Phil's funeral and thoughts about worship

Phil’s funeral was held today, eleven days after he died. It was a corpseless affair—funerals here often are—on a day that was gray throughout. Seven a.m. looked like noon, and both looked like seven p.m.; the whole day being one protracted and depressing affair that neither happened nor knew when to quit.

I was little touched by the words that were spoken, so I had no need of the paper towels that I tucked into my pocket at the last minute. The first songs were country songs that Phil liked. Then came “Rock of Ages” and “Amazing Grace.” Miserable song, “Amazing Grace.” I know that it was written by a slave-trader turned Christian and all that, but describing oneself as a worm and a wretch strikes me as just so much sucking-up. “Abide with Me,” now there’s a song I can get behind. Pretty imagery. Touching sentiments. Mournful tune. Good funeral song. We didn’t sing it.

The elderish Nazarene preacher pushed the microphone aside because “microphones scare me,” and proceeded to drone on in a low monotone for so long that the sermon itself seemed like a metaphor for death. He tried to add authority to his words by quoting chapter and verse, although a good part of the audience didn’t give a rip. Still, if his church weren’t a long bike ride distant, I would visit it because I have more faith in the goodness of inept preachers, and because I miss going to church.

For me, church is a mostly futile endeavor, but, as I said, I miss church. Unlike Peggy, who grew up thinking of it as something she had to endure until the first Sunday she was out of her parents’ house, I loved church. Church MEANT something to me. Church still means something to me, because I have a great and insatiable urge to worship. I can’t worship anyone or anything in particular, because I don’t believe in anyone or anything in particular, but this in no way diminishes my urge to surrender myself to the beauty and wonder—if not the goodness—of the universe.

On the other hand, why subject myself to certain disappointment? Most especially, why go to a fundamentalist church when there are at least three churches nearby that don’t give a rat’s behind if I even believe in God. The answer is that churches that don’t give a rat’s behind are not churches in which there is much worship happening. They are often little more than an intellectual smorgasbord of world religions with Sunday schools that make prayer flags one week, draw the Star of David the next, and celebrate Beltane the week after.

In regard to religion, they are without FOCUS—sort of like an ad hoc committee that can’t come to a conclusion. But in regard to politics, it’s another story, because they are utterly and unapologetically liberal. Sure, they say they’re creedless, but they’re really humanistic with a creed that is as narrow as the Nicene, and they themselves are as intolerant as any fundamentalist.