Friday, August 01, 2008

Religion? Church? Christian?

I've spent the better part of the last 48+ years believing that to be a good Christian, you have to attend church. Not just fellowship, but church. Dad was a huge proponent of people belonging to church. So, I did. And I bought into the whole 'church is the largest part of your faith-filled life' attitude.

I don't want anyone to think that this is another rant against the institutional church, though it may end up there. What I'm doing right now is processing information. That's actually why I haven't written much lately. I can't bring myself to tell you all that I'm processing on until I get to a point that it makes sense to me. The last thing I want to do is to encourage people to walk the path of confusion that I'm taking.

I begin to wonder if we have become so acculturated to attending church that we can't really think about what it looks like if we didn't actually go to a building on a Sunday morning and sit through a sermon and some songs. Before you freak out, I am not talking about removing a form of regular Christian fellowship from my life, but I am questioning what format it should take in my life.

James says (James 1:26-27) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

That's interesting to me - and quite challenging. James isn't talking about faith, he is actually talking about religion! Dictionary.com has quite a few definitions of religion, but the one that applies the best is:
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sect.

Wikipedia says "The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction."

Personal practices and group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.

It occurs to me that religion is developed by humanity. We band together to create a set of beliefs and practices, our shared conviction brings about communal faith rituals and communication. James tells us, though, that God actually has a prescription for religion. I don't know that I've ever seen this verse before - ok, maybe I just haven't paid attention.

But, I don't find myself actively doing any of those things: keeping a tight rein on my tongue, looking after widows and orphans or keeping myself from being polluted by the world. I suspect that attending church on a Sunday morning is much simpler than actually adjusting my behavior to match that which God is asking of me.

I don't know that I can accept that in myself or in people that I encounter on a Sunday morning any longer. I want so much more.

Oh please don't think I'm passing judgment on anyone. I'm certainly not. There are plenty of people who attend worship regularly on Sundays and are working like crazy to follow God's precepts. This is all about me. This is all about me not wanting to accept the easy religion. This is all about me trying to find out what God is asking of me personally.

Changes in my life lately? Wow. I feel like I've been splattered everywhere and I see all of the pieces laying on the ground. I'm putting the puzzle back together, piece by piece and I don't think it's going to look the same as it did before I started. That's kind of exciting!

1 comment:

kinnick72 said...

Hi Diane... I pop in on your blog from time to time. Hope you don't mind. I struggle a lot with the whole church issue too. I have so many responsibilities in my church that most of the time, Sundays at church feel more like work than worship. I have a prayer group that meets once a week, and it allows me to really focus on God and worship, but I think it's kind of sad that church doesn't do that for me. Anyway, thanks for writing, and good luck on your journey!

-Tena