30 May 2004


30 May 2004

Most days I don’t allow myself to believe in an afterlife.  I think that Jesus did the world disservice by coming back from the dead, though I realize that it is necessary to show that he is indeed part of God and so completing the cycle of birth and death that shows us that God lived and died with us.

As a Christian it can be difficult to remove myself from the afterlife.  It permeates scripture, the prayer book and our hymns.  I think that is one of the many reasons that I do not make it to church on a regular basis, even though I think about God and my relationship to the divine almost every day.

These past few months I have been making some effort to attend church more regularly.  I do consider myself to be a Christian and feel that part of that is going to church.  I believe that my son should learn the ins-and-outs of church, which book to use when and the tunes to most of the hymns so he will have a framework to structure his own search for the divine.

I don’t believe that there is only one path to the divine.  Saying there is only one path puts god in a box and is dismissive of the journeys of other people.  If there is only one path, then those who are on the path are tempted to look down on those not on the path.  If there are many paths and many ways to see the divine then we each retain our humanity and find that we are all searching together.  

Any religion that claims to be the one true path is one that has been corrupted by the human need for power and control.  Looking at the world we live in, I believe that the only thing I can control is my own behavior: how I choose to act toward the people around me, how I choose to spend the resources given to me, where and with who I choose to spend my time.

I cannot control the weather.  I cannot control my own health (except in very limited ways).  I cannot control the health and well being of my friends and family.  I cannot even control my own moods (though I can do things to influence them).  This is all very difficult for me.  I have an urge to control things, to put things into order and the church exacerbates that tendency.  With the structure of the service, with the prayers, and with the sermon it tries to give some structure to a chaotic and unpredictable world.

Church life creates the illusion of control in the structure of the service and regularity of the rituals.  It sometimes forgets that the rituals that comfort us are also those which constrain us.  For me, putting the divine in a box, hemming God in, creates a tension that must be released.  I need time away from church before God explodes out of the box.

The one place that I do not feel this tension in the church is in the singing.  The poetry of the hymns ranges from ethereal to prosaic, and is, for me a living testament to the different ways people understand god.  Each hymn is different and they are contradictory in their presentations of God and God’s will but they tap into something that reaches beyond my day-to-day self.  When I sing the hymns I feel a close connection to all those who have sung them before me.  There is a feeling of both timelessness and individuality that comes to me when we sing.  It is the one time during the service that I feel connected to the community of believers and it is wonderful that all sing and sing loudly together.

So for all the issues that I have with the church, all the contradictions, all the limitations, sometimes I just need to join in and belt out “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” and feel a truth flow though me that cannot come if I am silent.

No comments: