Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CHURCH, ATTENDANCE, CHRISTIANITY

Since my blog has been very much neglected, the few who still read probably don't know that I stopped attending church about two years ago. The physical struggle was just too much. Since I'd been a church-goer all my life, what surprised me was that I didn't miss church at all except for the hymns. I very much enjoyed congregational singing.

I pray at home and meet God in my house and in my heart, and that seems enough for now. I try (and often fail) to live out the heart of the Gospel, which is love, as Jesus preached in the Two Great Commandments:
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
and the Golden Rule:
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus was only ever a Jew. He was born a Jew, and he died a Jew. His teachings are rooted in the Hebrew Bible, and he never intended to found a religion. One of my touchstone verses in the Hebrew Bible is Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Love, kindness, and humility are what Christianity is about, or it is nothing to me.

11 comments:

Rmj said...

I miss the hymns, too. I'm sad to think the inevitable will come to pass, and all the old hymns (most from the 19th century, a few quite older than that) will pass away, relics of a past age. Well, they are, in one sense; although not to me. I don't even imagine I can sing anymore, as I once thought I could; but I miss congregational singing.

For the rest, I just don't. I understand the importance of "organized religion." But I also see how quickly it becomes a burden, or a club: both a weapon, and a place of exclusive access. "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all." In my mind adults were once responsible persons; now that I am one I can't decide whether I was foolish in my perceptions, or that things have changed that much, because we all seem to hate responsibility like poison. At least insofar as we are supposed to be responsible; making other people responsible is still as fun a game as back-fence gossip. See, for example, the New Mexico politicians who complained to the church when a Catholic priest (or bishop? I should look that story up again) said in public that support for a law punishing the poor was racist, because so many of our poor are non-whites. They didn't like being called "racists." They didn't want to change their minds on the law, but they sure didn't want to be responsible for it, either, except in what they considered good ways (votes, donations). Same as it ever was, I suppose; but telling, nonetheless.

I was thinking about Micah's most famous verse just recently, in much the same way you use it here. It is a verse resonant with meaning for me. Thanks for reminding me of that.

June Butler said...

What's odd is that the theology in some of the old hymns I love best is really bad, but in hymns, the theology seems not to matter. Go figure.

I'm grateful for my upbringing in the church and my time spent in church since then, or I would probably not be anything close to a Christian today. In that sense, I see the need for organized religion. Some folks have given the label "Christian" such a bad reputation that I now prefer calling myself a follower of Christ.

Even as I was still attending, in the last few years I believed the church was getting what Christ intended wrong. I'd find myself thinking, "What are we doing, and why are we doing it? Somehow we're missing the mark."

The church should be at the forefront in fighting for justice and equality and standing with the dispossessed, not so often dragging up the rear.

Bex said...

I gave up church for Lent. I'm sort of on a new journey that will probably involve some changes. I'm looking for a smaller community, although who knows if I'll find one. Just found Fr. James Martin's Examen for Lent...a bit late, but I really liked it. It's a podcast he mentions on Facebook.

Russ Manley said...

The verses you quoted are the essence of Christianity, so I think you're good to go.

I haven't been to church myself for many years now, but I hold on to those same thoughts and do what I can.

June Butler said...

Jesus' teachings in the Gospels are simple and profound. It's humans who make his words complicated. I've come to think God doesn't much care about whether we have "right beliefs". God cares about what we do, and even if we don't always do the right thing, God forgives us loves us anyway.

Anonymous said...

I still drop by every now and again, but not so much as I used to when you posted nearly every day. I still go to church. As the old jokes goes, I have to, I'm the pastor. It's been 45 years, but all I want now is a small congregation of friends. In this day and age, with children, grandchildren, and friends and relations scattered all over the world, this is my full-time extended family. The singing is good and there are holy moments now and again. Mostly it is fun. Tom Downs, Eastern Michigan.

June Butler said...

Tom, I no longer have the energy to post every day. I look back now and wonder how I ever did. Most of my old blog friends use Facebook now, so I followed them over there. It's only when I want what I've written on FB to be more accessible that I edit and double post to my blog. Regular blogging was certainly dearer to my heart than regular posting on Facebook will ever be, though I've made some lovely friends there, too.

I guess you do have to still be in church, being the pastor and all. :-D There were holy moments for me, too, and I have no regrets about the many years I attended.

My friends in the church had either died or moved away to be nearer to family. Because of health reasons, I was not able to participate in ministry as I once had, and I no longer felt like part of the community.

The Thought Criminal said...

Thanks for pointing out the passage from Micah.

I sort of do a combination walking meditation - centering meditation in which I repeat certain phrases from scripture or just two words coordinating walking and breathing with beads to count how many times I've done it. That and I listen to the TV mass on my computer and listen or read the day's liturgy, also online. I don't go to church because it's not possible right now and I'm not sure which church I should go to if I did.

June Butler said...

You're welcome. I pray the 'Daily Devotions for Families and Individuals' in the Episcopal Church "Book of Common Prayer", and I read the bible passages assigned for the day in the Revised Common Lectionary. Alas, most of the time, I'm too fidgety for meaningful meditation. I also talk to God informally throughout the day, sometimes nicely, and other times not. The psalmists ranted at God, so I figure I'm entitled, too. ;-)

I made a mess of my original reply, so I deleted and started over. I wish Blogger comments had an edit function.

Paul (A.) said...

I hope that it wasn't my visit that put you off from church thereafter.

June Butler said...

Paul (A.), not at all, and you know it. The effort was just too much. I guess I'm spiritual rather than religious now, as they say. I hope you and your family are well. Your wife and I keep in touch from time to time on Facebook.