Monday, March 14, 2005

It's All Too Much

Sister went to church with me yesterday. She's 18 years old with a serious 'tude, but loads of fun to be with if you catch her in a good mood. She makes me laugh harder than anyone I know. Anyway, she's a Christian but she doesn't like church; it bores her to death. I told her that the one I go to is very modern: they play clips from t.v. shows and movies when they pertain to the message, they have awesome multimedia presentations, and they mail first- and second-time guests free Starbucks and Blockbuster cards. I go to the 7:00 p.m. service, and it's all people in their 20's. Mostly college students. Last, but not least, it's only an hour. So she agreed to try it out. After the service, someone told her he liked her new cross tattoo, so she was happy, although I'm pretty sure she didn't get it for religious reasons. She had originally planned on getting a frog.

The service was pretty good. The pastor preached his message in jeans, as usual (casual church, folks), and it was a good message. The thing that got me, though, was the songs they chose to sing. What in the world has happened to worship music? Was it always like this, and I just never noticed? One song referred to unbelievers as "the perishing" and contrasted it with "but to us who are being saved." The next one actually had a line that said "We all deserve to die" while singing about God's mercy. The words We All Deserve To Die flashed on the screen and people are singing and clapping. I looked at Sister with knit eyebrows. "I don't like these lyrics," I said. "Why, what did they say? I wasn't listening," she said. She hates when you have to sing in church.

After the service, we saw Free Spirit. He was so late that he missed the entire thing, except he was lucky enough to come in for the last song and hear the uplifting lyrics. When we left the building, he was like, "What was up with that song? We all deserve to die?"

We then met up with Fellow Seeker, whose Episcopalian church service runs from 7:00-8:00, just like ours. We all went and had coffee together. When we told him about it, he started cracking up. He knows the non-denom church scene. He knows how it is.

So this got me thinking: if you read the Bible, lyrics like these are not all that far-fetched. The "perishing" part came straight out of there (1 Corinthians 1:18). The other part - well, that's all over. Here's my point: Me having a problem with this is either a humility vs. pride issue, or religion promotes self-hatred. Think about it. This is either a problem with me or a problem with it/them/whatever. If we really are so wretched that we deserve to die, we deserve hell, etc. then I should humble myself to the point where I can fully accept that and sing those songs without reservation. That seems very hard to do. One wonders, however, if religion is not so much promoting self-hatred as explaining self-hatred. Perhaps since we all do wrong things and feel guilty about them, the Bible is explaining why we do them and what we can do about it. I guess that makes sense.

I'm still put off by those songs, though. It's things like this that keep me from believing I'll ever be into church the way I used to.

Aside from that, Sister actually enjoyed it. If any of it would have offended her, she probably daydreamed through it. After the service, I introduced her to Group Leader, who said that she should come to the group sometime. I told her Sister doesn't do the reading thing (she thinks I'm a big loser because I always have my nose in a book) and G.L. said it doesn't matter because she and I are the only ones who read the book anyway. Good point.


A. Estella Sassypants said...

I've heard lyrics like that, too, and it still weirds me out a bit. I like your explanation of explaining self-hatred.

Sarah said...

I love your explanation of self-hatred. The abject humility these songs and the Bible seem to require does appear hard to do- or to even want to do. But the saving grace of the lyric (for me, anyway) is the "all"- we all deserve to die. No matter where you think you are in the spiritual hierarchy, or how good a Christian you are, you still need to be saved by grace like everyone else. I think that these lyrics are there to explain our own self-hatred and remind us that we're united to another in a weird way through God's grace.

sojourness said...

That's true, Sarah. The thing that saves me from viewing myself as proud in a disgusting way is the fact that I feel the need to stick up for all of us collectively. For example, it's not, I'm not so bad as to refer to myself in this manner, but rather, Is humanity so bad as to refer to ourselves in this manner? I'm not glossing over our evils, but... I don't know. I guess if you follow the collective reasoning then the evil may outweigh the good. If that's the case, then no matter how good you are, you are still bearing the sins of everyone else on your shoulders. So what's the point in being good? To subtract from the universal sum?