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Monday, December 10, 2012

"Why don't people go to church?"

I recently spent a week using social media to "listen" to people who do not go to church — listening to their explanations for why they stay away. I didn't argue with them. I didn't defend the church. I just listened. And what I heard broke my heart.

The No. 1 thing that keeps people away from the church is the people who are in the church.

It's not that people outside the church have low expectations of Christians. It's the opposite. They expect us to actually live out the things we proclaim on Sunday. They expect us to love our neighbor, care for the least of these and love our enemies.

They have high expectations for us, and we have disappointed them. Instead they have been insulted, hurt and broken by us ...

In many ways this post at the Episcopal Cafe reflects how I felt upon becoming a Catholic. I went to church for almost four years and in that period I made no new friends aside from my RCIA group and the priest - i don't remember anyone else ever really speaking to me. But I did hear them speaking ... before services, I could hear them criticizing what others were wearing, where others were sitting, how often others came to church, etc. And then there was the political infighting between various groups within the parish. It was chilling.


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I have no doubt that a lot of people are turned off by the church given the perception of what people in the church are like. I didn't go out of my way to try to meet people at church, because I understood that there was only a very small chance that they would actually be the kind of people I like to be acquainted with.

Actually, one time I did meet a few people was during a particularly offensive (i.e., homophobic) homily delivered by an ultraconservative priest (a member of Opus Dei, actually). I walked out, and so did a couple of other people (the only time I've ever seen that happen), and we went and got coffee. We didn't become lasting friends or anything, but we did find like-minded people at church!

10:09 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Walking out in that circumstance seems like a brave/good thing to do.

I probably wouldn't have gotten to know anyone either if not for being in the RCIA group, and even then just my sponsor and another lady. Oh, and the priest - he was very liberal in a congregation made up of mostly conservative republicans ;)

12:37 AM  
Blogger Dina said...

Yeah, the old question whether a certain religion is a program or a product, what it is supposed to be or what it often is.

1:30 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Dina,

Yeah, I guess if we had to evaluate the message of Jesus based on the behavior of all Christians, we'd probably be disappointed in the results. We can but try.

2:01 AM  

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