10:44 a.m. - Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003
Been a LONG TIME since I've been to church.
A couple years ago, a new church was built not far from me. Large but very simple; all white; plain, traditional lines; gothic windows. Beautiful. Lutheran. I went just to see the interior. That was beautiful, too, in a very simple way -- I mean, no Michelangelo-esque stuff, just plain white walls with plain timber supports soaring up to the ceiling. I remembered the service from my youth. I, too, used to attend a Lutheran Missouri-Synod church, up until the age of about 14 -- l'age ingrat.
I kept going back every Sunday for several weeks. The beauty of the church building itself, inside and out; the friendliness of the people, who, noticing that I was a new face around there, went to great pains to welcome me; the pleasure of singing hymns; all of these little joys kept me coming back.
But, like a worm in an apple, there was the doctrine, under the surface, working away, until finally it showed itself so plainly that the apple became inedible. First, there was a little children's sermon during the service, in which the pastor, sitting surrounded by the little ones, kindly informed them that everyone who isn't a Christian is going to hell. Then there was the realization that no woman of any age is permitted to vote on church matters: that right is reserved to male members over the age of 21. Then a sermon in which the pastor, after an obligatory aperitif-like preface about husband's duties to think about the good of their wives, got down to the meat of the matter, thundering -- yes, thundering, for the first and only time I ever heard him thunder -- that God DEMANDS that wives OBEY husbands! Then, the last straw, a sermon by a substitute preacher who argued simultaneously that abortion is murder but killing people in a war in defense of the political status quo is justifiable homicide.
I never went back.
I wish sometimes that I could go to church. I wish I could participate in a community that way. I tried going to a Unitarian Universalist church, which was nice, but ... I will always think of it as The Church of Our Lady of the Small Talk. When there is no common belief, there is nothing to talk about but the weather. And then they ended every service by forming a giant chain throughout the church -- each person holding the next person's hand.
I do not want to hold a stranger's hand. I do not want to hold the hand of someone who is not (a) a child or (b) my Significant Other. Call me cold. Hell, I'll call me cold. I'm cold. So ... there's no place for dissenters like me in the Unitarian Universalist church.
It's always something. If it's not doctrine, it's other people.
I didn't come in here this morning intending to rant about churches; I came in here to say, as usual, that I love this one hour of quiet on Sunday morning, the only hour of quiet I get all week.
Very soon, my father will show up to collect the tomatoes from my garden, to take to my siblings and his neighbors. After that, the Ski Anderson show comes on the radio. After that, I have to mow the lawn. After that, if it weren't a three-day weekend, I would have to get ready for the work week.
Just one blissful hour of peace and quiet, every Sunday.