Saturday nights mean that I have to go through another series of mental gymnastics: Should I go to church? Do I want to go to church? Can I justify not going to church?
My answer to these question changes by the hour. If I’m lucky I’ll wake up on Sunday, look at the clock, and realize that I overslept. It was too late to make any service. My body made my decision for me. But most Sundays I wake up with plenty of time to choose (or not choose) which service to attend.
I love the concept of church, but it’s getting harder and harder to say that I love The Church. When I think about attending a worship service, my mind runs through a gamut of arguments: can I enjoy the service and slip out before anyone recognizes me? Can I try a liberal church without getting harassed by acquaintances at my previous church?
Six years a woman who was a rock of support in my old evangelical church came out of the closet and left her husband for her lover. She switched from my church to a liberal church, and got harassed with warnings of hellfire and damnation from her former friends.
I left that evangelical church two years ago. Unlike her, I didn’t announce my decision, so I never got any hellfire speeches. There was no point making a case for change or announcing my departure in some dramatic fashion. She made a big speech about how far off the tracks the church had gone, but no one listened to her. I still care a lot about the people there. Over time I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that my quiet departure was so successful that most people thought I had moved away.
A few weeks ago I wound up attending a Baptist Church out of respect to a friend of mine visiting from Maryland. I didn’t want to go. As I at there in my metal chair, part of me hoped that being away from contemporary worship would rejuvenate me, and I’d realize how wrong I was to leave. But I felt just as numb as the day I left my evangelical church. It was this empty feeling of knowing that, while I believed every tacky verse in the awful songs we mumbled through, in so many ways the Church had become a force of darkness in this world. Many people give up on God when they realize that, and it’s easy to understand why. But I still believe in God, Jesus, and the whole concept of sin and a fallen world.
Last year I tried going to an Episcopal church, but they were even more explicitly political than the conservative church I had left. Part of me loved the companionship of other liberals, but my big beef with the Church is that it had become too political. For consistency’s sake I could not justify the Episcopal agenda just because I agreed with it. It was still pushing the Sacred out to make room for the secular. Plus the longer i stayed, the more I had to deal with my disagreements with liberal theology. When the Rector stopped acknowledging me when I shook his hand at the end of the service, I decided to leave quietly again.
I’ve thought about opting for trying a mainline church, but in my town that’s like marrying Mitt Romney to get away from Michelle Bachmann. You still get the right wing politics, it’s just much more polite and less tea partyish.
So should I go to church? The theological answer is yes, I should. Do I want to go to church? If I could reclaim the joy I used to feel on Sunday mornings, then yes, I do. But I’m not an idealist. I know what’s waiting for me, and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. Can I justify not going to church? No, I can’t. But I’m not going to church.
Hopefully I’ll oversleep again.