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.
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.”
Stockholm memories, scattered and smothered - *First things first, or Loose Ends Tied Up While-U-Wait Department: I arrived at Arlanda airport in Stockholm early in February 1969 wit...