THE TOXIC CHURCH (PART 3)

I remember the evening I interviewed Reed. We were in a coffee house in Uptown Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had so much to say in response to my questions. I recall two cups of hot chai tea and cold September rain. A Saturday night screen-door-thunder-clap, perking café clamor, umbrellas fluttering in the entryway, and University har-de-har. It was a sanctuary for a conversation about the Church.

Today’s Prayer to Passage is from the book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown.

I pray, “Gracious God, What do you think of all of this? What are we to know amid the Church interrupted?”

I held the book in my hands and opened it to page 354 to reveal God’s reply:

“‘Hello?’ the altar boy said, arriving with a perturbed look on his face. ‘Forgive me if this seems rude, but you told me you wanted to spread ashes, and yet you seem to be sightseeing.'”
—DAN BROWN

Are we sight seeing? Church shopping? Burden bargaining? Is this a reverent rendezvous? Is it anything short of a deeply spiritual experience — representative of our everlasting home — our perpetual, peaceful resting place? Have we forgotten, whether anchored or departed, the Church is a place to honor death? Will we remember? The Church is a place to acknowledge imperishable life.

REED, 31, MUSICIAN:

“…Also, that church was a half-hour drive away from my home. These days, I am too busy to take on anything else. I’m telling people no because I’ve got too much on my plate. I didn’t even go to the Easter service at my hometown church this year, because my band played the night before. That was the first year I didn’t go to the Easter service. That ends a 30-year streak.

The last time I went to church on my own free will was over a year ago. And I probably went 10 times, if that. I went four or five times straight, because I was so lit up on it. I thought, ‘Finally, a guy who isn’t preaching fire and brimstone, and who has some great perspectives.’

But then I think I missed a week, and it’s a long drive to make. I thought I had some people who wanted to car pool, but that didn’t work out. And then I only went when Sam was singing. She only sings once a month, so I would go about once a month. And then one month she didn’t sing, so I didn’t go. And I faded out. I didn’t attend again.

I don’t know what it is. Ultimately, when you look at it, it’s not important enough for me to get out of bed and make it to an 11 a.m. service. Even if I don’t get home from a performance the night before, I’m up until 3 a.m. I can still get up at 10 o’clock to make the service. I tried attending on Saturday nights. I tried early Sunday mornings, Sunday mornings, and whatever.

So my internal question is, ‘Why isn’t it important?’ Why don’t I place any kind of priority on it? It seems like there has to be a better reason than a half-hour drive, or that I’d have to wake up. But what is it? What makes it less important? What, in me, makes it less important? And I don’t know.

I never went out of need. I wasn’t spiritually suffocating and in need of sustenance. It was never like that. I don’t know why I went to church. It’s hard to know where my upbringing is running the show. It’s difficult for me to see where my heritage runs out and where the adult side of me kicks in. It doesn’t matter, one way or the other. But there has never been a need to fulfill a spiritual hunger.

In Mr. Hirsch’s religion class, I got to question. And to this day, my questions still come down to the crucifixion and the resurrection. But I neglected the hard questions like, ‘How did we get here?’ I can deal with a high level of ambiguity. And I feel fine not knowing, or even caring, how I got here. It’s just onwards and upwards from here, into the future.

What’s the purpose of life? Why are we here? I pretend to not be concerned with these questions. My dad doesn’t know that I don’t go to church. I don’t think he knows the level to which I really struggle with my questions either. I feel that it would break his heart to know that some days I don’t believe in God.

I have no problem saying that’s what I’m dealing with. It’s my Spiritual life, so it’s certainly a part of me. And however it manifests itself in me, whatever my outward expression of it is, we are Spiritual beings, and it is a component of my being. What else is out there? There is a thread that I’m leaving out. It’s personal responsibility.

Should I have personal responsibility to make something important? I can create something as important and it doesn’t just have to sit there and be circumstantially important to me because I get some payoff from it. Anybody who says that they know for sure that there’s a God is lying. Anybody who says they know anything is lying. They’re lying to themselves. They might not know that they’re lying, but nobody really knows.

My dad doesn’t know. He’ll tell you. When you know something, there’s no room for faith. And that’s what a lot of atheists will argue. They’ll corner Christians with semantics. ‘Well, ha! I got you! If you know there is a God, you have no faith.”

Put on the spot, any Christian will say, ‘Well, yeah. That’s not what I meant.’ As far as personal responsibility goes, it’s up to each person to create their own faith. Say ‘OK. That’s it. I’m committed to that. That’s what I have faith in now.’ Plain and simple, it’s not that tough anymore. If that’s the way you want to walk it, have that be your guide.

The way I think of what many people call heaven is that there’s the presence of God, we’ll say, which is a whole other thing, the way I have it thought out. And there’s an absence of God. I don’t research the Bible enough to know how heaven and hell translate in Hebrew, but from conversations I’ve been in, I see it as a presence and an absence. The way I view God these days is that we are created in that image. We are inherently Godlike.

We have certain traits. And the only way that we can actually experience God is to be connected to other people. And so, when we are actually together, that’s the only way we can actually experience God. That means forget, certainly, if not the God from Sunday school, some guy up in the clouds with a shepherd’s staff and a beard. I might go as far to say that there’s no being of God. I think it’s more of a phenomenon.

And having been created in that image, when someone shows up in your life and they are blessing, that’s God showing up. Then you have the opportunity to either accept it or reject it. And that’s the only way that we can experience life is to get out, into the world, because you don’t experience it with a chair, you don’t get connection with a chair.

I’m passage-picking here, but, ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am.’ When you get together, when there’s that human connection, when there’s that human interaction, it is two images of God connecting. We are created in God’s image. And together, we are creating each other. Then there ‘I am.’ I’ve thought about those conclusions for about the past two years or so. I might not find anybody who has thought the same way I have. I don’t know.”

(TO BE CONTINUED…)

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