ghettos and gay pride parades and not at Liberty University or on the 700 Club. All the divinity and miracles and such I think of more as mythology than fact.

Maybe you find it surprising then that I attend church pretty regularly. I find going to church can be constructive if you approach it humbly and adapt a willingness to learn. Although ancient, the words of the Bible have a lesson to teach us about compassion, humility and service. I just refuse to get involved in the “my god is better than yours”, the “my holy word says to kill you” or “I am forgiven therefore I can judge you” BS that permeates most organized religions today. For many communities, a church can be a social center as well. Frankly, I use my church as a social organization as much as anything. I have met many people who are important to me at church.

I am, however, about to embark on a “church shopping” expedition. As much as we do not like to admit it, a church is also an organization, subject to the intrinsic characteristics of any organization be they sacred or secular. Just as in a business organization, when the leadership of the organization is weak and burned out, the rank and file suffers. They are less productive, leave or stand around the water cooler and complain. My church is suffering from a crisis of leadership both universally and locally.

Locally, our pastor is losing respect. The services have become drawn out affairs, with no message or focus. The previous pastor was an unmitigated disaster and destroyed the place, driving off people with her lack of sincerity and hard handed leadership. We used to be full, now the congregation is dwindling. No one is coming to replace them. Visitors see and feel the tension. Those who left in the previous regime have not found that things have improved. It is not as welcoming a place as it was when it welcomed me in 1997.

In the larger picture, the mother church keeps “dealing” with the “controversy” of homosexuality. They waste time and energy conducting trials and having court rulings. Is this a “church”???

This came to a head Sunday, after listening to a rambling 25 minute long yap followed by a pitiful choral anthem, slapped together at the last minute and a sparse crowd. As I was in the dressing room getting ready for the matinee performance of the Heartland Men’s Chorus several of the men where talking about church. When one fellow mentioned he went to a church that he had been a member of for years but was not happy with their opposition to GLBT people,(the old love the sinner, hate the sin crap) several men piped up touting their churches. I found that mine, though supportive of GLBT members in spite of the mother church, really had little to offer.

Sadly it may be time to go. I will miss a lot of people, but I can keep up. I can visit. Maybe some new scenery and a fresh outlook will be good for me. I’ll let you know what happens.

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