Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Church Even I Might Attend

My previous blog post had a comment from a 'Bishop Winslow' who attempted to defend the idea of organized prayer with actual Biblical references (that didn't really make his point), implied references from the Old Testament (no chapter or verse) and an assertion that Great Revivals were preceded by "corporate and organized prayer." I didn't think he made a good case but I did get an understanding of what open prayers mean to fundamentalist Christians - they really believe they are legitimate ways of bringing people to Christ. Prayers are an advertising message that works! (or so they think)

If religions are good at something, it's getting things wrong.

Everybody dislikes advertising messages being imposed upon them, even if they are true. I'm sure even the most ardent fundamentalist would get weary of constant prayers being played from loudspeakers 24/7 over the city. This is what Orwell was trying to remind us of in 1984 (I was privileged to read that book in 1984).

While Bishop Winslow may lament the loss of god in America he's not even aware of what the real problem is. Although some people are losing gods most people are not. If anything, people are losing religion - specific interpretations of god. What people want today is the freedom to understand god their way, not the way of a religion. God-worshipers want to be free from religion to speak to gods in their own manner. Of course, this won't keep the utilities and mortgage paid at the local church. What are churches to do?

Maybe churches need to stop the one-way flow of god-worship. Instead of the leader speaking to the followers why not take a lesson from the American Constitution? Create a church of 'We The People'. Put the members in charge. Let the members speak about what god means to them instead of letting the minister monopolize the interpretation. Make all prayer time silent. No one leads the congregation in prayer. Everyone takes that one or two minutes to pray and say whatever they want to whatever god they choose. A church is no longer an institution to dictate but a place of worship where anyone, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists can gather to hear inspiring messages (members can take turns talking about things that interest them in science, philosophy, comedy or religion). Every gathering is a meeting not of people who are like-minded in religion but are interested in current events, new ideas and want a communal place to converse with god (or not!).

That's a church that maybe, just maybe, I'd go to.


Stepan said...

People like to have something in common when they get together, whether it be a common religion, cultural background or a favorite sports team. It's what makes you feel part of a community and, IMO, a very important reason why many people attend (or keep going to) church in the first place.

There are humanist societies that would probably fit your description. There are also some religions that are explicitly inclusive and democratic.

For example, Universal Unitarianisms is a creed-less religion that "advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth". UU has Judeo-Christian roots, but it has, er, evolved so much that some (including Boy Scouts of America) don't consider it a "real" religion.

The Baha'i is another example of a democratic and inclusive faith. Albeit one that's more "religious" than UU.

Arduinnae said...

There are churches like this. In fact, I attended one for 4 years until I moved away. They were Quakers. The "service" was two hours of sitting in the pews in silence, meditating on whatever meant something to you. If there was something you wanted to share with the rest of the congregation, you stood up and you said it. As a younger child, I spent the first hour and a half in Sunday school (which was completely God-free, incidently. I mostly remember tracing and colour leaves and doing other crafts), and only joined the congregation for the last half hour.

After that, it was tea and biscuits and socializing.

I'm always a little confused when religious people tell me that I must be an Atheist because of some sort of traumatic experience involving church; but for me, that wasn't the case at all. In fact, my childhood memories of church (or "meeting" - although I did go to a proper Calvinist church prior to that) were all positive. I would have no qualms whatsoever about returning to that Meeting if I ever move back to that part of the globe.