Peering Through a Glass Darkly
I climb exhaustedly, hunched over as I gain the summit on a hill of years, and from my elderly vantage point I can barely distinguish through a hazy distance a lonely church spire from which I dimly hear the tolling of a muffled bell. It beckons me, as would a doorbell ringing, children singing, or ice cream trucks dinging around my old neighborhood. Slowly shambling down my hill with an ever gradual spring in my stride, I begin to run. Sooner than a burst of lightning I am at the church building, my limbs tingling with the energy of youth.
Stretching my legs and pushing higher on the tips of my toes I can scarcely peer through a indigo blotch of stained glass. The inner light is dim, yet the sun shines through all the windows enough to show me nobody's home. An old hand and rhyming game runs through my perplexity. "Here's the church, here's the steeple. Open the doors and where's all the people." Then I awaken.
The above is an allusion to the fading Christian congregations that the increasingly secular scientific Western societies experience today. Some people believe that it must be that great ogre SCIENCE that is to blame, but when actually, I believe it's the amount of time spent every day seeking money and amusement. True, the more educated among us have become more secularized and cannot believe as wholeheartedly in religious superstitions as our ancestors. Yet, this hasn't removed the wow factor from our experiences. No, it has been replaced by an artifice beyond the imaginations of the greatest Epicurean philosophers. Why go to a church when there is a great game on or a groovy movie, not to mention the hundreds of schlock filled cable shows saturated with ads?
The awe has gone, that jaw-dropping sense of personal smallness, yet imbued with a buoyant sense of wonder that manufactures gods from the stuff of nature. And that's another problem, we no longer live withIN nature. We live insulated from and withOUT it. This also explains why a large minority of us seem oblivious to our surrounding environmental degradation.
Another major impediment to church attendance is the insidious hierarchical structure of organized religion. It is a turnoff for the young and the free-thinkers among us. It seems the only way to get folks into a church nowadays is for the elders to appeal to the selfish natures of our worst angels. In other words, promise the new coming tithers plenty of pie-in-the-sky dreams, controversies and MORE amusements. Something that is antithetical to the teaching of any prophetic savant, whether Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Buddhistic, take your pick. They all preach against what is happening now in our mega-churches.
It seems such a shame, although I have to confess that I don't go to church, either. My reasons for non-attendance are manifold.
The primary excuse goes like this: there are two churches in my small town, Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic. I have been baptized in the Southern Baptist tradition and this occurred when I was nine years old, not a truly responsible nor reasonable age to understand the complexities of Protestant dogma. Yet I truly believed at that age and before, as far back as five years old. But, as time progressed and my discovery of the racist founding of the Southern church led me to disdain the fellowship. As for the Roman Catholic church, I have not been catechized, therefore I cannot partake of the Eucharist. I am limited to these two choices, because I do not drive and the next nearest group of churches is fifteen miles away, a fairly long walk. Beside this excuse, I have another; I am not really into the doctrine of the Trinity, which I consider a Nicaean human compromise endorsed by a Roman imperator and not what I believe comes from the "hand" of the Father, the "God" that Yeshua of Nazareth taught his disciples to love. But, what I truly miss is "fellowship." (A term that is tinged with the shade of male chauvinism, yet is the one commonly used.)
To me, fellowship is the raison d'être of any church gathering. To be with sisters and brothers surrendered to agape IS heaven on earth.
[My next blog addition will be ABOUT the Kingdom of Heaven]