~ At coffee yesterday I ran into a girl who used to work at one of the coffee shops I frequent. Last time I saw her (a couple years ago) she was something of a bible thumper; she went to two bible studies a week, a woman’s group every other Monday, and never missed midweek or Sunday services.
However, the young woman who stopped by my table to say hello yesterday was not quite the same woman. She was with three guys, and all of them were flirting with her big time. When I asked her about church life she frowned, “That’s not really my thing anymore Kenneth. I’m thirty now, I gave away some of the best years of my life doing the whole church thing, and what did I get out of it? Nothing but lonely nights and endless bible studies” she said
We chatted for a few minutes longer but her guy friends wanted to get to the bar, and soon they were leaving. As they started toward the door she leaned over and whispered, “Giving up church for sex was one of the best choices I’ve ever made”.
As we draw closer to Easter, this Lenten season and the conversation with my barista friend have given me a lot to ponder. I guess you could say the young woman has given up “church” for Lent, and the older I get, the more people I meet who give up on church altogether.
I was recently studying the poems of Rumi, an ancient poet and philosopher from Persia. He was the kind of guy who believed religion messes everything up. While theologians and religious folk will say that religion exists to help us remember what is beautiful; Rumi would probably say that more often than not, religion prevents us from seeing what is truly beautiful.
For many people, the payoff for being a religious devotee is just not worth it; giving up casual sex, or nights of drinking and revelry, for early morning prayer and meditation seems like a stuffy and boring life. For others, their problem with religion is the men (and women) who prey on the weak and lonely, and exploit them for their money and devotion.
It’s difficult not to look around and wonder where God is in the midst of all the nonsense that exists. Senseless murder and war. Millions of people who die in meaningless automobile accidents, malnutrition, or disease. Generations of unwanted children, many of them aborted by their mothers before childbirth, many others simply ignored by their fathers for their entire lives.
For the young woman I saw at coffee, giving up on Christianity was somewhat of a way out; it can be rather burdensome to constantly be thinking deep thoughts about life and death. Giving up Church for sex is a much easier life on many different levels. However, perhaps the problem is that religion exerts too much effort in telling people what not to do. Isn’t that really what the young woman and so many other young adults get tired of; endless prohibitions?
In psychology we are told, “Rules without relationship results in rebellion”. The idea is that endless rules simply frustrate children. If you don’t cultivate relationships with children and young adults, all you will end up doing is pushing them away. And sometimes, in order to maintain relationships, you have to set aside the rules. True love isn’t force feeding rules down the throats of others. It is about learning to accept them no matter what, learning to be there for others no matter what behavioral choices they make in life.
Religion for thousands of years has been a barrier to peace; instead of breaking down the walls that divide us, religion has erected massive stone walls that are often impenetrable when it comes to peace. Sunday morning is said to be the most segregated time of the week; racial divisions, income divisions, and every other ethnic or demographic division is all the more worse on Sunday morning. While religion should exist to help bridge the chasms that divide us, too often religion does nothing more than increase them.
I suspect the young woman I saw at coffee is not the only person who has given up church for sex.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society