who knows me probably knows that I'm not really a 'churchy' person.
That's not to say I don't believe in God you understand, just that
I'm a person who doesn't feel entirely comfortable or engaged by
the traditions and culture that surround church life.
No one could say I haven't tried church life. When I was a kid
my parents sent me and my siblings off to a Sunday morning Christian
youth group called 'Crusaders.' Now when I look back on
their motives I don't think I want to join the dots. Neither of
them profess to having a faith in any God, so I can only assume
that the well-being of our eternal souls wasn't the only reason
we were shunted out of the house until lunchtimes on Sunday.
Since those early days I've attended many a church service. Thus
far, I've been unceremoniously expelled from two Pentecostal
churches and a dodgy church in London that turned out to be a cult.
It's been a rocky road where church and I are involved, leading
me to conclude that on this spiritual journey I might need something
akin to a dirt bike. I'm willing to concede that I may have
just been unlucky in my quest to find something sacred within the
confines of 'God's house'. But then as the saying goes, a house
doesn't make a home.
The truth is that I've never found or felt God in church. I've
been offered all kinds of reasons as to why this is: I'm not listening
correctly, I'm not ready, I'm not open, I'm "not on God's
road." The list of possible faults that might prevent me from
finding God in his own house is, it would seem, almost endless.
If it weren't for the fact that God is surely omnipresent, I might
cynically suggest that the reason I'm unable to find him there
is because he didn't much care for the crowd and instead snuck
out for a while.
I picture God returning to his house later after the masses have
gone home, only to find a huge mess similar to that of any house
party. "Those damn Christians!" he might mutter under
his breath as he wanders in and out of the rooms collecting smeary
wine glasses with finger smudges and traces of lipstick on the
rims. Although it's almost certain that this party wouldn't have
been a crazy night of behavior that would lead to regret in the
morning, Christians aren't strangers to their own special
kind of crazy behavior.
Take for example a Christian event I attended in my early twenties.
The crowd had been singing songs for some time already, many with
hands aloft and eyes closed. The proceedings had become musically
transfixed on the verse of one particular song with everyone singing
it over and over and over again. It was while this was happening
that the charismatic American speaker stood up and spoke into his
microphone in a style not unbecoming of a TV game show host with
a glittery jacket. "You want some Holy Spirit?" he asked
as if he could dish it out out like soda-pop at a children's party.
The frenzied crowd of happy clappers responded enthusiastically "Yeah!"
Presumably the first answer wasn't quite enthusiastic enough,
so he asked again. "You want some Holy Spirit?" he shouted,
this time getting a much louder response,"Yeah!" But
again he asked, now so loud I though he might explode at any moment
in a pyrotechnic puff of circus smoke.
"YOU WANT SOME HOLY SPIRIT!?" Everyone roared and cheered
in response with hands to heaven, "YEAH!!" And with
his outstretched arm sweeping across the congregation he shouted, "YA
GOT SOME!!!" Right then every last person in the audience,
including the ushers and the sound guy, simply collapsed
in a heap on the floor.
I have to admit I felt rather odd at that moment, like someone
who dutifully arrives at their office only to look out
over the deserted desks and realise that it's the weekend. God,
it would seem, had just knocked everyone off their feet... except
Looking back I laugh at the humor of the story. I imagine what
it must have looked like from various different angles. I picture
the expression on my face as I glanced around the room of motionless
bodies in a scene that looked like something from the Jonestown
massacre. In the end it gave me nothing but a funny story that
I've amused people with over the years.
Despite various efforts I just can't get comfortable
in the pew of a church.
have no doubt that I could fake it if I wanted to. I can get by
when the faithful speak in Christianese (church language) using
words like "rebuke," "slain," "anointed," and "fornication." In
essence though, I stand and sit (and stand and sit and stand
and sit) there feeling like a Muslim in Mississippi, or a Red Sox
fan in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. I'm simply not comfortable
in church. Yet I'm undeterred, feeling instead that
such discomfort may yet be part of a plan rather than part of a