Friday, April 22, 2011

Good God it's Friday

Are we all looking for something?

Of course we are. Love. Fame. Money. Acceptance. Sex. Power. Control. Revenge.

Every little thing we do, every single action and thought, comes from our deepest longing and is designed to realise it. Of course, we'd like to think our deepest longings are noble - love, altruism, peace - but as often as not they are ignoble. Perhaps more often.

It's Good Friday. Not just any Friday. Good Friday. Not sure why they call it that. 'Cause something good happened? Cause we're supposed to be good today? Gooder than we are on other days? I wonder if there is less crime on Good Friday. Less abuse. Less alcohol drunk. Less swearing. Less "illicit" sex. Less violence. Less pornography downloaded. Less money stolen. Less disrespect of parents. Less idolatry.

Someone told me they were going to church. It's Good Friday. Noble? Maybe. It's more of a community thing, they said. Hmmm. Not quite so noble?

It occurred to me a long long time ago that a significant portion of those who flock to church, whether on Good Friday or any other holy day (Saturday or Sunday), are not going there to look for salvation, or God, or anything ethereal. They are, in fact, looking for something a lot more earthbound. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, except there's a whole disingenuous element to it. The premise is inherently dishonest. The premise is I will pretend to believe in God (however much my private thoughts and actions prove otherwise) because that's ostensibly what is required to get in the door. Once inside, however, the goal emerges. The pretense remains, as is required (a going through the motions, if you will), but even in the going through the motions the true desire is paramount.

For some it's attention. Attention is mostly secondary, but it's a good way to pretend we are getting what is primary: acceptance, belonging. If you're preaching, teaching, or playing in the band or singing, the secondary is automatic. You will get attention. Acceptance however, is a lot less guaranteed.

For some it's sex. For some, church is a way to hook up with potential sexual partners. Better than pubs and bars.

For some it's company. Just an opportunity to spend some time with other human beings. But not too much. You don't want to be bothered by these people during the week, but it's nice to gossip a little one morning a week.

Mostly the churches (and by that I mean the church hierarchy) don't care why you're there. It's a numbers game. The more bums on seats the bigger the contribution, pure and simple. And for some of those in charge, more bums on seats also means more prestige in the church leadership community

For some, it's spiritual. I fail to see how something so secular, in such a secular society, can provide anything spiritual, but I guess spirituality is in the eye of the beholder. Its a couple of hours a week of spirituality and I guess for some that ticks the box.

I've always thought if you're going to play church you have to play it 100%. The consequences of playing it 80, 65, or, god forbid, 14.5% are... well, there are no consequences. But it just seems so dishonest.

For some, it's political. Bill Clinton was a faithful church goer. As was/is George Bush. And Graham Caphill. Apparently, the appearance of being righteous gives you some credibility. You don't have to be righteous, you just have to appear to be righteous.

But isn't that the crux of the hypocrisy inherent in playing church.

One of the enduring memories I have of being a preacher in the buckle of the bible belt was how all the men would stand outside after the Sunday service, and smoke a cigarette together. Many times I SO wanted to join that little circle, rip open a Budweiser and talk with the guys about football. Sadly, I never did it. I was very young and too intent on pretending to be spiritual....I mean being spiritual.

(It should be noted that in the South smoking is much more acceptable in Christian circles than drinking alcohol - of course, most of them drink beer too, just not at church)

So many times I had huge arguments with my (then) wife in the car on the way home from church. I'd probably preached about the importance of loving one another. How's that for hypocrisy? But our deepest longings weren't being satisfied, and it took us another few years to realise that.

It then took me a few more years to discover than none of my needs/longings were being satisfied in church, whether I was in the pulpit or the pew. Many of my secondary longings were met...I liked attention even though it didn't bring acceptance; the company was nice but I didn't want too much; there was an element of spirituality to it, but nothing like I felt it should have been. Ask me some time about the merits of living in a commune.  And there was even a little revenge floating around in the mix. Comes a point when the hypocrisy is just too pointless.

Very little of what happens in churches on Sunday or Good Friday or Christmas Eve is about God. We think it is. We pretend it is. We claim it is. But it isn't.

This is the video I started this blog thinking about, but it evolved a little.

Happy Good Friday. Be good, even if it's just for today.

1 comment: said...

Great blog Peter. I think you should print out a few copies and sneak in under the pews!