Sunday, January 27, 2013

FIRST CHURCH OF NOT

I do not believe in church any more. My adult experience with church has run into mostly greed, narcissism, snobbery and bigotry. And peculiar obsessions with legacy building.

I've read about the dying denominational church. I'm not surprised. New discoveries in biblical studies as well as science have really opened a wider appreciation, if you have an open mind, for what this universe is really about. We, humans, still have just a tiny pinprick opening view of it, but it's a wondrous thing.

Our own little corner of the universe here is filled with so many people who are not Christians. Even a lot of so-called Christians are not technically Christians any more. What's a deity to do with this? Well, it was never about what any deity does with anything, of course. It's what do we do. Sitting around and crying over an empty pew is about as useful as taking a corpse to dinner and expecting them to pay.

Get over it already.

Organized religion is dying in the Christian world. Buh-bye. And it's a necessary transition. But there's nothing new to fill that void. The stuff passing as filler are things like prosperity gospel (believe and you will receive gold and frankincense and a new BMW!!), and general "spiritualism" (believe it and it's true PRESTO! You're now a blond with big boobies if that's what you want!...well at least in your mind anyway, perhaps aided by a helpful medication).

Don't get me wrong, I believe in belief. It's a powerful part of creating your life. I'm just suspect of attaching all attention on that. I find important aspects of creation missing from these new avenues attempting to keep the old church floating. Things like ethics, a moral compass and the actual perspiration of effort required to manifest an idea into reality. Every birth needs labor pains. Or a surgeon who knows Caesarian procedures.

If I were to be given a boatload of money for the specific purpose of making a church (because things cost money. This is true. But they don't have to be gold inlaid), I wondered what it would look like. First of all, it would not be non-profit. Non-profit is fiction when it comes to current churches. Many of them. All of them make money. Many of them more than enough to cover expenses. Then they have to distribute it in certain ways to keep their non-profit status. I can't tell you how many pastors I came across while touring with Covenant Players, who skimmed from the offering for our show, after the minimum was paid, saying "tell anyone and you'll never be invited back."

It's a cash business. There's profit. I'd lose that. Pay a fair share of taxes on the profit. Pay the expenses. Then create community mission programs to help the local town we're in. Start local. There's plenty of need. It's not a regular church building.

There's a coffee and wine bar there. Yeah, we'll need a liquor license for the wine and beer. Communion will be really fun. There's a stage for dinner theater and services. With a dance floor for dances. Really like a big community center. There's a restaurant that serves sandwiches, breakfast and sometimes dinner. And all this stuff has menus with charges. If someone really can't afford it, we'll spot them if we're flush that week.

There's a big bulletin board in the building and on the website, where anyone can post - a need for a job, or prayer concern, or a thought for the day. Yeah of course it's edited for content. We have to be grown ups. But the boundaries are clear and printed on the board. "SUBJECT TO EDITING BY PASTOR IMINCHARGE." There are employees. People who are paid a salary. To do jobs that take time. Like a music/arts director. A CPA who does the books and taxes. In this economy, you cannot expect people to work for free. If a job is needed, pay for it.

There are book clubs during the week day. Not necessarily religious books only. There are clubs of any sort that someone wants to start. No spouse swapping clubs or satanists, I mean of course there are standards and practices.

There needs to be a basic theology, of course. It's New Testament, gospels. Period. Very simple. With a leaning toward learning and discussing and arguing everything else being discovered out there. There's a Sunday sermon given by a Muslim speaker who shares the Koran and their beliefs. There's a Sunday meditation by a Buddhist speaker. There's a wonderful service where a theoretical physicist talks about the Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson! And so on. Learning everything.

 There are pancake breakfasts and potlucks like days of old. There's pizza and movie night. It's a community center for the entire community, with a gospel basis.

You do not have to join. Just come on in and visit. There's a referral board for help. There's a network of professionals. This can be done without fear of liability. That's what waivers are for. The big whoopdee doo church I went to would not list anybody's business for fear of liability exposure. "We love you, but keep your business to yourself, we don't want to know. Tithe please." It's not Angie's list. We have no idea if Fred is any good at appliance repair. You'll figure that out.

It's a place where anyone can come and hang out for a rest. Hear some interesting ideas. Share a meal. See a dinner show. Listen to some tunes. Find a job. Find a plumber. Find some hope that their life has some real visceral and spiritual support from people who are real and interested and actually give a shit.

You can become a member. That's a different level. With some of the traditional bells and whistles of a steeple church. But there's no secret handshake. No special underwear. No secret room where the good scotch is kept. There are more commitments to service to the organization required. And helping to run the Sunday services. And the perks are not what you get. They're what you share. Time and talent. Money if you've a mind. But, honey, the coffee bar sandwiches and weekend entertainments are covering the expenses.

It might not work. But wouldn't it be fun to try? There are movements like this happening now, where folks will go to coffee bars for services and such. But this would be one big place that is all about doing that one little thing - being in the world, but not of it.

That's my church for today. I'm going to get some more coffee and do my Sudoku puzzle.

 Peace out.

5 comments:

annie said...

Sounds good. We attend two different churches at the moment (when we are in town, which is not often). Both are trying to be church in better ways, and are succeeding in some ways. I wish you could find something where you are that would be helpful to you...

spookyrach said...

I like your ideas. A lot.

Lori said...

Kind of sounds like my church. I call it the "come as you are" church. We have beer and wine. Underwear is optional, so are shoes.
Everyone and anyone is welcome. And we are a community in a community. No one thing is served up and made palatable by skimming bullshit... we are no bullshit church. We smoke, drink and swear. Like normal people. And we serve local first. We do have a resource for not just community but our own... when the hurricane came close, I called I said I need someone to put up my shutters if we get nailed. Within 15 minutes I got a call back. Mike Grashof will take care of it.. thank you. Got me covered. When I was sick, I could call and say I need bread. And at days end I could have 15 loaves at the door. We feed, cloth, wash, care for those who cannot do for themselves... no matter why, because we don't ask. We are unconditional. And yes, we live the gospels... two main points... love God, love your neighbor. That's all we're asked to do.
Religion sucks. Phyllis Tickle predicts by next year the entire sttructure of institutional churching will collapse. Long overdo.
I think too it important to remember that Jesus didn't have a church. He was a Jew... but nonetheless had no church. Neither did the other prophets who came before and after.
end of sermon

Rev SS said...

we're of the same ideaology Ex-PG!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy visiting many different biblically-based congregations. Formal religious organizations perplex me a bit, I look for the sound theology behind the "church" of any kind. I accept people are flwed and since people run churches, I attend the church for fellowship, worship, support but my journey with God is personal. I like Bible studies that are dynamic, interactive with lot's of questions, ideas and conversation. I would resist any indoctrination but appreciate those who are educated in the word to help me understand it and what it means in today's world.
I live in a community where there are 2 great Presbyterian churches and joined one, while I am active in a Bible Study with the other. Power, politics, and human nature can be a problem with organized religion. But there is no problem with Biblical direction, prayer and our direct relationship with God made available through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. So glad I am saved by grace and grace alone. I can't bash on others, I'm not imperfect myself!