I’m starting a new religion.
I recently stopped attending the church I’d been going to for about five years… the church my parents and grandparents took me to, occasionally, when I was I child, and which my wife and I, much later in life, made a conscious choice to reconnect and get involved with. We were in the choir, Suzy was director of children ministries for awhile, I played guitar for our early summer services, I was president of the church’s mens group for awhile, we’ve both been on church council, I was a Lay Speaker and preached twice. As with anything in life, it wasn’t perfect… our kids made up between one-half and one-third of the entire under-eighteen congregation and they preferred the Bible school at a different church where their friends went, and we’ve moved about a half hour away (that seems petty, but with our involvement, there were periods of time when one or more of us had to be at the church on six different days of the week). Beyond that, I have some issues with the historicity and evolution of certain doctrine. But the last straw was a change in pastor that brought sermons that quite simply did not preach the scripture; did not teach the lessons of Christ.
We could solve the practical problems pretty easily: we literally had to drive past three much larger churches of the same denomination to get to our church. The pastor problem could just be waited out… tradition suggests he’ll be gone in a year or two, at this point. But I keep coming back to those underlying problems with doctrine.
I met some of the very best people I’ve ever been associated with at that church, people who walked Christ’s walk while talking Christ’s talk, people who exemplified God’s Love. Surely, there is something in this doctrine that is working if it produces such people.
I also met some of the very worst people I’ve ever been associated with at that church, people who used scripture as a blunt weapon to exert their will upon others, people who judged and condemned anyone who was different than they demanded they be. Surely, there is something in this doctrine that is failing if it produces such people.
As I thought about this dichotomy, I thought about several of the sermons that served to drive me from the church, and realized there was a pattern. It would certainly start from scripture, and I would often find myself agreeing “yes, this is Good and Right, these are the ideas that God wanted us to hear,” with the “first cut” of listening to the scripture and making the language and content more accessible. But at some point, the sermons always turned to taking action… specifics of how to take the scriptural lessons and apply them to our lives outside the church. And the things I heard terrified me. Did they not understand the words they just read? Were they so blind they couldn’t see that the actions they were suggesting demonstrated the exact opposite of what those words advocated?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, and at some point I realized that I couldn’t know and that it just didn’t matter anyway. The important thing was, I reaffirmed my faith that there were answers in the scripture for each of us, and that the problems started when people decided it was up to them to start enforcing those answers on others.
So that’s where I’m going to start my religion: Christian scripture. I do hope to expand my knowledge of other scriptures and integrate them in the same way, but I’m starting with what I know.
Oh, and because I believe that the point of religion is as a guidebook to how to live our lives, and because there all a whole bunch of us here that have to live together, I’m also starting a political party whose platform will be the societal implementation of the precepts of the religion.
Yeah, I know… but just wait.