Overcoming Fear and Loathing: or Church-going for Church-haters

Church bashing AP photo

A lot of people, even well-meaning Christians, often ask: “I can help people. I can read scripture. I can commune with God in nature/with family/on my own. So, why do I need church?”

The institution of “Church” has taken a bum rap lately: not entirely undeserved, either. Many people associate the word church with the outward manifestations of dogma, false pretense, hypocrisy and mock compassion.

“I don’t need church. Church is full of hypocrites and bigots and holier-than-thou a**holes!”  And, in all honesty, there is definitely that factor found within the four walls of today’s many religious institutions. But are we hastening towards a “throwing the baby out with the bath water” scenario here? Isn’t the rush to judgment of church and those who attend it in itself a form of holier-than-thou hypocrisy?

Let me give you two reasons why I think we, most especially well-meaning Christians, need church.

One, we all have weak spots. Blind spots. Sinful tendencies. Triggers that send us hurtling down the road of unnecessary, unwanted, and oft times unintentional bad habits. The enticing scent of a fine liquor to an alcoholic. The wafting aroma of cigarette smoke to a reformed smoker. Tanned, tone legs and a bare midriff to a porn addict. We all have them. We can’t avoid them. Name your poison and I’ll name the trigger that sets you off.

How do you combat those? How do you step off the path of unintended consequence and inevitable guilt, shame and regret? What if there was a trusted friend you could call to walk and talk you through those moments? What if there was a group of people who’d “been there, done that” wherein you could draw from their experiences? And, maybe even add your own?

Where do you find such people?

Yeah, you guessed it.

You may have to look. You can’t just hurtle your deepest, darkest secrets into that void and see who it sticks to. Honestly, that’s the easiest way to find the false pretense and hypocrisy you’ve been jeering at. Yet if you seek first friendship, relationship, tear down those walls and build up that trust; we’re out there. And yes, I said “we”.

I’m one of you. I also happen to be one of “them”.

Which leads to the second reason: We, the few, the proud, the non-conformists who actually care about you, are always in search of more like-minded souls to pass it on and pay it forward. Both within and outside the walls of our particular religious institutions. You can’t change what you merely mock. You need to crawl inside. Get your hands dirty. Cleanse, not only the hypocrisy you see, but maybe your own hidden insecurities, habits, sins and guilts.

Just like we are.

None of us will get totally to perfection until the Big Guy comes. That’s not the point. The point is to do better. Better for yourself. Better for others. Better by others.

Can you do “church” by yourself? Of course. All I’m saying is you can do better.

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6 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear and Loathing: or Church-going for Church-haters”

  1. It will be hard to convince a non-church goer of this, but the real reason you should go is to participate in liturgy. Private worship is a good and necessary thing, but liturgical worship is the objective & communal worship of God. God commanded it in the Old Testament, he commands it in the New (do this in memory of me).

  2. Kent, you made some great points. For me, the most important reason I attend church is to take the sacramental bread and water and renew the covenants I have made to
    always remember Jesus Christ and to strive to follow His teachings. As I do so, I receive a promise in this covenant relationship with Him that I will always have His spirit to be with me. It is also a time to review how I’m doing in the repentance process. I need that weekly (and of course during the week as well) renewal of repentance and committing myself to doing better. I know HE knows it’s a life-long effort to truly follow Him and I know that each week I can be cleansed and begin again. As you mentioned, I also greatly benefit from being with great, striving, humble souls who love the Savior and who love me.

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