I did something entirely out of character yesterday. Sunday.
I went to church.
It's probably been something like seven years since I have been [willingly] in a church service -- other than the occasional time back home, at Christmas.
Or at weddings. Or funerals.
But -- to wake up early on a Sunday and go to a church service? Well, since my radical de-conversion -- it is an unheard-of event. Some of you may know, I once was a minister in the church. And then I experienced an extremely radical shift in my umm……. how does one say this…. ministerial status?
[The above image is an actual photograph…. do you see how this was doomed from the get-go?]
And then what followed was an entire re-organization of my core beliefs.
The place I am at today? I would describe it as AWQ.
Agnosticism With Qualifications©.
I work with several non-believers, and at work we often discuss our various perspectives on the theological/religious spectrum. It has been very stimulating for me to be able to share my own journey along these lines, with people that I respect, and work with on a daily basis. Some are very critical thinkers -- and I consider myself to be among that designation of…… thinker.
Yesterday I ended up in a pew with one of them… an avowed atheist.
I must admit -- we attended this prominent Pentecostal church [my background] with the intention of having a good laugh -- we intended to go out afterwards and tear to delightful shreds every absurdity after absurdity.
We were foiled.
Or…… let me speak for myself here, I WAS FOILED!
As we sat in a Swiss Chalet afterwards, gnawing on legs of chickens like two unsaved Neanderthals -- groping for constructive criticism of the church service we had just attended -- neither of us was really able to come up with anything solid.
We looked down [at our plates]… and behold…… it was good.
Again, -- I speak for myself and not my co-worker -- I was flabbergasted at the fact that I think the "church" -- at least the one we visited -- has perhaps done a bit of a 180, in light of the fact that most bookstores have entire sections now devoted to what might as well be labelled "Religious Bullshit Detection."
The church we attended was relevant. That is how I would describe it.
Well, in light of Valentines Day -- the topic was marriage.
The pastor and his wife sat on Starbucks-style chairs, around a Starbucks-type table, with Starbuckian kinds of cups on it… and sipped from these, as they had a chat about what it means to live the married life -- half the time it was so candid that myself, as a congregant, felt I was intruding on a private moment.
It was relevant. Non-preachy. Non-judgmental. Wonderfully applicable [even though I am not married, I've noticed that my relationship with my cat has already greatly improved….] -- overall, I was impressed.
Hundreds of people listening, and you could have heard a pin drop.
My critical intention had backfired, at least in this instance. And left me with the thought that, although I no longer subscribe to the literal beliefs as held by everyone else in the building [except the person next to me] -- I am going to quit blindly criticizing everyone of faith.
Some of them know what's going on. Some are living profoundly relevant lives, filled with love and joy and…….. filledment. [<-- This should really be a word].
Some of them have found a way to consistently believe [in a literal sense] in what amounts to a really good cartoon -- but have translated and applied this in a way that has the potential of making my own life look like a fairly bad one.