To start off with, I don’t believe in religion (for many reasons). That being said, I find that many religious people are really amazing, good-hearted people so I went to the first church service of my life today to observe what goes on there. Before I go on, I’m going to note a few things:
1. To be honest, I really don’t care if I offend you. Not trying to be rude, but I find that most people get up in arms about things they’re not secure about. There’s many people who don’t believe in what I believe in as far as spirituality, spirit guides, etc… and it doesn’t faze me one way or the other. I know it’s my truth and that’s all that matters.
2. I went into this as unbiased as I possibly could be. If anything, I was hoping to walk out with a deeper respect of religion.
3. Any opinion that I give here is based on my experiences with THIS church – just the first one I found when I did a Google search. I can’t possibly make decisions on an entire religion based off of one experience… this is just what I found tonight.
4. For what it’s worth, I’m technically Jewish. I was bat mitzvahed, can read and write Hebrew, and used to know Hebrew and Arabic fluently. Like I said, I don’t believe in religion and don’t consider myself Jewish… but I have gone to synagogue before, although I really don’t remember anything about it except for trying to sneak out of the room and go downstairs to play with the toys. That being said…
Here’s What Happened:
I went into church today thinking I’d just sneak in and listen to the sermon. When I got in there, a guy asked me to fill out a postcard about how I found the church, write down my address, etc. He also gave me a pen and a mug filled with candy. He got another lady to come over and talk to me. I told her that I was leaving for Europe soon and that I just wanted to experience the church. She told me I could find missionaries in any country from this particular church, just in case I had a stellar time tonight.
When I went to sit down, she asked if I wanted to be alone or if she could sit with me. It didn’t matter to me… and I was kind of glad that she ended up sitting with me anyway, because I saw she was taking notes which in turn made me feel comfortable taking my own (I carry a pen and paper everywhere I go… I even take notes during tours. I’m a nerd.). The lady introduced me to her daughter (who was maybe late 30’s, early 40’s?). The daughter asked me if I was “searching for Jesus”, and I told her the truth – that I’m very spiritual on my own accord, but I do think many religious people are amazing and I wanted to observe. She told me that was a “cute” response. When the service started, one of the first things I noticed was that the pastor told everyone to walk around and shake hands with each other.
I Had 2 Thoughts…
…when I saw everyone going all over the place:
1. My initial thought was that it was a good mind-control tactic (I’m just being honest). I know they do this kind of stuff at seminars as an icebreaker to warm up the room/get people comfortable (not saying it’s a mind control tactic there, but can absolutely be used as one).
2. I noticed that the people shaking hands – all of them – had huge smiles on their faces and looked genuinely happy. I thought that was really awesome. Again, even if I don’t believe in religion, as long as there’s a good message, I’m a supporter. Then we got into the sermon. That’s when I heard some really fascinating things. To begin with, the service was all about “How To Break A Bad Habit”. The first thing the pastor mentioned was that “Some of the worst Christians do…”
I thought that was really interesting. I don’t know, I guess I assumed there wasn’t such a thing as “worst Christian” and that everyone was loved equally (I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, it truly did take me aback).
(In retrospect, now that I think of some of the anti-religion campaigns, I don’t know why it surprised me so much… I mean, that’s what people complain about with gay issues, right? I’m not trying to be biased here, but the facts are the facts… hardcore religious people do think being gay is wrong.)
The pastor then started talking about how once people accept Christ, then the Holy Spirit will come into them. He talked about how people won’t experience convulsions or anything like that… but as soon as they accept Christ, the spirit activates. (At this point, one guy kept saying “Right!” “Right!” “Right!” to everything. He was the only one though, and the pastor noted that the crowd was unusually quiet tonight.) He then started saying that people don’t need anything external in order to live by Christ – it lives inside themselves – but Jesus is there to help if you ask him for it. He said if you want him to control you, he’ll do that too.
My Problem With That:
Personally, I don’t think anyone needs to accept anything to have their spirit “activate”. I think it’s there all along. I’ve never accepted Jesus and really only prayed to God for most of my life for “insurance” purposes because I wasn’t sure of his existence. (I now believe , but that’s neither here nor there). I agree that once people make certain choices, it’ll be easier to stay connected to their spirit… but I don’t think you need to accept Jesus to have that happen. The pastor then started talking about…
All Those “Crazy” Christians
…and how some people have perversed Christianity. He says Church TV gets crazier and crazier by the minute, because people need to “fill the flesh”. The example he gave was of Jewish people. He said that the Jews needed to feel God on an emotional level and constantly be told of miracles so they could believe. Apparently when Jesus was feeding them, they kept following him. The minute Jesus stopped feeding them, they no longer believed because they didn’t have any substantial proof to go by. The pastor said that Christians need to feel based on logic, not emotion. They should just KNOW. (Later on though, in one of the times he contradicted himself, he said: “I bet some of you were torn about if you should come here or watch the Eagles game tonight” and paused, as if it was an awful thing.
I guess my question there is… if people are supposed to just KNOW within themselves, and the spirit can activate for them once they accept Jesus… what’s the problem with catching a game? I guess this was another example of being a “bad Christian”… that you should pray regularly, even if something you’re a fan of is on TV. I know that comes across as sarcastic, but I don’t mean for it to.) The pastor started talking about Joel Osteen. He said, “This guy has the biggest church in the country. I started to watch him but couldn’t go for any longer than 5 minutes because I didn’t want my kids to hear.” He said it was just like Church TV, with a guy sitting on a ledge playing guitar, and how “un-churchlike” it all was. (That being said, maybe other churches would make me have a different opinion… I don’t know.) After that, he started talking about giving thanks. He said not to just give thanks for the good things, because
“Even The Lost People Can Do That.”
Good Christians, he said, should make sure to give thanks for everything, because God knows what he’s doing and why he’s teaching it to you. THIS was the kind of thing I was hoping to hear more of when I came to church. That’s something I wholeheartedly agree on. I heard an Esther and Jerry Hicks cd once, and Esther was saying that if you go to a hotel and there’s a hole in the carpet on the floor, you have two choices. You can fixate on the hole or you can be thankful that you have shelter for the night. It was a visual statement (I could picture a hole in a carpet) and it stuck with me. I really liked that message and live the majority of my life trying to think that way – finding the positives in everything. Unfortunately, that was the only time during church that the pastor said something I agreed with. After that, he mentioned….
“You Can Only Get Into Heaven Once You Accept Jesus Christ As Your Savior.”
The service ended shortly after that. The lady I was sitting next to started talking to me more and started getting deep into religion. I was really grateful to listen to her because admittedly, I don’t know that much about it. We talked for about 5 good minutes, and then she said “I know it’s hard for you, being brought up Jewish, to accept Jesus as your savior, but…” I told her that I appreciated the positive messages that I thought he gave either way, and that whether or not I believed in Jesus, I had utmost appreciation for the teachings. Apparently that wasn’t a good answer, because she cut the conversation short and said she’d pray for me while I was in Europe because I’m a beautiful girl and it’s a dangerous world out there. So…
My Experience Comes Down To This:
Like I said at the beginning, I was hoping to find more of a connection to church. I knew I didn’t believe in religion and didn’t expect to love it either way… but I wanted more insight into what goes on in the spare time of so many phenomenal people. I thought the church would teach the same messages I believe in, except in a different way. I didn’t walk out with that, but I do believe other churches might be different. I do, however, think that other churches are the same as far as “Good Christian/Bad Christian”, and I staunchly disagree with that. Personally, I have love for EVERYONE, regardless of their decisions. I believe everyone does the best they can with what they’ve been given. Does it mean I want to be friends with certain people? No way. Lie to me once and I usually won’t talk to you again. I have strict standards as far as who I become close with. It doesn’t mean I dislike someone, though… just that they’re not right to be in my space.
I really do like how the church had so many happy people. Even if people criticize them as being “brainwashed”… hey, as long as you’re happy, who cares if you’re brainwashed. I guess I was also interested in religion because in “The Paradox Of Choice” (great book!), the author says the happiest people in the world are those who are religious, married, and/or have really good friends (think I blogged about this before) because they don’t have as many choices. A lot of their world is decided for them, so they don’t have as much to be overwhelmed by. I can see why people would be happy at church. So much is laid out for them… they have likeminded friends… etc… but I’m still not a fan. Overall, I walked out not only still not believing in religion, but maybe even having a slight dislike for it. I’ll continue to live each day, day by day, on my own terms. I’m glad for the experience though and plan on reading the Bible soon, just to learn more.