I attended a church service with my best friend this past weekend. This church emphasizes how it should be a “fun” place to grow and be challenged. It’s been about a year since I attended church, aside from going to Vacation Bible School to watch my children in a program. We went to the contemporary service, as opposed to the earlier traditional service. This was a more progressive, high-energy service that usually repels many of the older folks. The music wasn’t bad but standing there gets rather tiresome after twenty minutes or so. I don’t understand why Christians think worshipping god for all eternity is something to look forward to. In the words of Christopher Hitchins, “I don’t want to live in a Celestial North Korea for all eternity.” At one point, the praise and worship leader shouted that god didn’t want us to suffer, but to live abundantly. He would be the supplier of all our needs. I couldn’t help but think of the way the disciples and Jesus Christ himself were brutally murdered for their faith, as legend has suggested. The message being that if you follow Jesus far enough, you will end up being a martyr for your faith too. I’m not sure how this ties into “living abundantly."
We watched a brief video/infomercial about how the church is accepting of everybody regardless of their past or current circumstances. Different actors in the video gave various apparent objections to going to church such as: All the church wants is your money (Well, this is at least part of the reason); I don’t believe all of the same things you do (They listed various outside denominations as examples, but the atheist was sadly left out); only wimps go to church; if you knew what I did, you wouldn’t want me in your church (this one was particularly creepy, think pedophile); they’ll never accept me for who I am. Of course, the overwhelming theme throughout the video was that the church accepts everybody. This is a nice change but merely a reflection of an evolving church that’s becoming more and more indistinguishable from the world in which we really live.
After the video, we were treated to more music and I couldn’t help but notice the dancing woman in the corner. She was holding two long poles with soft fabric hanging off the ends. I just referred to her as flag girl. I asked my friend if it would be possible for me to become a flag girl as well. He laughed and said facetiously that she used to do an act where she was suspended from two cables and floated across the room.
Eventually, the music slowed a bit and a member from the congregation began speaking in tongues. One of the worship leaders “interpreted” it and gave some generic word about how we must praise god with greater power and enthusiasm. I wondered what would happen if I fallaciously began speaking in tongues as well. Would I get an interpretation? I’m betting that I would but I refrained.
Finally, and I do mean finally, the pastor began his message on the prodigal son. This was probably the only part of the service that had much real world application. We all understand that our actions have consequences, and it’s great to have a second chance, especially from the ones we love. The son, as many of us know, went to a distant land inhabited by gentiles. He squandered all of his inheritance--that he demanded from his father-- early and foolishly, hence the usage of the word prodigal. After wrestling with pigs and eating pig slop, he comes back to his father with his tail between his legs. His father is more than accepting, lowering his noble standards to running in a field toward him with his skirt hiked up, exposing his ankles. The pastor discussed many of the violations regarding social mores and customs of the Middle Eastern societies. This was refreshing and painted a more vivid picture of the story.
Each of the main characters in the story lowered their standards. The son lowered his standards out of greed and eventual desperation. The father lowered his standards out of unconditional love for the son. It’s a wonderful story but devoid of any supernatural necessities. Of course, this is supposed to be a parable which compares an earthly father/son relationship with the relationship god has with each of his followers. We live a life of sin but are welcomed back with open arms. So, serial killers and rapists can always be assured another chance if they sincerely repent before capital punishment is carried out.
There is just one itty bitty problem however. We don’t have any evidence that the father is real or that we have anybody to “run home” to. There’s not much of a point in putting faith in something that is devoid of evidence. In the parable, the son had all the evidence that he needed to believe in the father, but most of us aren’t granted a shred of physical evidence.
Anyway, I may continue going with my friend a couple times a month just for the fun of it. We had a church lunch afterword that was really good. Many of the members are very friendly, and others would be easily diagnosed with a psychological disorder. I certainly can fit in to the Christian culture as well as anybody.