Archive for December, 2006

First day of school

I’m going to church tomorrow for the first time in quite a while, and like always when I’m about to go, I’m nervous. So I thought this was worth talking about. I’ve always felt this way about church, because I probably set foot in a church about five times when I was growing up. As an adult, every time I went to church, I had this same feeling, if more so than now. I was worried that I might overstep some boundary or not know some convention that made it obvious that I Was A Stranger Here. I’ve been a stranger in more ways than that, but for some reason church always really brought it out.

 I don’t know if that’s unusual, or if other people whose religious background is as vague as mine feel the same way. But the inclusiveness of churches is sometimes hard to see. Not that some don’t try, of course, but at some point you have to take the risk of being a stranger in order to become a friend, and maybe some people aren’t ready to take that risk. I am, or at least I will tomorrow.

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And the best religious bumper sticker I’ve seen lately is…

“Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you.”

Send me your best religious bumper stickers. Religion + fun = good times.

Some light pre-Christmas reading…

The thing I don’t like about guides to religion or books for the agnostic is that they usually end up being a history of religion in general, as if the point were an intellectual exercise in “what has gone before” and “where we are now.” Maybe that’s what appeals to agnostics, but I don’t think so – what we look for is the faith without the unintelligible dogma. Listen to me, talking about agnostics as though we had a club. Hmm. I wonder if we do.

Anyway, in the interest of giving myself something to think about for my first trip to church, I’m reading God: A Guide for the Perplexed. It ought to be marvelous, but unfortunately it reads a bit like a text on religion for intelligent eighth-graders. It’s not so much simplistic as it is chirpy and just shy of condescending, which is tragic because the author clearly has the same sort of confusion about religion that I do.

Unfortunately, too, my copy of the book, which I bought in some excitement a few weeks ago at a used book store, smells faintly of mold. This is rough on a book lover. Curse you, bookstore, and your interference with my spiritual development!

On a more positive note, the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of figuring out faith is Working on God. Fantastic, creative, thoughtful stuff.

Back story

Since I haven’t been to church yet, and I’m flying home for Christmas on Sunday so I won’t get there until next week, let’s fill the time by getting to know me a bit better, shall we? Don’t worry, this blog won’t be so relentlessly about me once I start getting to church. I won’t post my New Year’s resolutions or talk about what clever hijinks my soft, fluffy and very intelligent gray cat Birkenstock is up to.

In fact, let’s do this as an FAQ, because those are fun.

 

Q: Holly, are you an agnostic or an atheist?

A: This is the kind of false choice I get a lot when Christians find out that I’m not a Christian (especially when I’m sitting in a pew next to them at their church). Couldn’t I be a lapsed Catholic or an assimilated Jew or a member of a faith that they’ve never heard of? There are more options than that when someone has the religious sense but is not Christian.

 

I am not an atheist because I do, in fact, believe in God. I suppose “agnostic” is the best term for me, because I believe without believing that I understand what that means. My guess is that you could be a member of any faith and still have a little agnostic in you. I tend to think that all the religions have some glimpse of the divine that makes sense, but I do get a little irritated when people call me an agnostic, because often they don’t know the difference between an atheist and an agnostic. I once had a boss who relentlessly referred to me as an atheist, thereby managing to simultaneously offend me and demonstrate an embarrassing gap in her vocabulary.

 

Q: So do you dislike Christians?

A: Ouch! No way! I hope I don’t sound defensive here, but I don’t feel the need to be exactly like someone in order to like them. I like nice people and I steer clear of mean people. Other categories are not the criteria I use.

 

Q: Do you think you’ll ever be a Christian?

A: I guess that’s what this blog is all about – exploring the commonalities between Christians and non, seeing for myself what happens at different churches that I like and find appalling. And, of course, an ongoing dialogue with you, dear reader, in hopes that we can learn from each other and have some fun while we strike sparks off of each other. I don’t think any outcome is predictable when significant differences sit down at the table and chat each other up. That’s part of the fun!

 

Q: So are you hoping that people will comment on this blog and be part of the discussion?

A: Boy, that’s a setup question if I ever hear one! Of course I am! Fire away, folks. I’ll be bored out of my gourd if it’s just me talking to me about me here. 

 

Q: So what are you doing for Christmas?

A: I’ll be flying home (which is in Colorado, the state of my birth and the geography of my heart, even though I think I won’t live there again) on Christmas Eve, so pray for me and my luggage to arrive safely in the same city, preferably the one I bought a ticket for.

First thoughts

Welcome! I thought I’d start off with a bit about me. Yes, there’s already a page for that, but that’s the boring biographical stuff. This is to give you an idea of how big a grain of salt you should take with your daily dose of The Visitor’s Card.

 

I live in Minneapolis and I get myself to church about twice a year when some friend or other suggests it or when I get an itch to check some particular church out. It always gives me a lot to think about and then I don’t do it again for weeks or months. But I never stop doing it, because I do believe in something bigger than myself – or all of us, for that matter – and I know that something can sometimes be found at church. The difference for me is that I sometimes find it at the symphony, or out in the middle of the wilderness when I’m hiking.

 

So that’s what this blog will be about – where I find that something, how I find it, how I see others finding it, and even an attempt to understand why some people always insist that there’s only one way to find it. I hope you enjoy, and even more than that, I hope you’ll share what you think with me. That’s what the comments are for, people! A one-way conversation is a gigantic bore, and I won’t learn anything without some input from you.

 

For now, I think I’ll try to get to a different church about every two weeks, because I volunteer on Sundays at a nonprofit called the Women’s Prison Book Project. Check them out if you’ve got time. It’s a great all-volunteer organization and they’re doing a lot of good for the very kind of people Christ would probably have hung out with.