Thursday, March 22, 2007

Solemn as what?

I saw the phrase "solemn as churchgoers" in a fiction book that I was reading and it has bothered me for the last couple of days (the phrase not the book; actually, the book is quite fun and I'll review it next week).

I can certainly see why the phrase has come about. Often, the only times many non-churchgoers ever enter a church is for weddings and funerals, and in the middle of both the mood can be quite similar - solemn, I am referring to.

Or maybe the picture some churchavoiders have is of the manic preacher breathing fire and brimstone (and spittle on the front row) on the people in the pews while they sit there and grimace. This is followed by rows of weeping people making their way to the front in fear.

And in times leading up to today, many churchgoers have enjoyed the times of solemnity and austerity. Certainly, the subject of Christianity has its talk of death and a cross and suffering, which isn't a time for knock-knock jokes.

But the "solemn" in the "solemn as church goers" is not meant by many as a compliment, as some might take it. I believe it is meant as "mirthless" rather than "causing serious thoughts". And in that case, I have a problem.

After all, aren't we the people of Sunday, the people of Easter? Aren't we the people of the Good News? If we have difficulty embodying it, it should at least be sitting on the tips of our tongues.

If churchgoers are the non-complimentary solemn-ers, then no wonder people aren't all that interested. Is that what heaven is supposed to be like? No wonder people say they will take their chances.

You want to know what I think the real problem is? I'll pretend like you do. It's a lack of Joy. Real Joy. Not the detergent type, not the "smile as I walk in the door" type. We've lost it. Our houses are so cluttered that it's sitting under something, but we have to dig through all our stuff to find it and we just don't have time or we just pile on something else hoping another Joy will come around.

We watched the documentary The Devil's Playground last night. It's about Amish kids when they turn 16, no longer have to do as they parents' want, and get to do whatever they want - and boy do they go crazy! Although, of course, they probably learn most of this from their "English" friends - a few of whom we meet in the film.

Now, I'm not saying we should all join the Amish church or way of life. But here is something fascinating - they have one of the highest retention rates (teens deciding to join the faith) these days than they ever have! I seriously doubt many church denominations or non-denominational groups have retention rates that are as close. You'll have to watch the film to see what you think.

My own hypothesis as to why - there is a contrast between the lifestyles. It is easy to "see" a difference between being "English" (normal American culture) and being "Amish".

I just don't know that we, the churchgoers, do a good enough job of making the Joy evident in our everyday lives. I just don't know if we feel it. I want people to see Christians as heavengoers, and that is the Best News that they could hear.

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