Madeline L'Engle: If we feel that we already know something in its totality, then we fail to keep our ears and eyes open to that which may expand or even change that which we so zealously think we know.
Bertrand Russel: People are zealous for a cause when they are not quite positive that it is true.
So, guess what I'm doing tomorrow? I'm a-goin' to church!
This is something I do occasionally. I used to do it a lot more when I went through a rather fundamentalist phase, but the last couple years have been pretty church-free, due to the extreme dislike I developed for (O King of stereotypes) "churchgoing folk".
"Jesus save me from your followers" and so on.
See, the church I went to, the one where I figured God was alright after all, was really, really cool. Pastors under thirty, with tattoos and such; a funky downtown building; tons of punk rock Christian kids (I was one of them, I admit)--the place was my third home, and I played bass in the band, and we played such cool music...
But there was a falling-out or two among church members and pastors and we were included in all this mess, and these falling-outs resulted in Mitch and I (and several other people) leaving the church.
I was a sad little Christian. I'd lost my home.
I started clinging fiercely to certain beliefs--dying my hair back to brown, taking out my piercings, and so on, in an effort to seek out "who God wants me to be." I cleared out anything "unChristian" (oh, what a sad-sounding, hollow word) from my closet, my bookshelf, my CD wallet, and started memorizing Scripture to keep me afloat in these difficult, church-less times.
Adrift in a sea of strange churches, we tried a few, but quickly tired of the "we've never seen you here before; you must not be a real Christian" attitude, and so we decided that we much preferred coffee and eggs and toast on Sundays to offbeat clapping and small talk.
We stopped looking for God among the stained glass and dusty pews. We'd given up on finding him among the theater seats and strip lighting a long time ago, and figured that PowerPoint presentations were a sure sign of trouble.
Without the bubble that common belief provides, I began to let go of some of the rather alarming prejudices I'd accumulated ("unChristian." Pah). I developed an appreciation for Linkin Park, body piercing, red lipstick and fiction (God, what did I do without that?)--all things I'd loved dearly prior to my own private Middle Ages, but that I'd shunned on my well-marked road to holiness.
Not to God, necessarily. But to holiness.
And, oh, now I love such sinful things--margueritas and red wine, Harry Potter, tattoos and the word "fuck" (which I am still too timid to say out loud without checking for signs of imminent smoting). I just don't have time to go around feeling guilty for everything. It's exhausting.
This does not make me better than anybody, I know--that is perhaps the greatest lesson I've learned over the last few years. My road is not everybody's road--far from it. But I like it here, it's nice, and the scenery's constantly changing.
I am a happy Christian, if imperfect and always asking pesky questions.
As for what prompted this entry, I ran into one of my favorite people from my old favorite church today--and there has been a big overhaul. The church, which had moved from its funky downtown building to a strip mall in the gross suburbs and thus lost a lot of its congregation (Mitch and me included), has now moved into a funky old church in a funky old neighborhood close to downtown. The staff has changed significantly, and one of my other favorite people is now head pastor. The church is very small again. It is starting, essentially, from scratch.
Funny how things come around like that. I am thrilled by the possibility of going back, though I harbor no illusions that everything will be just like it was, oh no--I am very different, I am older, Mitch is too, and so is everyone else. To go to church, expecting nothing but to hang out with God for a bit, sounds fantastic.
...continued in Part II.