Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My perfect church

After growing up in a denomination that is obsessed with what you shouldn't do: drink, have sex, listen to secular music, sleep in on Sundays, be gay, etc. I would really like a church that is obsessed with what we can do to make the world a better place. To help others. To do good and be good (which is not the same thing as not being bad).

It is like they say, good skiers don't look at the obstacles, they look for the paths between the obstacles. In other words, if you look at the trees, then you're more likely to hit the trees. It also reminds me of the advice I got in driver's ed. I grew up outside of Austin, where two lane roads were where you did a lot of your driving. My instructor always said, don't stare at the oncoming car or you'll veer towards it. Focus on where you want the car to go. 

It is a lot like parenting. I don't think a good parent is someone who follows their kid around swatting their kid's hand every time the kid reaches for something fragile. Actually, I don't think a good parent swats their kid's anything for any reason. Instead, I think a good parent teaches kids how to do the right thing. How to be gentle, helpful, independent, a good communicator, etc. 

And that is what I think a good church would do too. Sort of like Philippeans 4:8 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Except here is what my church would say is lovely and pure and admirable: abstinence and Sunday school. Their obsession with abstinence cannot be overemphasized. And in light of that skiing advice, maybe that has a little something to do why my high school church youth minister's wife was his former youth member (I think, even at the time he got her pregnant.)

Here is what I think is lovely and admirable: helping others (and I'm sorry but handing them a salvation pamphlet doesn't count; I mean getting your hands dirty and doing stuff that will really make a difference in people's lives) I never realized how overlooked that kind of stuff was in my church until I went to Episcopal church in college (with a woman minister!! YES!!) Things like Soup Kitchen and Habitat for Humanity were regular events. They reached out to people with AIDS. And people who survived domestic violence and rape. That is what Jesus would do. They were welcoming. They didn't care if you were gay. They would never put up a sign in front of their building in support of something anti-anyone (ahem, Prop 8). 

Here is something else I think is lovely and admirable: family. And I love the Mormon church's emphasis on family. I love their family nights. I love Mormon heaven and how families are sealed for time and eternity. If you don't know about it, their heaven sounds a million times better than the Southern Baptist one from my childhood. It's been a while since I read Mormonism for Dummies (which is sort of outdated, they need to replace the chapter on Mormons and scrap-booking with a chapter on Mormons and blogging), but I basically remember liking their hell a lot better too. In hindsight, it actually sounds way more scriptural than the one I learned about growing up. And way more people are in their heaven (not in the highest heaven, but still. heaven.) Anyway, it is almost enough to make me want to become a member of the LDS church. But, they are pretty complementarian. And I'll be honest, as a working mom (aka, not "the gold standard" as per MfDummies), reading that chapter of the book made me feel pretty bad about myself. Like I'm not living up to what God expects of me or what my family needs from me? That hurts. And I disagree. That said, I think they at least seem to really value the work women traditionally do (which I appreciate and respect a lot). And they really celebrate the role women played in the Bible (I think also in their other scriptures too. Obviously, I'm no expert in the faith.) But I think my biggest hang up is, Mormonism seems like a serious amount of rules and a serious time commitment. And it is like, you know when you start dating someone and all you can think about is how bad the break up will be (because of all the mutual friends, and how close you are with the family, etc)? That is how I felt about Mormonism. Like it is going to get real awkward when I slowly stop going church. Because that is just what I do.

I think what I'm saying is, is there a religion that is a good mix of Episcopal and Mormon? And maybe this church meets for happy hour instead of Sunday mornings. And has Bible studies that are more like book clubs? And the members aren't awkward and judgey; and they don't speak in weirdo platitudes. But instead they are really interesting and smart and compassionate and welcoming (even to atheists/agnostics! And I mean welcoming like a cupcake happy hour; not welcoming like how lions welcome a lamb into their den). And in this perfect church, everyone says insightful stuff. And ASKS insightful questions. And people welcome those questions. And the people are genuine. Like no pretending to be "super pumped about Jesus, guys!" (Are you down with G-O-D? hahaha, Saved). In other words, NOTHING like church camp where it feels like everybody just got some bizarre conversion/somatization disorder (like that twitching disorder thing that happened in NY) that compels them to constantly say "JESUS!" with jazz hands. That is awkward and I'm done with that. {Seriously, if you haven't seen it, you have to watch Saved: "I am FILLED with Christ's love! You are just jealous of my success in the Lord." (THAT MOVIE IS NOT A JOKE, you guys, that was like my life except without the high school pregnancy/gay boyfriend). So weird and so true.} Anyway, my perfect church, yes. Smart and nice and welcoming and helpful and real. Where people do things because they want to do them, because they think those things are awesome and important (i.e., no manipulation and guilt trips just genuine, internal motivation). Now I just have to find this magical church.
related:

15 reasons I left the church

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2 comments:

  1. Well UU is about finding your own truth and I think you can pick and choose aspects you like about different religions :)

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  2. There is an enormous obsession with chastity/abstinence in many Christian religions and I think it makes it hard for some of their members to transition when they actually get married, if they were even able to abstain. They are suddenly expected to go from "sex is bad," to, "sex is good," ya know? Luckily, I have parents who never told me sex was 'bad.' I think that is a dangerous thing to do. Since it isn't! I feel like my parents and most of my leaders did a pretty good job of telling me there was a time and a place for everything.

    I am mormon and you are very right that being LDS requires a HUGE time commitment. I obviously think it is worth it, since I do it, but sometimes I am like, "those people that go to church for an hour once a week? They don't know what a good thing they have going on!" ;) LOL!

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