Why Would I EVER Want to Attend YOUR Church?

Posted: April 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Growing up, I attended a Catholic church and a Catholic grammar school. During my time as a good Catholic girl, all the rules changed. Saints who were saints when I was in the fifth or sixth grade were no longer saints the following year. Sins that were sins previously were either no longer sins, or they were demoted in what seemed to be an arbitrary manner.

 A church that could randomly choose what to teach seemed precarious to me and when I became an adult, I left the church, wondering about where else I might fit in. I concluded that to be spiritual was far more important – to me – than to be religious (in other words, to be one who attended church).

 When my oldest daughter was a little girl, however, she begged me to take her to church, so one Sunday, I did. Reluctantly. I knew that basket would come around and I would have to acknowledge its presence. My “budget,” if you could call it that, left me with less than I needed to live on. After paying for daycare, transportation, clothing for a growing child, and housing expenses, I had nothing left for extras – like clothes for myself or collection baskets at church. With nothing to drop in the offertory basket, it bothered me that I was going to have to ignore it. 

 My clothes weren’t great, and I owned only about 5 items that I changed every day for work, along with some after-work and weekend items I’d owned for several years. As we sat in church that Sunday, I found myself deeply embarrassed – three different times (the number of times the offertory basket came around) – for three different reasons. Lucky me. I came on a day when two special requests were added to the customary offering. I hung my head, wishing I could tell the ushers that 10% of nothing was nothing.

 The sermon began. The priest talked about how people should dress up when they attended church to show God that they respected Him. Instantly I became livid. Who was he to judge the congregation that sat before him? Maybe we were already wearing our “best” for God. I have always believed in God and I didn’t think my attire had anything to do with whether or not I respected God. What’s more, I think God would have been appalled to hear that what we wore mattered to Him. 

 The priest went on to discuss greed – how greedy and complaining we all were about what we DIDN’T have. “Mary didn’t complain about not having a changing table for Baby Jesus. Mary didn’t complain about not having a bassinet for Baby Jesus.” As a matter of fact every item he mentioned that Mary didn’t complain about was something Mary didn’t even know existed – because it hadn’t been created yet.

 What upset me was that children, attempting to make sense of the information their priest was imparting to them, sat before him listening. I felt compelled to tell my daughter about my feelings and to let her know that I didn’t think God minded what we were wearing.

 Years later, I decided that my three youngest children should at least experience church. When they became adults, they could decide on their own how to conduct their spiritual lives. 

 But once again, I was dumbfounded by what I saw –  church members leaning over to other church members with mouths covered as they gossiped about another church member! I shook my head. I remember trying to leave the parking lot with a baby and two toddlers in tow and NOBODY was courteous enough to allow me entry into the street.

 All I could think was – hypocrites – you talk about each other behind their backs and you can’t take a moment to allow another church member to get in front of you on the street outside the church? You gossip about each other and your neighbors, and yet you call yourselves Christians?

 I know that not all churches or all church members are similar to the places and people I am describing. Since that time I have been in other churches where members congregated and seemed genuinely happy with themselves, their church, and each other. 

 Recently I invited what I call, “church people” into my home to discuss the Bible. I love hearing different takes on what is and what isn’t a sin, who is and who isn’t going to hell, etc. I find these conversations educational, enlightening, and engaging.

 But I don’t believe everything I hear. I honestly don’t believe that just because somebody doesn’t love or know Jesus, he is going to hell. What that mindset does is send every Jew on the planet to everlasting doom, including Jews who’ve passed on, like Jesus.

 I also don’t think that just because someone doesn’t attend church, that person is going to hell. But more than believing the person won’t go to hell, I don’t think it’s right for Christians to judge non-Christians. What have the non-church-goers done that is so evil they are forever doomed to everlasting life in Hell? And doesn’t it say right there in the Bible to “judge not lest ye be judged”?

 I’m not going to apologize for my beliefs. I’ve come up with my own religion, one that takes all the good from all the other religions and funnels it into mine, which I call ONE. Because I believe that we are all ONE people who just want to love and be loved and we all want to live in a trusting world. 

 Why would I ever want to enter a church filled with hypocrites who squint their eyes and grit their teeth, condemning me to hell because my faith doesn’t exactly match theirs?

 One of my grandsons and I have talked about writing a screenplay together for all the self-righteous, judgmental, and indignant hypocrites who gossip about each other and proclaim that everyone else is going to hell. And we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to show those same people entering the Gates of Heaven only to discover that the ones they thought were going to Hell were sitting on the right hand of God and walking hand-in-hand with Jesus? 

 Now, THAT’S a movie I’d love to see! And trust me, we are not ALL going to Hell!

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  1. Scott says:

    Well Said… you could write a book on this issue.. but I really want to see the movie. I am sure there will be a chapter on me and my life!!!! Churches sure have differing opinions on that one.

    • theresawiza says:

      Thanks, Scott. Yes, they do, and it’s a shame, because we all deserve to be loved, and as long as we are loving human beings, it shouldn’t matter to anyone WHO (I know – it’s supposed to be WHOM) we love.

  2. Mike Oberg says:

    Churches should provide a safe, loving community that supports the individual spiritual development of their members. The only true sin is thinking yourself separate from others or God. People create their own hells.

    • theresawiza says:

      Thanks, Mike. I think some Catholic churches had a problem in the 50s and 60s, because they didn’t create a sense of community. Then they introduced the hand-shaking ritual, which made some people uncomfortable. Sermons, in my mind anyway, should serve to instruct, encourage, and support church members, not belittle them and make them feel unwelcome. People who go to church to find comfort won’t find it with a mocking priest or minister. Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. Chris Cass says:

    You’ve just about described my beliefs entirely!! Lots of hypocrites in all churches these days! One of my beliefs is that none of us mere mortals have the capacity to even imagine what is ‘beyond’. I believe there is ‘something’ that watches over us, guides and protects us but we have to tune in and not try to imagine this ‘something’ as being necessarily human form. Great article Terry!

  4. You couldn’t have said this… ‘any better’.

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