I have never been a church attendee, the reasons are numerous. I'll get into them later in this post. I do recall being a child/teenager, and being forced to attend. Well, I should not say forced, I was expected to behave as my Southern relatives. That is, all of them went to church each Sunday. So, if they graciously permitted me to stay with them during the Summer, as I escaped from the streets of NY, I had better conform to their rituals. As I grew older, I began to respectfully question the routine. Later I would travel the world and experience different cultures, and really understand some of the problems caused by religion or its mininterpretation. These days I only enter a church or chapel when a wedding is underway(I've never attended a funeral).
Anyway, I had been invited twice by a co-worker. The first invitiation was politely declined, and I explained my stance. Nonetheless, another such request was extended and I figured I would accept, so that I would be left alone..
(Aside: I caught a snippet of Bernie Mac's sitcom- the one where he was forced to attend the 'prototypical black church very funny.)
Well, I get to the church @ 7.30a for morning service. I was immediately, consumed with sensory overload. There was a woman yelling what seemed to be high-pitch gibberish. Reminded me of the old Albee Square mall. I was later told that it was prayer over the mic. The sheer size of the church was something to behold. It was absolutely immense. There were three huge monitors, reminiscent of a sports arena. After about 25min of the high pitch yelling, we treated to the series of songs and finally the choir made an entrance and did a couple of hymns. What I found interesting was that all of the words to the hymns were also available while singing and music was going on. Pretty intense.
At this point I ask when we're going to be able to sit down as it was now about 8.40a. The pastor made an entrance and ran through some announcements which were also displayed up on the monitors. Lost children or rather kids who got separated from parents while at this massive facility were also listed on the monitors too.
Before we were allowed to sit, all of the visitors were requested to stay standing. All the church goers in the their respective rows then began singing the 'welcoming' song to the newcomer.. I was serenaded by several people. Very different indeed. They also made it a point to provide a contact/registration card. Quite thorough. By this time I was very relieved to finally be seated. A collection was taken up, I dropped my buck in the bucket.
The speaker was introduced, a pastor from NO, I was pretty interested in what he had to say considering the recent events in that city. His talk was prefaced by host pastor stating that the NO pastor would tell the everyone about what was really going on in NOLA. You know, stuff that you didn't get from the news. Hmm. I wondered if he'd somehow tapped into the blogosphere.
Anyway, the NO pastor insisted that his church and home was untouched because of prayer. He went onto say many other things that were a bit more interesting to me. He began to mix politics with religion. I really don't think religion has any place in politics or vice versa. So in my mind, he made a cardinal sin (pun intended). What the idea of separation of church and state? He attacked the NO mayor and governor and stated that Bush shared no blame in relief debacle. Whether you agree or disagree, I again state that this conversation has no place in a church. Lot's of amens abound.. He insisted that racism was not at the core of the events in NO, but he consistently referred to people in his story as blacks or them people. Oh yeah, he also talked about his Hummer too and took a jab at those other religions (ie Islam, Judaism).
The only value I got out of his talk was the concept of being gracious and giving. Everything else was of no use to me. In fact, he hadn't said very much that had not already been repeated in the mainstream press (raping, pillaging, looting).
As the service came to a close (approx 9.55a), a request was made for all people who wish to be 'born again' to come to the front. I thought to myself, "Why be born again to die again?" I digress. An old man in the row in front of me, invited me to go to the front and be 'saved'. He said he'd go up with me. I said, "Nah, I'm good." and smiled. Lots of people went up tho. After those people proceeded to go out with cheers and promise of free information. They allowed us to leave. I made a path to the exit with haste. I looked back to find my co-worker, I wanted to 'express' myself, but thought better of it. Instead, I graciously offered thanks for the invitation. I'll wait a few days to collect my thoughts and then share with her.
For balance, let me add some positives. I was told the church raised $200K for the Katrina victims. Very good. Judging from the size of the congregation, and immense size of the building, they could raise significantly more.
Aiiight.. These are the reasons I typically don't attend church(short list):
- Too many churches are grandiose and pretentious
- Most fall short in the area of economic development
- Many are bloodsuckers of the poor
- Typically there aren't many messages that talk about self-mastery
- Too much time is spent postering over who's religion is best
Is prayer the answer to everything? IMHO, methinks not. Self-esteem can be had by knowledge of self, persistence and love by those of like mind and spirit. I'm not at all clear that you can get all of that from reading a Bible or going to a building each Sunday. I dunno, I suppose I'm deaf, dumb and blind (triple darkness). I disagree, my vision is quite clear, 3rd eye is always open. It's just that my belief system is quite different. To each his own.