Goin’ to Church

Today, at approximately 10:05 am EST I went to church for the first time in 10ish years. You may be wondering why I decided to go to church today. Or, maybe you aren’t wondering that. I can’t read your damn mind… but assuming you are wondering about that helps my blog post flow more smoothly.

So, to answer that query that you may or may not have (Schroedinger’s Query)… I don’t really have a solid, single answer. It is a combination of at least three things:

  1. I’ve been interested in attending a Unitarian Universalist service for a while but was overly anxious about it.
  2. My therapist is encouraging me to branch out and therapy is working. Sidebar: I actually had several “fuck yeah! this is working” moments this week. Go me!!!
  3. It is increasingly clear that I am not a magical social magnet that will draw in like-minded people simply by existing. Apparently, when you move to a new city in your 30’s and work from home it is really hard to meet people, especially if haven’t mixed your genes with someone else. You gotta be proactive.

Some mixture of all that came to a head this morning and I decided to attend the church service. And, you know what? I’m glad I did. The Unitarians seem like a really good fit for me, mostly because they seem to be focused solely on spreading love and defending the vulnerable. I know most Christian churches pay lip-service to the teachings of Christ but in my experience that is rarely the case.

To be fair, my experience is basically the churches I attended until I was about 20 years old, my parents and their friends, and the public Christian representatives. I don’t really recall anything that I’d call hate being preached from the pulpit but the love being preached was shallow when you start talking to the congregation. They may love Christ, but they are quick to support closed borders and government policies that lock up people for being poor, sick, or sinners.

It has been many years and my memory is likely biased, actually, scratch that, my memory is biased as fuck but it is what I have. Anway, looking back I don’t recall a lot of real following of Christ’s principles in a concrete sense.

For example, in Matthew we read that the King has prepared a kingdom for those that helped those that were hungry or thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing those in need, looked after the sick, and visited those in prison. I can’t recall seeing ANY of that in the church I attended.

Did my church go to prisons? Nope. But they certainly encouraged policies to grow the prison population. As if most of the main characters in the New Testament didn’t spend considerable time in prison unjustly, many dying in it… <sarcasm> But I guess our government doesn’t make mistakes or put people in prison for bad reasons </sarcasm>

Did my church provide food, clothes, or water for those in need? Maybe once or twice, but it certainly wasn’t something done regularly.

Did my church invite in strangers? SURE! As long as they were American, because I guess in their Bible Jesus was all about closing off borders and letting refugees die (many of whom are Christian). It makes me wonder if Christians in America were persecuted, killed, or just lived in such terrible conditions that they were watching their children die who would they turn to for support? I imagine they wouldn’t go to the Christians in Mexico because that would be pretty hypocritical.

Did my church work to provide a home for orphans? Nope. But they certainly had a lot of people who had many, many, many kids. While there are nearly half a million kids in the foster care system the churchgoers I saw neglected them because they felt their own damn genes were too important. Yep, that is selfish as hell.

The closest thing that I can remember that was focused on helping others was the annual youth group trip to Mexico to build a church or school or homes. But, the more I think about it that really wasn’t about helping the poor. If it was about helping the poor we would have been spending all those considerable resources to provide shelter for the homeless in Portland, feed the hungry, or foster/adopt children.

The annual Mexico trip was actually for the students, not to serve those in need. It was a selfish trip meant to provide an experience for the members of the youth group. The people being “helped” were really just being used. Yes, they got help, but that was secondary to providing a week of learning, study, bonding, sunburns, whatever for a bunch of teenagers.

I saw a lot of money spent on buildings and sound systems and helping those within the church, but I certainly didn’t see much happening with those resources to help those in need outside the church.

Whew… that was a lot longer rant than I expected it to be. But I guess you get where I was coming from when I entered the Unitarian Church today.

Church today was pretty great for me. The format was familiar but the message wasn’t something that I had really heard in a church before. The hymns and messages were about proactive peace, tolerance, and love. They called for justice. It was a message of action. I actually cried at one point during the Pastoral Prayer. I felt welcome, loved, and home.

It was nice and I look forward to going back next week.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

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