Sunday, April 13, 2014

Church or something like it

Palm Sunday. The Sunday where church people across this great land of ours burn their old palms, pick up new ones after the service, their kids play with the palms until strands of them are all over the living room floor. The service in liturgical churches is usually longer than most Sundays, because they read the entire story of THE PASSION out of one of the gospels. Sometimes it's the only time women get to read from the gospels in front of the church the entire year. In entertainment-style churches they likely rehearsed the whole scene and plan on presenting it live, maybe even with a donkey if they really feel adventurous. In fact, if the donkey craps on stage they consider it a bragging point and will talk about it for the next year. And atheists? They are just now rolling out of bed, grabbing a cup of joe and trying to decide if they want to mow their lawn for the first time this season.

Palm Sunday. The Sunday in which you know that there is only one more week in the Lenten season. Moms everywhere probably have some chocolate hidden in the cupboard for the time when she is freed from her Lenten vows and can consume her sweets with passion. No pun intended. Dad has been cranky for lo these 40 days of Lent, and now sees people as giant walking cigarettes. He almost smoked his son's shoes last night. Junior and Juniorette just want Friday night pizza nights to continue. Officially. Unofficially they have been consuming meat-laden slices from Mr. Sally's Pizzaria the whole time.

Palm Sunday. The Sunday in which every year I celebrate by posting a picture of my palm on social media. Hee hee hee.

Church. Something that at one time in my life consumed my attention and desires. I started this blog back in 2005 because a friend of mine wanted to know what I got out of all the diverse types of churches I've been to, and the resulting essays became too long for standard emails. I've seen them all. Greek Orthodox. The traditional Latin Mass. Non-denominational. Baptist. Really, really Baptist. As well as the Catholic Mass I grew up with.

I was 15 years old when I was born again, when I renewed my baptismal promises, when I was saved, when I went through a conversion experience. I don't care what terminology you use, I just know that at that time it meant something to me. It changed my life. I threw myself into Bible reading, church attendance, and surrounding myself with all of the trappings. Christian music. Christian books. Never had Christian toilet paper but I can guarantee you that somewhere, someone has made it.

But it's 32 years later. And 32 years later, at the age of 47, I can't say that I really give a shit.

This morning, Palm Sunday, I woke up at 2:30AM to discover that my son had opened all the cupboards and raided the refrigerator. We were up until 4:15AM. At 7:30AM I got up again to get my wife up so her and my daughter could get ready for church. At 8:00AM the storm began and I had to once again clean my son's head of blood and pieces of wall. At 8:15AM I was scrubbing my son's bedroom floor of poop. At 8:40AM things had finally calmed enough that I could finally give my son his medicine, medications that are becoming less effective by the day. But I still give them.

Now tell me. How am I supposed to take seriously an argument about the proper type of communion bread? Should I care whether baptism is carried out by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion? Should I believe that God is checking my attire as I walk in the door to make sure I am wearing a tie? (And I'm sorry, but ties are the devil's noose and I hate wearing them.) Is listening to a song by The Who wrong? And is listening to a cover version of a song by The Who performed by a Christian band any different than enjoying the original? How am I supposed to take seriously a sermon about the sanctity of marriage when the same pastor is having wild, sloppy, sweaty animal sex with the secretary who is not his wife?

I don't.

Hey, I read the Bible. And I take seriously the teachings of Jesus the Christ. But the organized version of it can burn to the ground for all I care.

Of course, there's a problem with that approach. Suppose I eschew church attendance for a coffee clatch at the local Starbucks. Every Sunday I choke down a latte and muse upon the issues of the day (which for me are autism, autism, and, well, autism). Soon I meet another parent who gets it, and we have coffee together. After awhile another joins us. We've developed a community at this point, something that church is supposed to be but often is not.

Our community becomes too large for the Starbucks, so we move it to the food court at the mall. Soon we decide that we want to get some input from doctors and others who can give us something we can use with our kids in our daily life, so we rent an empty school on a weekly basis where we can have childcare and invite even more parents. Life is good, the speakers are edifying and people are happy.

Inevitably discussions arise about the nature of our little coffee clatch. The original Starbucks group want to go back to the simplicity of having coffee, and don't care for the organized approach. The next generation want to get some name speakers and not just local doctors. A small group of parents start reading Jenny McCarthy's new book and eventually start a Tuesday meeting for Jenny fans. Another group suggests that we are going about this all wrong, that instead of considering autism as a burden and something to fight against, we should celebrate the diversity of all things autism. They start their own Sunday meeting for parents of that stripe.

And BOOM. You have now done exactly what you fought against when you stopped attending church. Only difference is the absence of a deity. Except for the people who worship J Mc instead of JC.

I can't take these kinds of divisions and petty bickering seriously, whether from church or other factions, because I have real things I have to take seriously. I take my son and daughter and their care seriously. This is my full-time job; hell, this is my full-time life. This morning I scrubbed real crap off the floor. I can't take time to deal with metaphorical crap. You want to convince me that the Pope is the antichrist? Keep on walking, and don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. Communion wafers vs bread, wine vs grape juice, pews vs chairs, organ vs guitar? Repeat after me. "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!"


"Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Men, women, boys and girls, The Lord has told you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you ? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
---Micah 6:7-8

"Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends."
---John 15:13


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