Thursday, August 5, 2010

For Anne Rice

Much has been said and written already about Ms. Rice’s announcement last week that she is giving up on Christianity and religion. She says she still loves God and is committed to him.

I have to take that at face value.

I think we all get fed up with “organized religion” at one time or another. People switch churches like they change toothpastes – some people are likely more loyal to their toothpaste brand than a church.

I struggle with my own church but not in the same way Ms. Rice apparently is with hers (in her case it sounds like the BIG C Catholic church and not a specific local congregation or location.)

Our church has been through a transition in the last couple of years. Our long-time Senior Pastor retired (and now seems busier than ever. Go figure!) and another man took his place.

Prior to that switch – it seems lots of people left the church. I really don’t know why. I’ve never been particularly plugged in to our church’s grapevine (hmm? Grapevine? Interesting potential analogy for a church don’t you think? Maybe more on this at another time.)

Some associate pastors came and went. Lots of congregants did the same. But there seemed to be an influx of new people so the movement and shifting wasn’t as noticeable.
But of late, there have been others that have also left for different local churches. I have no idea why. I wish I knew. Am I missing something?

I’m not even thinking about switching churches so anybody reading this; don’t worry.
But my kids have been going to an evening VBS at a tiny little Baptist church not far from our house. I have no desire to go there. But one thing I notice every time I am there, a certain comraderie or something. It feels “homey.”

Maybe the fact that we live 30 minutes away from our church, my wife and I both work; so we are not there every time the doors open and for every event. Maybe if we lived closer or were willing to drive more, I might feel the same warm fuzzies.

In the bigger picture of religion and Christianity, I get frustrated too. I hate being lumped in with extremists of any stripe. I consider myself Republican (most of the time but it gets harder and harder …) and I think I’m pretty conservative.

I don’t listen to Rush or Glen Beck or Hannity. I spend more time listening to Imus than any other radio or TV pundit. I don’t watch Christian TV. I don’t march in lock-step with any of the so-called Religious Right. I’m not a member of the Tea Party. (Although since the original version happened on my birthday back in the 17th century I feel some odd connection to it. And I do think we need a 3rd party and another name but that too is for a future post.)

I don’t agree with everything my church believes. I don’t like everybody in my church (and I’m sure not everybody likes me).

But I’ll stick it out – with God and Jesus and my local church.

I thought of a way to explain why.

Some years ago our church began a recovery ministry. People who have some sort of addiction. They have classes 4 or 5 nights a week. They meet for Sunday School. They sit as a group (mostly) front and center during our main worship service.

Here’s what I know: as a group they get into it. Our church might get loud. They get loud. Some in our church raise their hands; they raise their hands. When it comes time to pray; they pray. When we have a Baptismal service – there is always someone from the Recovery group getting baptized.

Some (maybe most) of these folks have been through the addiction ringer. Some have lost families, lost jobs; even been to jail. I don’t know the details and don’t need to. What I do know though is that they keep coming back.

This may be why some folks left the church. There are lots of tattoos. Many smoke. Our church had to start a smoking policy and move the butt-catchers away from the front doors. Not many churches even have butt-catchers (unless you are Episcopalian maybe.)
But they keep coming back.

Right now (I think, hope) I don’t need what they are getting. But I’d like to think if I ever did, it would be there for me too.

That’s my church. A place where broken people can come and get on the road to being mended. I didn’t say fixed. I wouldn’t presume to know where all these folks are in their private lives. But they are on a good road to somewhere.

Maybe my role is to keep coming, keep supporting my church (and through that this ministry) so others can come and be a part of that.

So maybe here’s my point for Anne Rice. She used to write about vampires and the like. Lately she’s been writing about Biblical characters and themes.

Maybe she should visit my church. These folks are not hung up on abortion or gay rights or any of the other things that Ms. Rice feels drove her out of the church. They’ve got much bigger fish to fry right now getting their lives put back together one piece at a time.

Who knows? Maybe they could help her with hers.

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