I’ve been a little slow to get to my May/June issue of Outreach, but I finally did and I’m digging “Church Cancelled, Service Begins.” This is hand in hand with what I’ve been reading about the Axial Age in Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation.
If you haven’t read it, the article talks about churches that are going out to serve communities instead of staying in church on Sunday mornings. A picture shows a church member with a T-shirt that says, “Don’t GO to church. BE the church.” Rock on! This is where I can get down with almost any religion – when it focuses on doing good instead of believing the same things. I get the role of doctrine in uniting a community, but religion is best when it prompts people to be practically good, not just internally consistent. And that’s what the whole Axial Age was about – spiritual thinkers who came up with new and compelling ways for people to be religious by living right and doing good, not just by observing certain rituals or reciting certain stories.
To me, action is where it’s at. I’ve loved my occasional Sundays at the Women’s Prison Book Project (which I’ve mentioned before) because I can feel the simple good of using my hands to do something to benefit someone else’s life. I’ll never know, of course; the books go to the prisons and maybe it never makes a difference. But maybe some woman will read the career guide or the GED guide or even a history that I help send to her, and maybe that will make all the difference in how she sees her life after prison. I don’t have to see the results to like imagining that someone’s life might improve because of some action I take.
Maybe the religions would get along better if they focused on doing good rather than on everybody agreeing. Maybe everybody would. A girl can dream, anyway.