I passed a corner on which there were two churches, both with large expanses of greenspace, and it hit me "Why aren't more churches running community gardens?" That got me to thinking about churches and how there are things I believe churches should be doing, and things I believe they should not be doing. Mind you, I was raised high church Episcopalian, but I have attended Baptist and ALC-LCA Lutheran and Unitarian churches. I went to VBS at Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ as well as my own church. I quit going to church more than 20 years ago. Why, you ask?
1. The move toward fundamentalism even in the Episcopalian and Lutheran churches I attended, combined with an emphasis on the conventional "man-woman -2+ children" family as the central focus and unstated Ideal church members. I actually had a non-working wife tell me I should teach VBS (I was supporting myself and attending graduate school full time) because "you don't have a husband and children to look after so you don't have so many demands on your time." Yeah, right, you self-centered oblivious twit! I also don't have a husband bringing home $80,000 a year, a maid to clean my house (not these aren't assumptions; these are things I knew about her), a brand new car under warranty, nor sufficent medical care to figure out why I'm so tired all the time and why my joints hurt so badly. I didn't say that, but I wanted to. What I said instead was, in the sweetest tone possible, Ï'll see if I can fit it in between my three jobs, my classes, studying, and cleaning my house, doing my laundry, getting in groceries, cooking, and mowing the grass." She looked puzzled. At the time, I thought she was puzzled as to why I was being difficult. In retrocpect, I think she was puzzled because she thought I was being dishonest about my workload. For the record, I team taught VBS and Sunday with a couple of other women.
In the church I grew up in, care of the elderly, disabled, widowed, orphaned and financially struggling was part of every parishioners life. Now the approach seems to be to preach "prosperity through Jesus." Translation: you aren't praying hard enough or Jesus would fix your problems. PFAH!
In church I grew up in, the parish hall might serve as a poling place, and parishioners might serve coffee and cake to voters, or watch their children whiel they voted, but never did our priest or deacons tell us who to vote for nor try to enlist us in a movement to desich social policies nor change laws. If we did that, it was on our own. Church was for our spiritual health, politics was for the health of the American Way, and never did the two mix. We did not proselytize our beliefs through church pressure on politicians nor social movements to influence and control the beliefs and behaviors of others. Oddly, I grew up believing in a God that could forgive ANY sin and that it was not MY place to judge other'people's sins.
In 1969, I regularly sat around people in the Baptist Church I was attending listening to them discuss where to eat out for lunch after church and liberally sprinkle their commentaries with the N-word and the S-word -- you know the one for Hispanics that rhymes with "Hispanic" but is several letters shorter. So much for that second greatest commandment of loving thy neighbor as thyself -- or maybe it depended on how wide you considered your neighborhood to be. Even then there was a Black community not more than a mile or two from my house, and maybe three miles from the church, from which came the black janitors in our schools, ordlerlies in the local hospital, bus drivers, garbagemen, service station attendants, and yes, the butter and egg man who came to our door twice a week.
I grew up in a different world. The main thing that has changed are the things I didn't want to change -- people are less loving toward one another, and the main thing that hasn't changed is that people are still trying to teoll other people how to live. My ideal church would teach only love.
It would less concerned about fancy facilities and congregation size and providing a fancy house and car for the minister than in providing support in times of tragedy, sustenance for the poor and troubled. It would be less concerned with whether it was "the only way to heaven" than in teaching people how to love unconditionally, including loving themselves. It would recognize that there probably isn't a single, solitary person in the US today who hasn't been introduced to the word of God and Jesus Christ. It would be less concerned about running a school designed to indoctrinate children into that religion and its dogma than in running one which enabled children to thrive academically and contribute to society