Sometime around 1986, I stopped going to the church I went to every week, a church that was literally on the same ancestral plot of ground I lived on. Some great*N grandfather deeded a chunk of the original farm's land grant for a church and cemetery, and the acre I lived on was the last remaining of that original farm. Roots that deep, yes, can be uprooted.
I did not go to another church for a long, long time. Of course, it must be noted that I am an independent, not only not affiliated with a church, but not affiliated with a denomination. I specifically do not claim to be a Christian, since that label, in my view, infers lots of meanings that may or may not apply (see related blog about my upbringing). In my view, calling oneself a Christian is an easy label to hide behind, an easy bandwagon to jump on. We so easily forget that Jesus of Nazareth was, himself, an independent, defiant of the status quo. In my view, to be like Jesus is to stand apart from bandwagons, to be to some extent defiant, to look establishmentarians in the eye and tell them where to go.
In any event, I have grown enough dissatisfied with my own personal status quo that, here I sit, 10:20 a.m. on a Sunday, at home. Well, sitting only to type this, as I'm also taking care of some routine stuff (laundry, dishes) and some long overdue personal projects. Nor am I alone, as Gabe is upstairs, studying.
So why the dissatisfaction? A mishmash of things, some of them going back years. We changed senior pastors about two years ago. I really liked Pastor Wayne. He made Jesus come alive in my mind, made it make sense. I disagreed with a few things with him (creationism, strict constructionist judges, other political stuff), but in church, those were not big issues, and outside of church we were able to disagree without being disagreeable.
Following him were a series of interim pastors, one staying most of a year. They, too, had their pluses and minuses, and for that matter, so does the current, permanent senior pastor, a youngish guy (40, younger than me, anyway), very affable, with a clear, understandable message. Well enough, I guess, and I do like the way he can make the KJV Bible come alive.
No, what's getting at me isn't any one single thing. It's that rootedness coming back to haunt me, the feeling that I have to go to church and have to go to church there because I have to go to church and I have to go to church there. Indeed, though, there are a couple of needles in my side, which weekly trips to get there and back seem not to be worth the $5 I spend in gasoline.
For one, the more I learn about Jesus and the early church, the more I learn about what has been added on as unquestioned and unquestionable Scripture, over the last 1900+ years. (I won't list the details here.) I recently acquired a Roman Catholic version of the Bible, and find several books, and chapters and verses of other books, that are not in KJV or NIV or any other translation previously available to me (see my blog entry on Bible translations). I also own and am trying to read a Koran, which at a very shallow level is in essence saying "OK, Christians, you had half a millenium to get it right and failed, so let me show you how it's supposed to be done."
Closer to home and the present, the interchange between me and several church members with the blog entries from a couple of weeks ago (1, 2) and another one about a year ago left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Last summer, the interim pastor had a sermon the same week as Pope Benedict's dust-up with the Islamic world, in which he said something that struck me as particularly intolerant, the sort of seed which, if planted, would cause lots of sectarian grief.
Possibly the largest item in recent weeks is the passing of Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy, about whom I wrote but did not publish a blog entry that said, in effect, "Good bye and good riddance". Kennedy, in my view, represented the ultimate ill-will generator in this generation, a religious extremist, in precisely the sort of mold as were the right-wing ayatollahs that overthrew the Shah of Iran (an event that occurred on my 21st birthday). There has been little but religious, sectarian strife over in that part of the world ever since. Here, Kennedy and his ilk (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, a dozen more) have taken over politics (the Republican party in particular), the airwaves (every major market now has a "Christian" station), and the thinking of nearly every organized Church Body in the U.S.A., to think like he does. Around 1970, this line of approach did not exist. Kennedy and others defined an alignment, and everyone it seems toes that line, or risks some sort of hell or damnation if they do not.
Well, I do not. Perhaps it my father's fuckemallist philosophy coming out, perhaps it's just that at nearly 49, I see no reason to toe anyone's line. And going to church serves primarily to toe that line.
Can I do better? (Sure, I'm familiar with Proverbs 3:5, Genesis 12:1, Psalms 10:4, and Jeremiah 9:23.) I can do better with following all the good books.