Altogether about 250 people shared their thoughts and stories about church via comments to my recent post 85 million unchurched Christians. Is that good?. Thank you again for that very precious input. Some fantastic and enriching stuff there.
So I think at this point it’s safe to say that generally speaking Christians don’t go to church because they:
- Can’t abide the notion that being gay is in and of itself a sin.
- Reject the idea of a loving, all-powerful God who allows people to burn in hell forever simply because they died without being Christian.
- Don’t believe that God wants women to “submit” to their husbands or anyone else.
- Have no interest in “evangelizing” to others.
- When thinking enjoy employing logic and reason.
- Do not appreciate having to leave at the door important aspects of who they are.
- Refuse to place dogmatic legalism over compassionate charity.
- Believe that the single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
- Have no interest in conforming for conformity’s sake.
- Prefer not to be bored to death once a week for over an hour.
On the other hand, Christians do go to church because they find rewarding and valuable:
- The timeless, stirring, and ineffable magic of communal worship.
- Belonging to a community that cares for its own, shares core values, and is dedicated to goals that are real and important.
- The weekly renewal and uplifting of their spirits.
- Serving as a group the community outside of their church.
- Structured, informed, and regular studying of the Bible.
- Marking in communion the major events of their lives, such as births, weddings and death, through ceremonies and traditions that resonate with centuries of application.
- Having reason to not just tolerate fellow church members with whom they might not otherwise get along, but to love them, as Christ enjoins them to do.
- The purpose, order and structure in their lives that church brings.
- The benefits to their children of belonging to a church community.
- Knowing that they are part of not just the life but the history and legacy of their church.
This all brings to my mind the below, which I once wrote in response to a reader asking what I personally believe, and which has since become the founding document for an online group called Unfundamentalist Christians (group blog; Facebook page), the motto of which is, “Above all, love.”
- Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- The Bible is not a contract stipulating the rules for being a Christian. It is an ancient, massive, infinitely complex tome comprising songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments, and more. Christians seeking to follow the Word of God must look to all the words of God, ever seeking within those words the spirit of Jesus Christ. This means never failing to choose love, compassion and charity over adherence to any Biblical “law” that in practice or spirit violates Christ’s Great Commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
- Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
- The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself.
- God does not want any woman automatically “submitting” to her husband or to anyone else.
- Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male or female. God is both. God is all.
- The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
- There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.
- God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us.
- Anyone desiring to mix Church and State has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either.
- God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
- An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
- Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
- The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
So now I’m curious. If you’re an unchurched Christian, and you saw the above UC tenets on the “What We Believe” page of the website of a church near you, would you visit that church? Would you consider going there?