Non-Denomination. How the church and its people could do better with a softer approach to membership.

October 9, 2008

When you walk into a church, or any house of worship, do you anticipate getting the hard sell from the minister, priest, rabbi or other religious representative?

While sitting in the pew at my uncle’s funeral this week, I was pleased by the number of friends and family in the church. I was moved by the music and the heartfelt readings from Danny’s sailing friend and the one from his brother.

Then came the little story from the priest that snapped me out of my mourning for a favorite uncle and back into my cynical, sarcastic ranting writer role.

The priest was probably well-meaning in his shared tale of how a mother found a great way to explain death to her dying child. But just as the car salesman you meet at a party or the insurance salesman who corners you at a class reunion, the priest slid into shaming those of us who might not share his beliefs.

In fact, he didn’t just try to shame us, he outright said he pitied us if we didn’t believe the way he did about Christianity.

Want an exact quote? Here…

“…and for your sake, I hope you believe in Christ the way I do.”

Where’s the need for a lecture during a memorial service? Why even try to boost membership at a time like that?

He had to realize when only about 37% of the audience got up to take communion that he was dealing with a group that wasn’t buying the glory he was selling.

It’s akin to just shouting over my uncle’s body, “He’s lucky he came back to the lord at the end. Otherwise he’d be taking an eternal dirt nap in the fire and brimstone. Don’t you make that mistake, either.”

Perhaps the emotion of watching a friend bury his father last week and me losing my uncle this week has shorted out my compassion for idiots who don’t know where to draw the line.

And that’s probably the defining characteristic that keeps many from joining the church in the first place. If a group of people who are supposed to be compassionate, empathetic and emotionally healing can’t keep their sales pitch out of a simple funeral service, how hard are they going to hit me if I show up for a regular mass. Or if I wander into the confessional to share my arbitrary sins?

Nope, organized religion doesn’t work too well for me when the employees continue to focus on the hocus-pocus instead of the living, breathing and even dying people who come through their doors.

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