Thinking Out Loud

May 21, 2010

Church Without Belief

Filed under: cults — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Erin has been blogging at Decompressing Faith since 2005.   This past week she went to a Unitarian Universalist church to hear her brother perform a musical number.

It’s an experience I had myself in my last year of high school, and it also involved a musical performance.   I would echo her observation:

I have never understood why people will go to all the trouble to have church, with all the semblances of a mainline service, but wipe it clean of any core belief system. I don’t mean that as a disparaging remark against UU’s. I understand the sense of community and the value of the power of that community when they come together. I also value and respect the concept of acceptance and non-conformity. I get it all; as much as any outsider can.

My point is this: the service was decidedly like a mainline service. I don’t mean in content, but in presentation. The invocation, the homily, the benediction…they were all there. They have a hymnal, very much like any traditional hymnal. They have responsive reading and a doxology. You get my drift. Yet, it’s all been purged of almost anything that identifies with any particular religion or belief system. And what I wonder is why, if you’re going to do something subversive and liberal, why do it exactly the same as something traditional and conservative? Is it a tribute to what we might have known as children? Is it for comfort? Or is it tradition simply for the sake of tradition?

Why indeed?   Erin goes overboard to say her intention is not to cause offense, she’s just got questions:

Why work so hard to make it seem like “church”, when it’s not “church”?  And why call it “church”, giving it a distinctly traditional tone and flavor, but having it actually be something else entirely, with a vastly different mission, content, and core? …Why wear a label that doesn’t fit, or follow a pattern that doesn’t do us justice?

In the end, she challenges the UU Church to come up with something original.   Not the conclusion I would make.

Are we, as a religious humanity, really that incapable of doing something truly new? Must we always keep one foot anchored in the old thing in some manner, while timidly stretching beyond the borders of it? What are we afraid of out there in the wild blue yonder? Why pretend to be something that is still within the confines of “acceptable”, even as we venture out beyond convention?

Rather, I would conclude that there is something deeper taking place in those services; a longing for something that was, and is, so very much anchored, so absolute, so very secure.   There is some comfort in dogmatism, but if you can’t abide the belief, the heart longs to fill the void by keeping the forms.

But maybe, at that point, like the children on summer break, you’re simply playing church.

Let us pray.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: