Monday, September 18, 2006

Everybody knows what's best for you

As a follow-up to my previous post on faith and organized religion, the topic has reared its head again in my head. I still do not label myself as a follower of a certain kind of beliefs. I'm spiritual and hopeful, but I'm easily deterred by negativity. What's been annoying me in the last few weeks and months is the certain ways that people try and force their religious beliefs down people's throats, even if it's by walking on eggshells.

Being reminded of a show we played a few months ago, I think about what one of the other bands on the bill said during their set. I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of, "I just wanted to let you know that Christ is in our lives. We don't want to call ourselves Christians because a lot of people these days have made it a bad word. If you want to talk to us about it, we'll be around after we play."

I've never understood this approach. This "we'll be around after the show if you want to talk with us" approach sounds suspect rather than open and friendly. No matter how light the tone of voice, there's a sense of encouragement/forcing a possible conversation/debate. More often than not, I see it as a trap for slippery slopes and Bible verses. That's not the kind of conversation I'm interested in having. I have my ideas and beliefs and that's that. Those kinds of conversations are gonna happen anyway and you can't really force them to happen.

I know there's this attitude to go into the world and share/preach your religious beliefs. The more conversions that happen, the better. This doesn't work for me. If I felt like I should go to a regular church service, then I'll go. I don't need someone forcing me to go. If some stranger were to stop me in the grocery store and tell me that my soul needs some cleaning work, I would get pissed. This kind of confrontation does way more harm than good. There are a lot of great ideas in religion, but man had to come along and faction everything off with beliefs.

Why am I so adverse to this stuff? Well, over the years, I've seen certain sectors of organized religion plummet to ridiculous depths to try and appeal to more people in the modern sense. I think of this as a Botox-ed version of Christianity. I'm talking rock bands playing in sanctuaries, congregations dressed in play clothes during services and high-tech gadgets, like big-screen TVs, everywhere. It's as if the presentation is way more important than the ideas being discussed.

On top of this, I see people try to live a life without the secular matters of the world, especially in music. According to this view, it's not spiritually safe to listen to Cyndi Lauper's version of "Time After Time," but Spoken's cover of the song makes it safe? Having a group made up of outward Christians makes the song's meaning now pure and cleansed? How brainwashed do you have to be in life to be fine with this?

I see this way of life is like believing that Sam's Choice Cola is the only soda pop around. Forget Coca-Cola and Pepsi; those represent the secular version of soda. Because someone else told these people that Sam's Choice was pure, it's OK to drink it. Sorry, but that kind of factioning off of life is something I can't sink my teeth into. This sculpting of a mutated form of the Christian brand is not going to make me go back to church. If anything, it makes me stay far away from regular church services.

I don't have problems with weddings or funerals, but regular church services do not serve me well and haven't served me well in almost ten years. I've developed my own worldview through spirituality, faith and philosophy through various trains of thought. For the most part, this works very well for me. Is this view of life worth gathering for two hours every Sunday at a church? No. I feel that my views have to work in the everyday world outside of a church service. I've seen one-too-many people act like everything is peachy in church when their lives outside of church are really bad. That's just not me.

The stories, morals, ideas and lessons in the Bible are, for the most part, timeless. So seeing how commodified the selling of Christianity has become, I get even more turned off from that world. A stained-glass window of John the Baptist in an old church is still beautiful while an action figure of Jesus is tacky. This is marketing for the short-term -- the long-term is not even being thought about. There might be points in reaching out and converting more people with this approach, but it's just more ammo for reasons to stay away.

Like I said in my previous post, just because you brand yourself as a Christian doesn't mean that you're free from everyday problems. Putting a What Would Jesus Do? bumper sticker on your car doesn't make you a safe driver. Going to church on a regular basis and reading the Bible everyday doesn't make you free from divorce, drug abuse or cancer. And the branding definitely doesn't make it OK if you're a jerk to people. So if someone were to force a conversation onto me about how Christ has affected his or her life, I can't say that I really want to get into it.


jen said...

i was listening to "time after time" (the cyndi lauper version) when i read this. not that it's really worthy of making a comment, but i am anyway.

Treblephone said...

From someone who graduated from Baylor, and as a result was pretty much turned off on organized religion forever......

Great job, couldn't have put it any more eloquently myself!