Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reason Number 15

Do I think everyone should worship God regularly, i.e., at least weekly, with a group of unrelated people who come together for this express purpose?  Of course I do, just like my dental hygienist thinks everyone should floss every day and the local nutritionist thinks that everyone should eat healthy, not junk, food and the teacher of Russian literature thinks that everyone should read War and Peace, and the exercise guru thinks everyone should be walking 10,000 steps a day.  Each of these experts has good reasons for these mandates and also knows that many won't do these things, as helpful and important as they are.

But the mandate that seems to bring both the most guilt and the most creative reasons for NOT fulfilling it is the one about worshiping regularly, commonly spoken of as "going to church."

One morning recently, I found myself thinking of all the reasons I've heard, and used myself, over the years for not engaging in that important life discipline.  I decided to list them.  Within moments, I had written sixteen reasons for lack of church attendance.  Only one of them seemed reasonable, honest and legitimate.  The rest  . . . well, I've decided I'm going to write about them for the next 15 weeks.  While each excuse is different, there is this one commonality:  they all blame someone else for not being there.  It's never, ever our own fault.

So here we go.  Excuse Number 15:  "The church is full of snobs who are judging me."

First, let's look at the truth of this statement.  People do judge others and often for good reasons.  We observe and make snap decisions about those we see, and often name those people "unacceptable" or "unsafe" by means of those decisions.  This is human nature:  we leap these decisions because the need to do so is built into us for the sake of survival.  When meeting a stranger, our evolutionary response is, "Is this person friend or foe?"  So, let's not be too judgmental about the need to judge others.  It is a survival mechanism.  People without the capacity to be discerning about others live in real peril.  Not everyone is good. Not everyone can be trusted.  We need to be able to tell the difference, and there is not always time to thoroughly check out the other before making a decision about the next step.

However, many have heard the command from Jesus, "Judge not, lest you be judged."  Jesus speaks here of the kind of judgment that makes decisions only God gets to make.  This type of judgment condemns people to eternal separation from all that is good and holy--and no human being rightly holds that power.  Such judgment is in God's hands, and God's hands only.  

So, to get back to the excuse of the week:  what is really happening when someone says, "Church people are judging me," is that the speaker himself or herself is busy judging others, finding them unacceptable, and assumes that others are doing that in return.  In psychological language, this is called "projection."  We project upon others our own internal life and thoughts and assume such thoughts are also theirs. 

The more important question: "Why am I so sure that they are snobs and are judging me?  Could it be that I myself am a snob and am judging them?"  Remember, when making the assumption that they are guilty of such spiritual snobbery and ungraciousness, we have very much judged them and found them unacceptable.  So we have done to them the very thing you say we hate:  we ourselves are guilty of spiritual snobbery and ungraciousness, and then we wrap ourselves in a comfortable blanket of self-deception.

Excuse number 15 holds no water.  Attend worship.  Confess your sins.  Put down your judgments upon others and be incredibly surprised at how warmly you are welcomed. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I may have skipped out on church a few times due to fear of strangers, but I've never worried about being judged. I do know of a man who doesn't go all the time, because he thinks all the members have more money than he does, therefore he is inferior. He thinks they must surely look down on him and that he doesn't belong there.

He's putting words in their mouths and thoughts in their heads before they even get a chance to say good morning. The one who is being the most judged is this man, though not by the means of the other church members. He is making himself miserable because he is judging himself.