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Maybe Finding Faith After a Lifetime Without Church?
I was raised by atheists. In my entire childhood, we never once attended church as a family. Which was something, considering this was small-town, Bible-Belt Georgia in the 1970s and everyone went to church.
Every Sunday was another weekend day of fun and games. Usually, we’d have a big breakfast and watch the 10:35 a.m. movie on TBS, which was usually John Wayne or, maybe, Mr. Roberts or something like that. I’d usually snuggle with Mom for a bit, move to sit by Dad for a bit. Somewhere in the movie, my sister would wander off to her room and do whatever it is she did.
I’d go play for a while, we’d have lunch on our own and — a rarity — supper on our own. Every other day, we’d eat as a family, but Sunday, we’d usually have soup that Mom would make and leave simmering on the stove or in the slow cooker. I loved those family moments.
So, yes, I was raised by atheists, I never had hours of my Sunday taken up by Sunday school, church service, post-church meetings, Sunday Lunch and I wouldn’t trade any moment I had with my family for any religion at that point in my life.
I did go to private school (thanks largely because my parents wanted my sister and I in the same school and she needed the extra care private schools gave) and in those private schools in small-town Georgia, there were chapel services, so I heard a lot of sermons. I even had to memorize Psalm 121 for one of the schools. I can still recite it, mostly, in the King James Version nearly 40 years later.
But I never could “get” God or Jesus and I couldn’t believe in Heaven; it didn’t make sense.
Every once in a while as an adult, I’d try a church service. One time, just before I left Chicago and before Covid came, I tried a Methodist church (it lasted about a month) and then a Lutheran Church (about three weeks). It just never really took. When I’d go, and I’d have to stand and would be asked to sing along, my legs would lock and feel very heavy. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Almost painful.
I did enjoy the PBS series on Catholicism and would watch a lot from Father Barron on YouTube. But, again, it never really took.
But at some point during the pandemic, I started watching the sermons of this little non-denominational church and something did click. I think it was that, for the first time, I heard a preacher challenging the congregation.
Most of the other experiences with church seemed to be “You’re OK just the way you are. You’re perfect as you are.” … and I couldn’t accept that. I know I have major flaws. I’ve given many people in my life good reason to not want to continue our friendship.
But this preacher talked about sloth not being just laying around being lazy, but also of it being very active, but not including God in your life. And the one that really stuck — and still resonates with me today and hopefully forever — is that we are all deeply flawed. We are all deeply flawed, but we are all deeply loved by God.
Now, for what would be the third week in a row, I’ll be attending church. The singing portion of the church still makes me very uncomfortable. I still can’t quite believe in heaven. And I, so far, have left after the service instead of hanging around. But it quietly has become something that I have in my weekend plans.
Maybe this time, I’ll stick around after the service and have coffee, maybe I won’t. But I believe that will happen someday, just like I intend to start doing some kind of small, limited volunteer work. And maybe after 51 years without a church, maybe I’ve found one.Published in General
Yes, I was just meaning that the though I stop at stoplights, even though no one’s coming, because it’s the law. No one knows why the universe acts that way it does.
Bill, I first read this sermon on Ricochet years ago. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember who the poster was!) Anyway, I hope you will enjoy reading it as I did.
The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.
Ha… I didn’t watch the clip you posted but my wife and I were just listening to the full episode with Joe and Matt Fradd this morning on the way to work and when I read the OP I was thinking about some of their exchange.
Enjoyed the post, @BillJackson.
The problem with a lot of evangelization (especially Catholic evangelization), is that it wants to talk about salvation without first talking about sin. The post-Vatican II Catholic Church has consciously tried to move away from the supposedly “guilt-ridden” Catholic Church of pre-Vatican II days. This was under the mistaken idea that the Church would get a better hearing among the culture at large with a more, shall we say, friendly approach. Unfortunately what happened is that the culture became more comfortable with the Church, but only because the Church conformed itself to the culture, not the other way around. In the process, the Church lost a lot of members (like me), who grew up in the “Jesus is your non-judgmental friend” 1970’s and decided that Jesus might be a cool guy, but I had no particular need to know him or waste my Sundays in Church.
It was only years later when I had independently developed a consciousness of sin that I began to reconsider the Gospel, and realize that I had never understood it. I eventually found my way back to the Catholic Church, for reasons I won’t go into here.
The point is that the consciousness of sin – which you express in the quote above – can be interpreted as an act of the Holy Spirit working in you. God’s grace isn’t always pleasant to experience or tells us what we want to hear. God tells us what we need to hear, pleasant or not. It’s then up to us whether we respond to that grace by facing the truth about ourselves and doing something about it. Which you have by responding to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum
That sort of sounds like basing blackmail on the unprovable. I’d rather not waste my energy on myths and mysteries masquerading as profundities.
I hope you do! It is not a conceit as I mean power in the sense of legal, temporal, enforcement. Believe what you want of the afterlife.
His way is the rub. Perhaps John Smith had the best idea. He was a prophet and God advised him directly, unless he was a grifter and a pervert. You decide.
Myths are profundities- they convey truth. But God isn’t a myth- he is the Truth.
“what flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality” because myth gives us an experience of “being caught up in the real.” Myth “acts on our imagination like an experience” rather than a proposition, and it may get us closer to reality itself C S Lewis
God doesn’t talk to us in abstractions but concretely in a person
Which book or whatever is that from?
IIRC God in the Dock
I’ve read that, back in the mid 70s, but could have forgotten that was in it.
For what it’s worth, a sermon recently reminded me that the earliest disciples of Jesus were asked only to “come and see.” Then they became followers and learners, and then (often much later) became “believers.” Belief is not a prerequisite to checking out what the church has to say.