I received an invitation to a church in my mailbox. Like Apple used to make computers “for the rest of us,” this is a church “for the rest of us.” This church is trying really hard to be cool, regular folks like you and me. It’s for people who don’t like the “church-people vibe.” The mailing says that the only thing they will ask of us is to relax. They won’t ask us to dress up. They don’t pretend to have all the answers. The pastors featured in videos on the church website are casually dressed, earnest and self-effacing young guys with closely cropped beards.
The literature I received was pretty dang vague on what exactly they do believe. Though they don’t have all the answers, I wanted to find out what answers they do have, or at least what they believe. Though I examined the website, I never discovered whether they believe in eternal hell torture, and I didn’t learn their stance on gay marriage, gay pastors, and the like. It isn’t clear if women can be pastors. Nor did I learn how they feel about a woman’s right to control her own body and make choices about reproduction, including abortion.
I mention these issues because some of the large, youthful-looking churches are often distressingly backward when it comes to equality and fair treatment of women and LGBT people . Those churches may be growing in numbers now, but in the end they’ll find themselves on the wrong side of history and human dignity. They’ll either change their ways or fade away.
Anyway, this particular church has the traditional core beliefs of many Jesus religions, which to me are kind of bizarre and alien. They believe in a three-part, father-son-holy-spirit being. They believe that disease and misery exist because humans chose to disobey the invisible god being. So take that, children who are born with crippling diseases and other innocent sufferers — god will let you be tortured because of what your predecessors did and what your contemporaries are doing. Welcome to his world. You get free will, but if you don’t choose to obey and worship the alleged creator-deity as described by someone’s interpretation of ancient writings, mass suffering results. For this church, you need to believe that a guy named Jesus really existed, believe in “sin,” and believe in sin payment by the Jesus god-man section of the three-part deity. The more you get into it, the more unlikely it gets. [Since originally writing this entry, the church’s website has either moved or removed the statements about why people suffer, but I’m assuming the beliefs are the same as before.]
Okay, it’s no more or less absurd than Scientology or most other religious stories, but no thanks. Relaxing and dressing casually and avoiding a church-people vibe is fine for people who believe this stuff. The website has three different pages devoted to giving money to the church. They call giving money to the church the “Generosity Challenge,” and “Now is the time to take God up on the challenge!” It’s worded to sound like it’s not them asking for money, it’s God, and giving money to them is “honoring God with your finances.” Neat.
All right, I’m a little hard on these people when they appear in my mailbox, but they could be good neighbors, co-workers, and friends. We have some differences of belief and opinion. If they oppose equality for women and gays, we’d have to work a little harder to find comity, but it could be done.