And he spake unto them in parables saying, "Verily, a fag, a broad, and an infidel goeth up to the House of the Lord..."

I attended church for the last two Sundays after an absence of several months. Most churches don’t have much in the way of Sunday school during the summer, and since Sunday school is the only reason I go, I hung out with Buddhists instead. All they did was to sit silently, a practice that appeals to me more in theory than in practice. I didn’t go for the meditation though so much as for the people, particularly a man with whom I hoped to be friends. It doesn’t look promising. He suggested that we go for a beer; I proposed a date; the date didn’t work for him; and he never proposed another.

I think he has some mental health issues that are holding him back, but they were what caught my interest. I haven’t had a “normal” friend since childhood. I’m not even sure such people exist…well, I guess they have to because otherwise normal wouldn’t exist, and what kind of sense would that make?

Anyway, church. I went to First Methodist. I hadn’t been there in two years (I’ve been going to First Christian and First Congregationalist—no second rate churches for me), so it surprised hell out of me when one of the ministers said, “Hi, Snow,” before I even put my nametag on.

Nametag?

Yeah, I get one for every church I go to as quickly as possible. Otherwise, a dozen people a Sunday ask such predictably boring questions as, “What brings you here today?” “Have you lived in Eugene long?” “Do I detect the hint of an accent?” If I have a nametag, they still don’t know who I am, but they think they should, so they pretend they do. The preacher today was friendly but didn’t try to engage, and I appreciated that. I’m not going to contribute (much) to his salary; I’m not going to "find" Jesus; and I’m not going to join his church. I’m just there because I enjoy studying the Bible, and will jump ship in a heartbeat if another church offers a more interesting class.

First Methodist recently combined its traditional service with its contemporary service (due to falling membership, I suppose), and Sunday school starts right after it ends. I like to sleep in, so this will work well for me. I will get there early enough to pour myself a cup of coffee and select a good seat in the classroom. Then I will read. About the time I get comfortable, the doors to the sanctuary will open, and the people will file out to the strains of some New Agey hymn or another. Since they are all the same sugary pap, it hardly matters which one.

The only good thing about them is that they inspire pretty women in charismatic churches to sway back and forth while holding their hands above their heads. This elevates their breasts most appealingly, and when you add to that the fact that they’re in their best clothes, moving their lips ecstatically, and wearing expressions of orgasmic bliss…well, I find it inspiring to be sure. If I were a minister in such a church, I would sooner or later conclude my sermon with, “Let us lift our breasts to the Lord in prayer,” and my career would be over. I don’t know whether Methodist women lift their breasts in prayer, but I seriously doubt it.

First Methodist welcomes gay people, and I quickly spotted two gay couples, both of which were somewhat past middle age. One of the gay men asked insightful questions about the Bible, and I was touched by this, although it struck me as ironic since the Bible offers him nothing but stoning and hellfire. But then the preacher who led the class was a woman, and the Bible doesn’t have much good to say about them either. Finally, there was me (or is it I?), a nonbeliever who enjoys the Bible. What a group. But at least the church welcomes women and homosexuals just the way they are, whereas it views people like myself as needing a little work. Okay, a lot of work. But, you know, the Methodists of a hundred years ago would look at the Methodists of today and think they are all hellbound, so change is a’coming. Someday, the church might even live up to its motto:

“Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”

26 comments:

nollyposh said...

Snow, you crack me up!

CreekHiker said...

"I haven’t had a “normal” friend since childhood."

My childhood best friend gave me a lovely little book - the kind you find in overpriced greeting card stores - on friendship. Every once in a while I find it while cleaning and think of tossing it save for one passage. It goes like this:

"I often feel like an alien from another planet. And then I think of you and know - that spaceship stopped twice."

Off to the side of that page my friend scribbled..."this is so US!" And she's so right!

Itch2stitch.com said...

Hello! I went to a buddhist retreat a few years back, and I really enjoyed it. I love the philosophy. I used to go to church, I was brought up with sunday school, etc. I even used to be a Sunday school teacher when I was about 18! I don't go anymore, I am afrid I can't bare the two facededness of some church goers. They bitch about each other and don't seem to remember why they are there. I found that there wasn't as much humanity there as I thought there should be, without going into personal details. I couldn't stomach going anymore. I am a spiritual person, but I prefer to keep my spirituality in my head! I wish it was Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are like that in the church, I just can't help being wound up by the ones who are not! Sorry for waffling on! Suzie. xx

Ananji said...

ha! Feeling a little sardonic, Snow? My, my... talk about brutally honest.

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a little offended by the "Let us lift our breasts to the Lord in prayer" bit. It's your blog and you can say whatever you want. I thought I was creeped out by the charismatic because I'm shy and subdued, but now I'll never be able to look at a woman in rapt exaltation without thinking of this post.

It's funny what brings people to church and what makes them stay home. I'm Catholic, but have a rather contentious relationship with the Christian concept... nonetheless, I go for the comforting ritual and the hope that some spot of wisdom in the readings and sermon will bolster my precarious faith.

My "faith" consists of so much more than the afterlife (hence my conflict with Christianity). I want to believe in practical things. I want to believe that my brother knew peace in the moments before he died; that before my own death, I'll have contributed something meaningful; that my sons will have strong emotional foundations to keep them afloat, etc.

I've not really found that I can get a whole lot of that through Christian practice and study. So I look to other philosophies. I wonder if you do, as well, Snow. You mentioned hanging out with the Buddhists. But do you also study other spiritualisms? I love the Taoist philosophies for their simplicity and focus on the natural.

Plus, there's none of that breast raising and other goofy shit.

All the above spoken with affection, Snow. You know that.

ananji

Gaston Studio said...

I just love the way you seek out and find Sunday School classes that you want to be part of so that you can study the Bible with others. You're a Great Seeker Snow, I don't know if it's of truth, enlightenment, or confirmation, but you don't hesitate to SEEK!

Hope the shoulder's holding up.

Teresa said...

Hey Snow, I had a good chuckle at your blog today. Everyone of us needs work, and I think your interest in the Bible is probably inspired by the Lord. He has a way if getting to the heart of things despite everyone and everything around us. God Bless ((((HUGS))))) T

All Consuming said...

"I haven’t had a “normal” friend since childhood." - I didn't even have them then! I find 'abnormal' people more interesting as I am that myself methinks. In fact I'm like a magnet for odd sorts, not that I'm specifically looking at you of course hahaha.

"The only good thing about them is that they inspire pretty women in charismatic churches to sway back and forth while holding their hands above their heads. This elevates their breasts most appealingly, and when you add to that the fact that they’re in their best clothes, moving their lips ecstatically, and wearing expressions of orgasmic bliss…well, I find it inspiring to be sure. If I were a minister in such a church, I would sooner or later conclude my sermon with, “Let us lift our breasts to the Lord in prayer,” and my career would be over. I don’t know whether Methodist women lift their breasts in prayer, but I seriously doubt it." - HAHAHAHAHA, this is fabulously written and cheered me up no end I can tell you.

I can understand why you like to go to the churches, not just for the above mind you, but generally. Though I'd be more likely to take Illusions with me or a good Douglas Adams book methinks.

ellen abbott said...

I used to go to torah Study while waiting for my kids to get out of religious school. I'm irreligious myself but I found the class interesting. I used to piss off one religious guy all the time, especially once when I called the 'wisdom' of some old revered rabbis as 'just their opinion'. I thought he was going to have apoplexy on the spot.

Matawheeze said...

I KNEW there had to be a reason for all the lifted arms in charismatic churches. Leave it to you to focus on it. Now where is the church for ladies who watch crotches and buns on men?

Diana said...

Oh Snow you are just too much! Have you tried church hopping yet? You know as opposed to bar hopping!

And don't you know that you are your own best friend? Another human friend is nice but nobody loves you like you do!

I am going to get the synvisc in three weeks, didn't you say you had that or was it someone else?

Love Di

Marion said...

You are sooooooo a dirty old man, Snow...but an honest one. :-)

Glad you had an enjoyable visit with the Methodists. They're good people in my experience. Sounds like even Jesus might fit in at that church. Ha! No small thing in some of the so-called 'churches' I've been in. Thanks for another great post. Blessings, Snow-Man!!

Strayer said...

You're just so damn irreverent, Snow. I bet the swaying and lifting of breasts has begat the downfall of many a minister and church goer over time. I used to go to the church with the best potluck afterwards. The Lutherans won out there. I loved the Lutheran potlucks so much they hired me, very cheap labor, to wash dishes afterwards. But sadly, they asked me once to clean the ovens one night and I did, but get sick from the over oven cleaner smell and did get very ill, had to leave. I did leave a note and a message with one of the church people, but apparently not the right one. When they tried to cook for the potluck, oven cleaner fumes filled the entire chamber and I was fired as dishwasher.

Rikkij said...

Snow-WTF? motto?? I've never heard of that church motto! I think I saw it once scrawled in a mensroom stall at a gay bar. Open everything! I've read that bible through and through many many times and I gotta agree, it don't say much good for our gay friends and women preachers. I'm more an ass man. When they're swaying, I like to watch their hips in those tight skirts and wonder what undies....sorry. lost my train of thought. nice post~rick

Lille Diane said...

Hello Snow... I see you're getting everyone all riled up again. I've missed you. I'm getting settled after my move, and will have more time to come join the fun here at your place. I am not one for attending church. I can read the bible at my own home if I choose to. I can also sway to my own tunes, uplifting whatever pleases me... You are a rascal. I must say I prefer a rascal over a preacher any day~

kylie said...

so, i usually hold one arm up to sing but i guess that would make me look lopsided?

if only i had known how sexy it all is i would have been doing the charismatic thing years ago ;)

Snowbrush said...

P.S. I've written too much for Blogspot to accept it all at once, so I'll post half and then the other half.


I've made a mostly diligent effort to respond to every response to every post, but I've been down with a cold and so I'm not likely to catch up this time. I wonder how many people even read my responses anyway.

Itch to Stitch: " I couldn't stomach going anymore.

Read "Losing My Religion" by William Lordell (http://www.amazon.com/Losing-Religion-Reporting-America-Unexpected/dp/0061626813). Unlike most writers on the theme, he became a Christian as an adult and later lost his faith because of the failures of other Christians. If nothing else, you will learn a great deal about the recent scandals in the Catholic Church among others.

Ananji: "I look to other philosophies. I wonder if you do, as well, Snow."

Yes, but not in great depth. I tend to read until I've piled up a few things I disagree with and then I stop. I'm simply not a believer in a benevolent deity (or in any transcendent deity), and I can't imagine ever being faithful to any religion in the organizational sense. You probably know this quote from Thomas Paine, the man who Teddy Roosevelt called, "That dirty little atheist."

"The World is my country, all man and women are my brothers and sisters, and to do good is my religion."

I like this. I like it a lot because it takes away the element of self-interest. I see people praying for trivia while billions suffer, yet that's the highest use they can find for their religion. As Thoreau put it (and I paraphrase): Christianity is seen merely as a superior form of capitalism. I think he meant to refer to the complete self-interest and self-absorption that most people bring to it. Paine brought so much more, yet the good Christians of his day hated him so much for his "unbelief" that they dug him up and abused his corpse.

Rikkij: "I've never heard of that church motto!"

Oh ye of little faith. Go to: www.umc.org

Diana: "Have you tried church hopping yet?"

I've been to approximately 60 Christian denominations plus numerous services held by other religious groups.

(I had something like Synvisc. It didn't work for me, but I mentioned it for whatever benefit it might bring to you. I hope with all my heart that you will find relief.)

Diana: "And don't you know that you are your own best friend?"

Yes, but I don't know what it was in this post that inspired your comment.

Snowbrush said...

Ellen: "I used to go to torah Study while waiting for my kids to get out of religious school."

Have you seen "The Believer"? I've watched it two and one half times in three days and cried each time. You reminded me of it because you are, I suppose, Jewish. I'm not, but I've come to think of Judaism as having more depth than Christianity. The latter skims over the hard questions like a rock skimming across a pond; the former never gives God a break--if Isaac Singer's writings can be believed. They hold God's feet to the fire while demanding answers, and I love that about them.

Matawheeze: "Now where is the church for ladies who watch crotches and buns on men?"

Alas, the poor things are left with nothing but rock concerts and football games, there being no obvious ways to display buns and crotches in a church setting. Maybe you can think of some???

Teresa: "I think your interest in the Bible is probably inspired by the Lord."

I would guess that, if I had grown up Hindu, then my interest would be in those Scriptures. The Bible is not just a book that claims to speak for God, but a book that I grew up with and that had great influence on my culture and its history over the centuries, both for good and for evil. Please see the movie that I recommended to Ellen. It speaks to these things in my life, by which I mean the idea that a person can see the flaws in his religion yet still not free himself of it.

Lille Diane: "I see you're getting everyone all riled up again."

I suppose that some might read my blog and go away thinking that I'm a jackass who will say any stupid and cruel thing that pops into my head without concern for anyone's feelings but my own. Nothing could be further from the truth of what I see within myself. Even this post contains longing, if not reverence. We want to find consistency in one another, and I don't have it to offer. I never want to offend anyone. I am too honored when people care enough about what I write to actually read it.

All Consuming: " I'd be more likely to take Illusions with me or a good Douglas Adams book methinks."

I would like for you too to see "The Believer." It puts so much in context. I haven't read Bach in years, and I don't know who Adams is, but the Bible is tied to various times and cultures, and then there are all the events that it has inspired in still other times and cultures. There is great inconsistency in the Bible. In places, it is nothing more than a tool used by the powerful to consolidate their power, but in other places it is the voice of dissent and outrage against those who are in power. In still other places it contains incredibly touching sensitivity and longing. Then there is the arrogance, the cruelty, the contradictions, and the downright stupidity; all these things supposedly coming from the mouth of God. It is not just one book with one view, but many books that were written over a period of 1,500 years. However good Bach and Adams are, they could never, for me, take the place of all that the Bible has to give.

Riddij: "I'm more an ass man."

My tastelessness has no doubt caused you to forget that this is a tasty blog.

Kylie: "i usually hold one arm up to sing but i guess that would make me look lopsided?"

If this were not a tasty blog, I would make a potentially offensive comment about this making it look like you had had a total mastectomy on the opposite side and therefore had nothing to raise up on that side.

Okay, guys, I feel like crud, so I'm going to have a snack and lie down. I hope I've made sense, and I hope no one feels ignored.

Diana said...

Hi Snow,
Thanks for the well wishes. I need them as the cortisone has already worn off.
"I didn’t go for the meditation though so much as for the people, particularly a man with whom I hoped to be friends." was the comment that I was referring to.
Love Di

geek said...

“Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” -- this is a good motto, and I do hope they live up to it in the future.

I've stopped going to church for two years now, I think. I just find most people who say they are religious as very hypocritical and I don't want to be in that group.

Thanks for the post. Made me smile, and I've been needing a smile for a long time now. Hope you're well.

swan said...

Snowbursh, you continually inspire me to create and write and explore the world, thank you for your writing, I feel it is a deep gift.

Just_because_today said...

I haven’t had a “normal” friend since childhood - this caught my attention as I think of friendship as one of the true treasures in life. Have you had real friends? a real friend does not have to be normal, just a good friend.

I am catholic by default. Only because I was raised catholic. I attend service and don't look for anything really insightful in the sermons -usually they are not. But I feel a sense of connection to God by being in his/her home. That is enough for me.
I, too, have attended many other churches because I believe God is everywhere and every religion has something to offer. Not necessarily the women's breast or the men's whatever...
And the catholic church...they could do away with all that singing...
Good post as usual.

JOE TODD said...

The last time I was at a church service it was a prison church service. Now that was different

julie mitchell said...

Hope you're feeling better...
ps..I always read your post post comments...hug, hug

bellybutton said...

"Open hearts.Open minds.Open doors."

Snow, we agree too many church folk and nonbeliever's alike seem to think hellbound; my experience in organized religion has been they are more like hidebound and yes, change is a'coming....
Perhaps it is time we lift up breasts instead of erections... after all breasts imply nurture and sustainability.We recognize Christ in the Hue-man more readily than the church... it is the golden rule that rocks...^-^ our world...

You also crack me up, snow...
Have not visited your site for months. too long....thanks for the good info...
ps
D Adams book "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe" includes "Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish"..
Have you read "The Salmon of Doubt"? published posthumously? It is on my list of "to read when I get a-round- toit"...

Hope you are well

Yes, we can

::

Snowbrush said...

Bellybutton: "Perhaps it is time we lift up breasts instead of erections... after all breasts imply nurture and sustainability."

Like I always say, no woman who names her blog after a body part can be all bad, but you do seem to unfairly favor the female at the expense of the male, so, as a member of the male species, I naturally feel obliged to provide you with the objective facts of the case, facts which appear to prove the superiority of the male.

Think of it this way. Symbologically-speaking, what's the worst that can happen to a person who becomes infatuated with the male organ (I'm too modest to call it by any of its actual names)? The worst that can happen is that he or she will develop a fondness for wearing neckties and visiting the Washington Monument--a visit which will no doubt occasion a lot of picture taking or at least postcard buying.

Okay, now what's the worst that can happen to a person who becomes infatuated with lactating breasts? He or she will travel to an active volcano, climb to the top, and DIE.

Okay, Missy Know-it-All, NOW tell me which is better. The Washington Monument represents the new life and nurturance provided by George Washington to his country. Neckties represent gentlemanly dress. Volcanos? They represent DEATH. Obviously, man=good; woman=bad.

I got the "The Salmon of Doubt" after reading your response, and am enjoying it thoroughly.

Rob-bear said...

I still go to Sunday worship, when I'm healthy enough to go. Our minister has an "open" sermon (for lack of better terms): he opens up some idea, from a Biblical basis, and people just join in the conversation.

Strange thing: neither "sin" nor "Hell" are mentioned very often, and are discussed even less. We talk about what the Bible means to us, and what we try to do about it. We learn things from each other.

As for hypocrites, can't say I've met any. There are some folk whose priorities I question, but, hey — its up to them and God, and I'm probably not seeing the whole picture of their lives.