May of us have been around church long enough that we know how to act, what to say, what to wear and what to do / not do.
Here's a blog entry that sums up a lot of feelings and experiences of people who show up to church for the first time.
Have you felt any of them?
On my vacation I met with many people who have left the church. They are people I know and love. So from the start I want to say that these are generalizations. I do realize others might have more positive things to say. But what I hear from the people I talk with is pretty consistent. This is not my opinion. I’m not making judgments. This is just what I hear:
- When they’ve been gone from church for a while and return they are all shocked by the strange lingo that people talk. It is a coded and getto-ized language that no one else understands but insiders.
- When they go back more than once, suddenly there is a huge feeling of expectation that weighs down on them. They know that if they commit at all, they are going to have to meet certain expectations.
- Although few admit it, shame is an important and powerful tool used to keep sins, weaknesses, struggles and differences concealed.
- One quickly learns that although indulgences ended officially many years ago, money is still an effective means to earn rank, privilege and allowances within a community.
- One discovers almost immediately what the belief system to be embraced is. Critical and inquisitive thinking is generally not welcomed.
- Although it is rarely ever explicit, competition and the disdain for other religions and even other churches percolates through the attitudes, language and actions of the community.
- Orientation, condition and status (examples: divorced, single mom, living together, gay, addict, etc.) are the equivalent of brands that are accepted or not.
- If you come and go, in the end no one really seems to notice or care.
- You are expected to grow only if it enables conformity.
- Even though, if you keep going, you feel you are being knitted into the community, there is a strange feeling that there is something conditional about your acceptance and membership.