I’m reminiscing about my diverse church-going experiences, hoping to describe a couple of missing faith-life links that are worth pointing out.
To quickly review, I was an active Episcopalian kid followed by a three-decades-without-church blank spot. Since 2001 I’ve attended an independent Christian church as I age toward senior citizenship.
This week I want to discuss the main thing I learned during those middle 30 years: every reason imaginable not to go to church.
Always conservative in my political thinking, I nonetheless lapped up college philosophy at a liberal arts institution, bought into the humanity-glorifying ideas of the Enlightenment’s secular humanism, and somewhere in my 20s believed I’d discovered the ultimate, that’s-all-there-is truth embodied in the non-God, self-directed Objectivism of Ayn Rand.
That world-view fit perfectly with my self-absorbed life as a young sportswriter and subsequent years working in college and professional sports and corporate public relations. It was a good run until it all pretty much ended in my early 40s. The upside of my career coming unglued was that I suddenly had time to be an attentive dad to my two young sons, to coach youth baseball, be a Boy Scout leader and generally just be around. The downside was a financial downfall that eventually cost us our family home and my marriage. Hard times.
Regardless, church, through my early 40s, had nothing for me. I’d endured career and personal upheavals before, had survived cancer in my mid-30s and as a 40th birthday present to myself and family – especially my sons who I wanted to see grow up – I quit smoking. I was resilient, strong and sufficient. I would occasionally pray – the Lord’s Prayer is prominent in the Episcopal liturgy – but didn’t have the foggiest idea who or what was on the other end of the prayer line.
Whatever early church lessons I’d learned had not stuck. I remembered the Episcopal litany, but not the Christian lessons. The beautifully-written Book of Common Prayer was as opaque, obtuse and confusing as the Bible, which, although I owned one, couldn’t find in my own house. I was fine, and Jesus was just too much trouble.
I’d occasionally watch a random Christian preacher on TV, weigh their salvation message against my imagined superior philosophical station, and wonder if I was missing something.
Nah, still too much trouble. Eventually things clicked, and only now do I fully appreciate the irony of having had a career in public relations but completely not getting the idea of “relationship” with the Creator of All Things and Judge of All Men.
Which, come to find out, is the whole ball game.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) finally stopped missing the point, but points to what’s missing. More next week.