Maybe don’t go to church this Easter?
Or, a call to examine whether we’re living consistent with our principles in adulthood
I recall one rare, sober Saturday night in college, when one of my roommates surprised the lot of us by announcing he was going to a church service the next morning and asking if anybody wanted to join. Without any reason to say no, I obliged; after all, I’d grown up going to church every Sunday. After the service, my roommate and I burst through the heavy wooden doors of the church and walked out into the bright Sunday sunshine with a little extra pep in our step. I know now, and probably suspected at the time, this effect was merely a proud smugness at the fact we’d been good enough chaps to tip our hats to the old days of when church was a regular thing in our lives. I can’t speak for my friend, but for me, I didn’t seek — and therefore, didn’t find — anything intrinsic or metaphysical to be gleaned from the one-off experience. If anything, I just thought of it as keeping me on good terms with the Big Man, if he existed, and (even if he didn’t) giving me a quick dose of nostalgia and tradition at a time when my world was a blur of the constantly-new experiences that come standard when attending a liberal arts state university with forty-thousand of your closest pals.
There’s a passage in the Christian scriptures that goes like this: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.”
After college, I did that. I grew up and did an immense amount of homework, and ultimately came to the conclusion that the Judeo-Christian worldview is true, meaning that it’s the best explanation for reality, for the ways things are, for the facts of history, etc. (I plan to cover this topic in a story soon to be published.) And yet you might be surprised: part of me today is disappointed in my 20-year-old self for accepting my friend’s invite to church that day. See, as an adult, I’m frustrated at the dishonesty of the choice, that I didn’t recognize it at the time as just… silly. Because I knew what my motives were; I was just going through the motions of a liturgy I thought was hollow of any real meaning. I went knowing I wasn’t interested in its message (unless it served me in some short term way), instead feeling self-congratulatory for being woke compared to the regulars there.. before woke was a thing.
But in fact, I don’t think I was woke at all. I was just young, and I was making a silly choice for selfish reasons. Since leaving home and the weekly routine of church, I’d lapsed into a neutral position on whether there was any factual, historical truth behind the Jesus of Nazareth character at the center of the Christian project, and neutrality is much closer to unbelief than to belief. But if that was my position, what exactly was it about this trip to church that made me proud and self congratulatory? For comparison, I wouldn’t have felt proud if I’d spent that morning learning to communicate with dust bunnies. And at the time, I had exactly the same amount of confidence in the sentience of dust bunnies as I did in the teachings of the Christian church. See what I mean? Silly.
I confess to being a bit cheeky with this story’s title. I actually encourage anybody to visit church, even if it’s just once or twice a year, due to the simple fact that exposure to views different from our own, especially when presented in a structured presentation, is a healthy and beneficial habit for each of us. And, in particular, because I’ve personally found the classical Christian narrative — and at its core, the Easter message — to hold up well under scrutiny (again, more on that soon), it’s only consistent of me to want people to be exposed to that truth.
But what I’m getting at is both about motive and about thinking critically about the choice. So what is it for you, dear reader? Are you planning to attend church this Easter? If so, does your reason sound something like this: Well I dunno, guy; it’s just Easter, and church is just what we do on Easter. And then, spiral-cut honey ham time, baby.
First, don’t call me baby. Second, ok; but between bites of ham, chew on that Bible passage from above, the one about putting childish things behind you. The candy-filled baskets and egg hunts are something we outgrow, because we are now well advanced enough to recognize the bunny lore to be fiction, and therefore inappropriate for an adult to take seriously. If adults host their own adult egg hunt, it may be harmless fun, but we are honest with ourselves and admit it is silly, not serious, and not grounded in any reality. (With your own kids is a different matter, and has its own contentious points, which I won’t explore right now.)
So, then, when you to church one or two or three Sundays a year, do you feel silly, as though you’re going to a worship service honoring the Easter bunny? If so, why bother? What is it about the church part of the Easter trappings that still feels passable as a grown up?
Seriously, take some time this weekend, the last before the holiday, to try and make some headway on this. What’s different between the cute feel-goodery of 🐰🐣🥚 and the intrigue of ⛪️✝️👏🏼?
Is it that, perhaps, you just might think — somewhere in your mind or soul — that the things written in the Bible about Jesus of Nazareth, and spoken of in churches across the world on Easter Sunday, might be true? That Jesus just might be who he claimed to be?
If that’s the case, I also plan to write a story soon addressing the implications, which I would argue go much further than attending one springtime church service with your family/friends.
And if it’s not the case — if you don’t think there are good enough reasons to believe the Judeo-Christian narrative as laid out from Genesis to Revelation, more importantly the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection — perhaps you haven’t been looking in the right places. I’d love to help you do that, and I invite you to watch for my next story on that topic, on its way in the coming week. Stay tuned!
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