Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"15 Reasons I Returned to the Church", and My Own Experiences

Yesterday, I commented on Rachel Held Evans' fifteen reasons for leaving the church, in light of my own experiences. Today, I'll do the same thing for her fifteen reasons for returning to church.

1. Jesus

There are things that I admire about Jesus and modern Christian conceptions of Jesus: Jesus' love and compassion, especially for the marginalized; the way that Jesus spoke truth to power; Jesus' teaching about love for enemies; etc. When churches emphasize that, I like church.

2. The Book of Common Prayer

I've never read it, but people have said that it's soothing to read.

3. The fact that when somebody gets sick or dies or has a baby or loses their job, it’s the church ladies who are the first to show up at the front door with a casserole and a hug

I like church, especially small churches, because that has been a place where people have cared for me. They care about how I'm doing in school or when applying for work. There have been times when they've sent me home with food. I realize that I should not expect to get food every (or any) time I go to church, but my point is that church has been a home to me for years.

4. Anne Lamott

I've never read her, but, looking at the wikipedia article about her, I think that I'd appreciate (to draw from wikipedia's language) her self-deprecating humor and her commentary on issues such as alcoholism, single motherhood, depression, and Christianity.

5. Communion

I respect Communion because it is sacred to the church. I can't say that I feel much when I'm taking it, though.

6. Connecting with other searchers who may not be part of a church, but are part of The Church (this includes many of you!)

I don't really fit into the "searcher" community, perhaps because it doesn't think that I'm profound enough! But I like reading things by searchers, perhaps because they overlap with me in having issues with conservative Christianity. My writings attract some searchers, but they also attract conservative Christians, who probably like the fact that I get into the Bible.

Currently, I'm not entirely certain what my stance is towards searchers. I enjoy hearing their personal stories about faith, and I've also appreciated their thoughts about such issues as universalism, preterism, and the diversity of Scripture. But I'm not overly convinced by their arguments about homosexuality, evolution, and a Christocentric approach to the Bible. It's not that I'm a flaming right-winger on these issues. It's just that the Bible seems to me to oppose homosexuality, to exclude evolution, and to be too diverse to be subjected to some "Christocentric" grid.

7. The first sermon I ever heard from a woman

I've heard good and bad sermons from men and women, alike.

8. Sucking up my pride and embracing the fact that, like it or not, I need community...and real community isn’t about surrounding myself with people just like me

I think community is good to have. While I surround myself with people who are not just like me, I find that it's hard for me to get along with people who try to shove their beliefs down my throat.

9. Liturgy that reads like poetry

I don't have much poetic sensitivity, but there are hymns and songs that I like, old and newer.

10. Madeleine L’Engle

I love her. In fact, her Genesis Trilogy was my spiritual food in a season when I was disillusioned with Christianity. I needed her to balance out some of the guilt-tripping that I was encountering in Christianity, and she did so by focusing on the love of God for all creation, as well as the importance of loving others. I also felt a kinship with her on account of her honesty and her sharing of her experiences.

11. My parents, who, though we don’t always agree on all the political or theological details, have modeled Christian compassion and grace better than anyone I know and who have supported me through every “evolution” of faith

I've inherited a number of things from my parents. One thing is cynicism about religion, but (paradoxically) they have also taught me the value of looking for the good in things and respecting others on their spiritual paths, things that they have done.

12. The Biologos Foundation, and especially Karl Giberson, who was the first to reach out to me and tell me that I didn’t have to choose between my intellectual integrity and my faith

I am happy that the Biologos Foundation exists. I would much prefer for homeschooled kids to learn from it rather than Ken Ham. I'm just not convinced by how it tries to harmonize the Bible and evolution. I find that approach to be anachronistic, in that it reads modern science back into the Bible. I'm against trying to force the Bible to fit modern science, as well as trying to force modern science to fit the Bible.

13. The Mission (our church plant), which even though it failed on paper, changed my life and gave me hope for the future of the Church

I never attended The Mission, but I was encouraged when I attended the Adventist Forum in New York City, a group that welcomed questions and liberal attitudes.

14. Friends with whom we gather each week for movies, food, conversations about God, and the occasional (slightly awkward) church visit

I don't do this that much. I've been enjoying my church's Bible study group, though.

15. Grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, grace

I need a lot of grace----not just because I'm far from perfect, but because I need a God who loves me no matter what!

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