Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another boring Sunday. Why bother?

Yet another boring Sunday, sitting through three hours of church. Honestly, it's gotten to where "enduring to the end" means staying awake for all three hours. Is this supposed to be inspiring? Is this supposed to pump me up or "recharge the batteries" so I can go out and make the world a better place and myself a better person? I feel the drive from within myself to do those things, but most weeks it feels like church sucks the life out of me. I'm certainly not recharging anything by going there. I'm sure someone must be getting something positive from it, but that person is not me.

I commented to my wife this morning that I think Jesus would be pretty uncomfortable in our church. He doesn't seem like the white shirt and tie kind of guy. Of course, I said this after failing to get a haircut for a couple months, failing to shave in the past week, and throwing on a green collared shirt after rolling out of bed and taking the world's quickest shower. So I guess I was looking for someone to champion the cause of the bed-headed schlub. I still contend that Jesus has got my back on this one.

A lot of Sundays, I look around and wonder what in the world I'm doing at church. For the past year or so, I've been keeping a positive attitude about church and my own participation in it. In my own mind, my main reason for doing so has been because I enjoy the community and I like being at least a little bit social.

But lately I've been asking myself, is that really true? I can't think of anyone at church I'm particularly close to, and in fact I'm not sure anyone at church even likes me very much. I obviously don't fit in, I wear brightly colored shirts, and the only time I speak up is when I feel I have something worthwhile to say. Unfortunately, that means I rarely say anything because I'm not willing to answer questions like, "What is the definition of priesthood?" Questions like that have no relevance to my life, but the call and response routine is apparently what we have been reduced to. And whenever I do speak up, I usually get blank stares as if I had said the moon is made of cheese and I just had some for lunch. Stunned silence, thinking, "Okaaaaay..."

When I joined the church, I was looking forward to having interesting discussions about deep topics in Sunday school. I was accustomed to that in the Christian churches I previously attended. But in the LDS church, there is no such discussion. It's taken me ten years, but I've finally realized there can be no such discussion in this church because everyone thinks we already know all the answers. Question about the meaning of life? Reference the chart with three circles. Question about the nature of the divine? Reference the Joseph Smith testimony in the back of your book. Question about whether it's okay to wear flip flops to church? Reference last month's General Conference talk. Seriously, we have canned answers for everything.

Because I happened to have it on my iPod, today I also read Why the Church is as True as the Gospel, a Sunstone article by Eugene England from many years ago. He makes some valid points, and I can see what he's getting at, but overall I got the feeling that the church as he experienced it doesn't really exist anymore. The church doesn't stretch me to prove contraries or help me to grow my love for others through service to needy people. It simply annoys me, week after week, as I silently listen to bold proclamations of things I find disagreeable, unsupportable, or factually incorrect.

Some people stay because it's their family, it's their tribe, it's where they feel comfortable, or whatever. I understand that, and that can be a valid motivation. But I've never felt that way about Mormonism myself, even as a believer. For my entire life since high school, I have regularly attended various churches on my own, because I wanted to be challenged and stretched. I have wanted what Eugene England wrote that we should experience in the LDS church, a deeper experience of meaning through struggling to make peace with opposition in all things.

In fact, I would say that's one of the main reasons I still attend the LDS church at all; because I tend to define my own ideas by contrasting them with other ideas that are not mine. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I sharpen my ideas by testing them in the marketplace and keeping the best ones, and for a long time as a Christian, I found that church was a good place for me to do that. So somehow I still try to do it in the LDS church. But you know, after a while being constantly beaten down with iron gets tiresome. I'm not experiencing both truths on either side of a paradox. I'm experiencing one truth, running unopposed, and I'm not sure how long I can stand it.

So what's the point? I guess I need to branch out socially. Visit other communities, go to more skeptics meetings, volunteer my time actually doing something useful. It's hard to find the time, but that's not a great excuse. Whatever I'm looking for, I'm apparently not finding it here, and I need to expand the horizons.


Philomytha said...

I once asked my atheist UU friend why she went to church. I just couldn't understand why anyone would go to church if it wasn't a commandment. She told me about rejuvenated she felt after church each Sunday, how it made her feel happy and peaceful and ready to face a new week.

I couldn't imagine such a feeling coming from church. I felt exhausted and drained after church (well, also happy though -- Sunday evening was the best time of the week because the next round of church was the furthest off it would ever be). Not to mention the "Sunday headache" that so many people I know got.

But after attending the UU congregation I got a sense of what my friend meant. It was much different. More meditative and peaceful.

Saganist said...

I think the UU would suit me just fine. Every time I've attended (a couple times in the past year), I've loved it. I just need to make the time to drive there. I'd love to take my whole family, but DW is pretty apprehensive since I told her about a jerk who stood up and yelled at Richard Dutcher's kids to be quiet while Richard was presenting the turning point in the evolution of human spirituality. It's too bad, I think that's the one thing she remembers about the experiences I've had at the UU church.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are certainly not alone in all that. And think of the millions of people across denominations and centuries who have felt the same way! not feeling any better now? No, neither am I...

Kaylanamars said...

Just found your blog, Saganist! I also have a certain fondness for Carl Sagan. I am amazed that you have been able to attend for as long as you have. I've gone from TBM to agnostic/atheist leaning in about 18 months. My DH went right along with we haven't had to try and attend church anymore. But the last three months before I officially decided enough is enough, it was sooo difficult to sit there and not be able to say anything, to share my thoughts. I could not take anything worthwhile from any of the meetings.

I did attend the SVUU back in May and I really enjoyed that. I just love that there's no dogma. We may go more often once our son is a bit older...but it's always there if I feel I need one Sunday.

Anyway, I'm very excited to look through your older posts and excited for the new ones! Great blog! So glad I found it.

Saganist said...

Thanks, Kaylanamars! I totally need to start going to the SVUU.