My wife enjoys going to church each week, so I usually go as well, because I love her and want to support her. Also, one adult trying to wrangle three kids aged 6 and under, keeping them quiet for a 75-minute sacrament meeting, qualifies as one of the worst babysitting jobs in the world. I don't want to leave my wife alone to face that cruel task, so I usually go to church.
Lately, though, I've been finding my church experience, especially the first two hours (Elders Quorum and Sunday school), to be more annoying than it's worth. So I've been skipping the first two hours more and more often. At this very moment, in fact, Elders Quorum is being dismissed and Sunday school is about to begin. I am sitting at my desk in the basement of my house. All is quiet. Out the window, I can see clouds, sky, and grass. I am content.
Whenever I attend church, I find myself disagreeing with almost everything that is said. That is pretty amazing in itself, as I am not a particularly disagreeable person. Since it would be somewhat impolite to vocally express disagreement with everything that is said every week, I usually scribble my thoughts furiously on index cards so that my head doesn't explode. I don't mind being in a setting where I disagree with those around me, but I've started to decide that I'm not going to put myself through it week after week without a damn good reason. Masochism has its limits.
I would probably find more to agree with if every week weren't a Joseph Smith lovefest. Last week's Elder's Quorum lesson boiled down to "Be like Joseph Smith. He was awesome." But what if you have good reasons to think he was not so wonderful? There are also plenty of admonitions about how important it is to sit through the temple movie for the jillionth time, and to visit your list of assigned neighbors each month and pretend to care about them while taking notes on their religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Of course, that's not exactly how it's phrased, but that's the gist.
I know people of various belief levels who go to church and just tune most of it out, and I don't understand how they do it. If I'm in a situation like that, especially a situation that looks and acts like an actual discussion, as Sunday school does, I can't help paying attention and trying to contribute. It's very frustrating to feel that my contributions would not be welcome, and that's how I feel whenever I go to church. I don't learn anything new. I can't contribute. I'm not challenged in any way except via frustration. I feel like an outsider.
So I attend church less and less. Somehow this feels like a failing, not because other people expect me to attend church, but because I have expected it of myself basically forever. However, the reason I expected myself to attend church as a believer was because I wanted to be challenged and enlightened as often as possible. In fact, this desire has not changed. But the sad fact is that church no longer fulfills this need in my life, so I need to move on. Not just physically but emotionally as well. And that's okay.
I will still be attending church for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but I'm going to try to improve at tuning it out. I know why I'm there, and it's not for anyone but my family. I shouldn't continue to behave as if it's for me.
I know there are plenty of unbelievers of various persuasions reading this blog. Do any of you still go to church? If so, what kind of church do you attend, and why do you go? How do you deal with it? Do you tune out, pay attention, speak up, start discussions, or what? I'd love to hear any of your coping mechanisms, and maybe try them myself.