Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Coming Apart: Two for One Churches

So, a few weeks ago, we dropped my sister off at college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For those of you not from Tulsa, you should know a few things.
1. There is a QuikTrip (the cool kids call it QT) at every intersection.
2. The three remaining corners in the intersection will have at least one of the following:
  • A church
  • An Indian* Smoke Shop
  • A place to buy fried food with ranch dressing 
Since we know a bunch of people in Tulsa, when Sunday morning rolled around, it became imperative that we visit not one, but TWO churches.

That's right kids. Two churches. One Sunday. Oh yeah.

Do I look like a hallelujah?
The first one was an 8:00 service at my uncle's church. I know that 8:00 sounds like a reasonable time to begin something, but when six people are sharing a bathroom, you have to get up early to get ready on time. I mean, really early. In fact, my mom said she was pretty sure that Jesus was still in his robe and slippers. (This is the part of the show where I insist that it was my mom who said that, and that I would never ever make a joke with such bad theology ... unless I had thought of it first, of course.)

Not the Holy Spirit made visible ...
Since my grandma goes to that church, and my uncle preaches there, we were sitting in the second row (which for all practical purposes was the first row, because the first row was empty). Somewhere around the second hymn, I got a terrible sneezing attack. Sometimes (typically at socially inappropriate moments), my nasal lining just freaks out and won't stop sneezing. This was one of those times. My mom handed me gum. The sweet old lady behind me handed me a bunch of tissues. I tried to keep it together. I mostly just sneezed in front of the entire 8:00 AM congregation. Sneezing aside, it was the last Sunday for their music minister, and it was a really nice service. We took communion, we saw family friends, and I finally stopped sneezing. All in all, a success.

After church 1, we went to church 2! Here, we enjoyed a fellowship breakfast before the service, and my nose decided to not freak out, thankfully. We saw people from our missions trip to Honduras earlier this summer, and saw more family friends, and we took communion again.** Again, an overall success.

Not Me. Really. 
Now, granted. I don't usually go to two churches on one Sunday. But I always go to church.

I'm not saying this to be some sort of "holier than thou" uppity snob. Instead, I'm trying to explain that for as long as I can remember, church has been part of the rhythm of my life. Not only is church a big part of my schedule, but Jesus is a big part of my life. My best friends have come from church. My most difficult intellectual problems have been theological. Most of my decisions stem from my relationship with Jesus.

And it turns out that that's really important in a free society.

As Charles Murray points out in Coming Apart, a free society doesn't really work without what he calls "religiosity," and what I'm going to bluntly call Christianity. In order for people to operate largely without government intrusion, sure, they need to be industrious, they need to get married, and they need to be honest. But most importantly, they need Christianity.

Youth group - where 12-passenger vans live on
Christianity (or, in Murray's book, religiosity at large) provides people with a moral compass. Additionally, church provides a social glue—a foundation upon which to build a community. Church in the West has been there for the weddings and births and deaths and picnics and youth group trips and homeless outreaches and a hundred other things. It provides a social gathering, a place to form deep relationships, and a hub from which to serve others. Church is important.

Even for those only nominally committed, church has huge benefits to society as a whole. It makes people more trusting of their neighbors, which encourages actual neighborly behavior. (It turns out when people hear about the Good Samaritan, they're more likely to be one ... and more likely to trust someone else to be one, too.)

When you put it like that ...
As we close our discussion of Coming Apart, I have a small public service announcement. Murray explains that one of the downfalls of our society in the last 50 years has been that the upper-middle class knows how to live successfully, but they've quit sharing those strategies (industriousness, marriage, honesty, religiosity) with others. They've become ashamed of having the right answers. So if I've sounded bossy or like I have all the right answers, I'm sorry. But you knew that this was a snarky blog, so hopefully your feelings will recover eventually ...

If we want to be a free people, a people committed to industriousness, marriage, and honesty, then we need to be a religious people. That doesn't mean going to two churches every Sunday. But it means going to church. Even if it makes you sneeze.

I went to two church services in:
White and purple medallion patterned sheath dress, purple pendant necklace, green crocheted earrings, black wooden bracelet, and green stilettos with cork platforms.

*It's never a "Native American Smokeshop." It's an "Indian Smoke Shop." I don't make the rules ...
** I'm non-denominationally protestant, so this was a lot more communion than I get on an average Sunday.

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