A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Frivolity of Worshiping While Others Suffer

I didn’t used to be this way.   I used to love liturgy.  I used to find church meditative and transcendent.  Now I find it boring and pointless.  What changed?  

I kept thinking maybe it was having children.  It is difficult to be meditative while refereeing a fight in the pews.   Or finding someone snacks, picking up dropped crayons, being used as a jungle gym and so on.  But my children are old enough now they occasionally behave quite well and I could find some moments of peace.  Instead I find myself experiencing increasing frustration.  

Maybe it comes down to life experiences.  When I experienced tragedy in my life, I discovered many words intended for comfort ring as shallow platitudes.  I also discovered life can hurt.  At the same time I was forced to recognize, as bad as things felt for me, many others experience much worse in life.  I needed church to address this pain, my own and that of those around the world.  If no one could make my pain go away, at least we could try to keep similar tragedies from striking, and work to reduce the amount of suffering in this world.  

At first, whenever worship addressed social justice or delivered the Good News God loves all people, it was enough or at least better than mindless platitudes and lists of ways we can be better Christians through evangelism.  As time has gone by, even good sermons and songs are not enough.  I want to do something.  I have become accustomed to my own grief but having experienced it I can’t stand the thought of the many who suffer so much worse.  I can’t stand the thought followers of Jesus do so little about it.  

I wonder if this is why, church, in even its most wonderful forms, is fading.  There is an increasing awareness of global humanity.  With facebook and the internet and the ease of world travel, we are becoming aware of our neighbors around the world in a deeper way.  Now it is not just about sad pictures of starving children.  Now we can read the words of some of those children.  Now we can hear directly from people suffering persecution.  Now the injustice of girls being unable to receive an education has a name: Malala.  Other issues have faces, names, and stories attached to them in a similar way.  

If the perceived impact of the joys and sorrows of life is restricted to you and your neighbors, then it makes sense for the church to be about comforting one another, providing a place and food for funerals, sharing life together.  Maybe sitting next to each other in worship provides enough of a sense of security knowing these neighbors will support you come what may and likewise you will support them.  

If our view of life broadens, then sitting in the pews hearing how much God loves us or  how we need to make sure others believe like we do seems frivolous.  Reciting the creeds seems like just another way of saying all those people around the world, people with lives and struggles and joys much like ours, can just go to hell if they don’t believe like we do.  Sharing the peace of the Lord with one another in the context of a country which spends billions on weapons to protect us against those same people seems discordant.  

I have done very little traveling and I live in the Midwestern United States.  And yet even someone as sheltered as I am can have some idea of the realities around the world.  Church which does not address these often painful realities seems pointless and irrelevant.  The scars on my heart will not allow for such frivolity in my faith.  And so the liturgy and worship I once loved seem empty to me.  

Perhaps others feel similarly.  How about you? 

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