Tuesday, February 03, 2009

DIY Church

I just spent a day with my mom up in Paso Robles. My mom has been a dedicated Christian for 30+ years. On a very practical level she spends at least an hour a day in prayer and often much more. Sometimes she'll get the guitar out and sing praise and worship songs by herself.

My personal belief is that God is neither Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. But that each tradition has something to offer. I grew up going to church with my mom, so I learned to sing and pray with the Christians. All else being the same I might even call myself a Christian. But most of my conversations with Christians get disagreeable when we start talking about Jesus as the only way to know God, the nature of sin, and hell, and a bunch of other stuff. In the end I figure the Christian moniker doesn't win me friends with Christians or non-Christians, so I don't use it.

Hanging out with my mom is always good though, because I have so much respect for her spiritual path that I can't just write off the entire Christian community.

In Goa talking to a fellow who had been traveling the better part of the last decade. He described his experience interacting with Missionaries in different communities around the world. He said that they try to fit in, but then they start talking about the devil and stuff whenever they can, and everyone gets weirded out and wonders why they can't just be normal.

I remember this aspect of children's church when I was a kid. The youth pastor used to tell us how if we didn't tell our friends about Jesus they would go to hell, and when they were burning in hell they would know that we could have saved them if we had had the courage to tell them about Jesus in school. It's like using fear and guilt to train people to be unnatural, to not pay attention to the situation but to plow through and give a pitch even if ones whole body was screaming not to.

My mom used to run a church with her second husband. He was a preacher and she pretty much did everything else. My whole life she has been totally dedicated to ministry. And while it hasn't all been fun, I've definitely seen miracles play out in her life that make me believe in some magic that goes beyond physics and statistics.

I love the praise and worship part of church. If we could just sing for an hour or two I would give gladly, hug everyone warmly, come with anticipation and leave feeling high. Occasionally I still go to church, get elevated during worship and then become depressed when the pastor starts talking about how Mary had to have a virgin birth because if she had had sex then Jesus would have been born in sin like the rest of us.

My mom gets antsy in church too. Sometimes she finds these super out-there movements within the church that feel totally tapped into the spirit. I went to a couple of services with her where there was no sermon just people spontaneously singing, and praying in tounges. I think there's a whole 'spirit' movement for people like this. But, its hard to scale a 'spirit' movement if being in the spirit means having a very personal direct experience of god.

My mom is excited about home churches right now. I sense its something of a movement, possibly a reaction away from the mega churches that grew up in the last decade. From my point of view much of the evil perpetrated on the world during the Bush administration drew power by communicating very effectively with the established Christian leadership network.

Talking with progressive friends with no particular spiritual views other than a uniform dismay at much of the rhetoric that comes from the Christian Right, we bemoan the fact that we don't have any similar community gathering. Wherever you go across this whole country, the expectation is that you can show up as a total stranger at the local church and people will shake your hand, smile and welcome you into their community. How precious is that ? Its almost worth nodding along with the pastor while he talks about whatever, just to feel the human warmth of sitting next to other people.

Home churches seem like a DIY way of getting this. Without the ambition that comes from striving for more members or a larger building there is the simple joy of hanging out with other people searching for God's presence. It requires a personal faith in ones direct connection though. Regular church has an expert who can channel Gods word. It's easier to hear a man speak than to put in the time in prayer, worship and studying that genuine direct connection requires. But with the home church, maybe there's no man, there's just a group of people who like to hang out together while they pray, worship, study and seek god.

1 comment:

ChrisCroninPost said...

I like what you wrote Freeman. It's important for all religious people's to have an open an honest dialogue. For far too long, world religions have focused on being monotheolistic instead of all tolerant. Thus we are kept confused and at the beck and call of the political shepherds. For religion is part of policing pople despite the seperation of church and state. Even Bhuddists are swayed throught he IChing to "let it go" instead of fighting the powers that rule. But we must never forget that humor and laughter abound in heaven and, alas, has disappeared from many a priest's lips. The one "sin" most often committed in churches is not being able to laugh at our own folly of "falling short of God." This goes for the acceptance of others too. Finally, any attempt to "demonize" is the work of the demon himself. To teach that you caused someone to go to hell because you didn't push Jesus on someone is infact the work of confusion and the eventual amnifest of an internal doubt that lingers inside of someone who can't understand that they have been taught by the devil himself to doubt the power of Jesus to find his way into the hearts of all who beckon him. No third party can ever stand int he way of the Lord speaking to an individual. Anwyay, these are my beliefs and I hold them dear they come from many years of study and practice. You are as close to a "Jesus" in my life as I've had. Thanks for that and enjoy the ride this year. You are about to move mountains! Blessings. BiG mAn