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Why I don’t attend church.

Yesterday, JB and I were driving back from his place (waaaaay out in the boonies, as you may recall), and at the exit for my house, I saw from a distance a person holding a cardboard sign.

“Oh, god…a panhandler”, I said.  These guys are everywhere, looking bored and holding their signs at every major intersection in Memphis.  I hate to be callous about it, I really do, but when you see the same ones over and over again, you kind of stop feeling sorry for them and start wondering why they’re not dead yet.  Is that bad?  Or is it just me?

As we approached the intersection, I saw that it was a woman, and that she was crying.  She held her hand up and slowly waved at us, and said, “Help me.”  I saw her mouth those words, and I looked at her eyes.  Folks, I’ve seen that face before.  It’s the face you make when you’ve just about lost hope that anything could ever be right for you again.  It’s the face that faith makes as it exits your soul.  It’s the face that pride leaves behind when you give it up.

We drove on, because we, naturally, had things to do.

We parked at Kroger, where I was supposed to go in to get raw veggies for my family’s get-together, and I lost it.  I started crying for that woman, and thinking about all the times I’ve seen that face on myself and the ones I love.  And the worst part, the thing that I was crying for the most, was that I couldn’t help her.  I could give her the few dollars I had, but it would never be enough.  I could bring her clothes, but they would only last for so long.  And scoff if you want at my attitude, because yeah, there are some con artists out there, but the thing I wanted most to do was take her to my house so she could shower, give her some clothes, and take her to my dad’s for dinner, then drive her to the nearest shelter with some cash.

In the end, I did what so many other people did last night – I bought my vegetables, I packed a small overnight bag, I threw the presents in the back of the car, and I headed to my dad’s house to sit with my relatives, eat like a pig, and open packages filled with things I don’t need that will just take up more space in my already-overloaded house.

I talked with JB, and later my dad, about it, and realized that THAT, right there, was the problem I have with 99% of the churches I’ve ever heard of or personally experienced.

The Baptist church around the corner from my dad’s house just built a new congregation hall with stadium seating…padded, of course, so that they can listen to the pastor talk about helping their fellow man without their asses going numb.

JB’s church is arguing with each other about a stained-glass-window fund.  Because obviously, the only way to worship is with a multi-colored cubist rendition of Jesus raining prismed light on your face.

The tithing basket is a way for the churches to get the money they need to remain open.  I get that.  Pay your rent, etc.  But the extra money?  Guess what that’s supposed to be for?  That’s right – helping your fellow man.  The place where communism and socialism have the most place is the most totalitarian, capitalist-pig situation I can imagine right now.  And that?  Is really sad.

I’m not saying that organized religion is bad.  Bad things come of it, because people, at their core (and I include myself in this) like to be a part of something.  They want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves, and church will often give them an outlet for that desire.  The problem comes when you get a bunch of folks who happen to be weak-minded, and a person (or smaller group of people) who are willing to step up and “lead the flock”.  In general, those people desire to be in power because they desire some sort of control, and that doesn’t always lead to good things.  More often than not, that power becomes corrupted.  Look at Joel Osteen – he’s fucking insane, and he preaches to a football stadium.  How is that Christian?  How is making millions of dollars writing books about your opinion of Christianity in any way moral?  Particularly when that interpretation leaves out essential things like, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, among other things.

I am an Agnostic because of this crap.  I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to tell me how to interpret morality when I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job with it on my own.  I accept the consequences, good or bad, and do my best to work with them.  I try to be nice to others, and you guys know that if I can do something extra for someone, I will.  I realize that not everyone is like me, and I accept that.

What I can’t accept is that a place where people are supposed to be worshipping Christ, a man who adamantly preached humility and brotherhood, would have to be so fucking pretentious.  And there are people like that woman all over the place who have no where to go on Christmas, the time of year where those same pretentious folks hang out in their giant palaces and listen to someone talk about how God loves everyone while they watch their kids lope across the stage in robes and crowns, reciting the lines they’ve heard so many times…lines that they probably can’t even interpret properly.

I think that money and time would be better spent practicing what they preach.  Walk the talk.  Stop being a good Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or whatever you are, and start being a good PERSON.

I realize we can’t help everyone.  I realize that organizing this sort of thing too much is what causes the sorts of retarded-ass problems that the government is causing.

I also realize that random acts of kindness have literally saved my ass (and my life, to be frank), and that those can be done by anyone, at any time, without anyone telling you to do so, or regulating it to make sure a quota is met.

So today, or any day, if you see someone that needs help, and you’re able to do so, please go for it.  If you’ve got enough pull somewhere, please encourage others to do the same.  It’s as simple as talking to someone for a little bit when you’re sitting next to them in a waiting room – you never know how much it could mean to someone that you took that bit of time to be a fellow human being.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

14 comments to Why I don’t attend church.

  • Ted

    What a great post.

    Merry Christmas, Squeeky.

  • God lives in the little things, Squeaky. Most folks think God calls us to be superheros. I think he calls us to be just a little better then we are. You hit the nail on the head.

    I think the world would be a much better place if everyone just smiled when they saw someone else, said “Hello”, “Please”, and “Thank you.”

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  • Rest assured that the woman you saw didn’t really need help. We have ‘those folks’ around here, and no matter how pathetic they look you see them over and over, in different places with different clothes, etc. They are usually feeding an addiction, and in some places can pull in $500/day tax free.

    There are more than enough places to go for help if you are truly down on your luck — you don’t need to stand next to a freeway to get it.

  • Great post, thanks!

    I’ve long ago lost any faith I once had in God and religion, so I can empathize with everything you said.

    -Yuri

  • For me, being a good Catholic is all about being a good person, as Jesus taught.

    I’m often upset by the hypocrisy on display by many so-called “religious” people, regardless of denomination. You see it a lot here in the Bible Belt. However, I don’t find that to be a fault in Christian teachings, but rather one of human weakness.

    Churches are composed of human beings, and we’re all completely jacked up in multitudes of ways. Lots of folks approach their churches for some validation of an us-n-them mentality, and they’re completely missing the point, which is terribly unfortunate. However, the incessant human draw to the spiritual is suggestive of something beyond stained glass, Sunday clothes, and denominational snobbery.

    That something is hope. It is hope which is the root of my faith, weak as it often is. I find hope in the teachings of Jesus, in the idea that love for one another can transcend all the horrible things in this world. I find that a worthy goal to work toward, and so I make my feeble effort, failing often, but clinging to hope.

    One of the things I hope for is enlightenment for those people who show up every Sunday and just don’t get it at all; I hope that they will realize that a charitable heart is the point of the whole exercise. “Love one another as I have loved you,” and all that.

    Merry Christmas, Bonnie. I hope you had a nice time with your friends and family, and I wish you the best in the new year.

  • sidhe_demon

    *quashes cynical comment*

    love you, girl.

    :)

  • Bill

    Profound, friend. Thank you.

  • Rick

    Yuri, sidhe_demon and Bill beat me to it.

  • Thank you, Squeaky. That’s exactly why I’m agnostic, too.
    Merry (belated) Christmas, and here’s hoping you have a fantastic 2009!

  • Rush Baby

    $100 of my Xmas money she has a luxoboat free from “da woikin man”

  • Squeaky Wheel

    LibertyNews and Rush Baby, way to miss the point. I don’t give a shit if that woman WAS a regular beggar, the point is that she reminded me of how much I really hate listening to hypocrisy in organized religion.

  • “Think of how it feels when someone tells you you’re stupid for believing what you do – if it makes you mad, re-consider saying it to someone else.”

    Happy New Year to you too.

  • Isaac

    So did you go start a homeless center? or are you just going to continue blaming religion for not doing enough.. Every homeless group I have ever encountered came from a church, that’s not just a perception but a reality

  • Squeaky Wheel

    Yeah, I’m looking for the part where I’m blaming religion for not doing enough…

    Nope. Can’t find it.

    I’m aware that there are some great things that are formed from churches. My point in this post is that I wish more of them would get off of their collective asses and worry more about how they can be more “Christian” and worry less about how they’re going to pay to distribute DVDs about Jesus (I’m totally serious about this one) to people in one of the poorest counties in Tennessee.