Choices
Horror Stories Horror stories, everyone has heard them; the scenario changes but the story is the same. Three guys at work laughing and having fun, they mention a co worker who has been acting weird lately and not being himself. “hey what’s up with Ralph anyway, one asks?” “Aw” says another, “he went out and got religion, them Christian weirdoes got hold of him. He goes to church now. He done went and got saved, whatever that means.”  They all grimace at the mention of that word. “What’s he, crazy?” “Yeah, they brainwashed him, they got him believing all kinds of nonsense. He didn’t want to go down to Billy Joe’s bar, he didn’t like that lastest calendar Bob put up, he didn’t even laugh at the boss’s jokes. All he does is walk around with that stupid look on his face humming that weirdo music they play.”  “That’s too bad” laments another, “I liked him too, he was a fun guy. Maybe he’ll snap out of it.”  “Maybe so, I hope so, its scary ain’t it?”  “Sure is, maybe he’ll get that church stuff out of his system.” Poor Ralph, what a horrible fate, doomed to have fun and laugh and play forever. Poor Ralph, doomed to go to church 3 times a week, sing, eat, and enjoy himself for all eternity. Just terrible. I mean, why would anybody in their right mind want to go to church one time a week, let alone three or four? What’s wrong with that boy anyway? I wondered that myself for years. What normal Christian would want to go to church several times a week? Once was enough for anyone. The key word here is ‘normal’, I guess, no Christian is normal. We don’t want to be normal, normal is bad, normal means conforming to the world, normal means doing what everyone else does. Normal is to die. Most of my life I thought going to church once a week was enough, but enough for what? Is going to church necessary to get to heaven?  No, people can get to heaven without ever setting foot in a church. Will church secure our place there? Nope, sadly a lot of people who virtually lived at church will be lost forever. Is it some rule set in concrete?  No, we’re told to remember the Sabbath day, to rest one day, not specifically to go sit in church one day a week. So why would anyone want to go suffer through that for 2 hours? A lot of churches are full of religion. I had religion once, I didn’t like it so I walked away from it. Church, as I knew it consisted of a big smelly building fully of stiff creaky wooden seats they called pews. Pew also describes the atmosphere, which consists of cheap perfume, cheaper aftershave, candle wax, mildew (or is that the smell of the people inhabiting the pews), and mothballs. We sat and endured hours of century old ritual and century old organ music, yes, in some places they still play those things, in some places they think that only organs can be officially played. In churches we sat and tried to act like we were listening to some guy preach in a monotone, no passion, no life, no fire in his voice. We were lulled to a half conscious state half way between sleep and the twilight zone only broken when a scary old guy that had just previously escaped from the local funeral home and stole the suit when he hobbled away, shoving a metal plate at us with money in it. I always found this depressing because churches were supposed to help people and I thought they should pass plates full of money that people could take from if they needed it instead of putting money into it. This plate was passed along from hand to hand, thus waking up everyone else from their delirium. Occasionally one of the guys passing the plate had a strange resemblance to Rod Serling. After everyone regained consciousness and control of limbs, we all dutifully arose like robots and filed out, along the way shaking the hand of the man for putting us to sleep thus sparing us more pain inflicted by those wooden benches, (pew, glad that’s over), heading for the door, and the light streaming through it. I sat in a church most of my life, always willing to help with something but never being asked to or accepted. I continued this way for 45 years or so until God finally got me out of that quagmire (bye Rod) and into an environment closer to what He had in mind. Now I didn’t accept this change willingly or passively, I was after all brainwashed. I mean, everybody knows one doesn’t laugh in church or raise voices above a murmur. Everyone knows that some pruny little old lady with ugly glasses plays hideous tunes on an organ but no one is supposed to really sing. Get real. Everybody knows that organ music has been known to cause hearts to stop, brains to atrophy, babies to scream in terror but people were never actually meant to sing. Everybody knows that churches are supposed to be quieter than a funeral home and half as lively. People don’t scurry around laughing, busy and actually doing things. No, I didn’t accept this change willingly. God finally introduced me to this new idea when the church we were going to, which was by far better than what I had known before but still not what He wanted, split and we ended up going with the offshoot group. I bucked, I balked, I mumbled and grumbled. Then the unthinkable happened, we volunteered for things. What exactly was I thinking anyway? I griped, I whined, I put my wife through hell. In my defense, I can only say that after 45 years I was brainwashed. That’s a lame defense, I know, so I won’t go any further with it. I see things now from a completely different perspective. I discovered that I could now apply something I had read and known all my life, this being, that the church isn’t a building, it’s the people. Yes, we go to church to worship but that to me, is incidental. We go to church, we carry it with us and inside us. Always. Church is for God, it’s for us, it’s for the family that we find there. Not genetic family but rather spiritual family. Church, done properly, doesn’t brainwash us, it heartwashes us. Church, done properly recharges our batteries and washes away the stress that we incur throughout the week. Church is living for each other. Now days, we have church Sunday, Meetings Monday evening to plan the Sunday school program for the kids Bible study Wednesday nights, and usually another event slipped in here and there. Here I am, doing church stuff 3 nights a week and most of Sunday. And it’s Fun. In my opinion, some of the most important attributes a Christian needs is Love, Grace, balance and perspective. What church is depends on one’s perspective, Ralph’s friends couldn’t see it from his perspective. I hope that this article helps to give someone a new perspective to what church should be about.
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