The church sanctuary reminded me of my old middle school gymnasium: high ceiling, stage, backboards at the long ends of the space, hardwood floor. Rows of chairs instead of pews. Also on the walls -- banners depicting preferred values like Compassion, Faith, Devotion rather than celebrating past years of sports championships. In fact, the word "sanctuary" was never used to describe the space. My Dear Sweet Ma called it a "multi-purpose room."
[This is the younger face of the old Protestant church, of course... the non-Catholic version of Buddy Christ (for those of you who are Dogma fans.) The move towards the attempt to be tragically hip started in the early 1990's when it suddenly occurred to churchy folk that their grandkids weren't connecting with that Old Time Religion and were, instead, plugging into video games and other technological demons... probably because of those Satanic role playing games their older cousins played in the 1980's, or the back-masked subliminal messages on heavy metal records in the 1970's.]
And while I don't buy into the new packaging, or into the central premise of Christianity, I have come to understand that while I reject the metaphor that religion... with it's many political foibles, flaws, and unnecessary tragedies... is humanity's attempt to explain things we don't yet understand, and to describe subjective experiences that cannot be empirically studied and smacks of something more than coincidence.
I also believe that the good work of the world can happen where ever the intention to do good exists along with the will to take action.
So I can tolerate a little religiosity. Right?
I showed up the second day because the first day had gone fairly well. Eight or ten of us cut, piled, and organized the lumber to build to house frames.
[Ok. I hauled lumber and let other, more experienced people handle the power tools. But still... I did sweat some. Really.
The morning of the build I showed up not knowing what to expect. The church had advertised the Habitat project for anyone in the area to come help, so I figured there would be anywhere from eight or ten people to maybe 100 or so. There ended up being around 160 people... an increase from the previous year. After I signed up and filled out a brief and scantily worded medical release, I wandered into the sanctuary, -- I mean the multi-purpose room -- where I was to wait for further instructions.
As people gathered I thought about the last time I sat in a church. More specifically, I thought about going to church when I was a kid, and how seriously I took the whole endeavor. There had been a time when the move towards tragic coolness would have appealed to me. That, in part, is the reason I'm skeptical of such marketing attempts. But I am willing to accept that while I am not especially religious, that there are people who are that have good intentions and want to do good things. Every mindset has it's kooks, crazies, and wingnuts. And there's very little to confuse about helping to build a house for people who don't have one.
At some point the minister, Bart, took to the stage. In his opening remarks, he told us that while the purpose of our being there was to build two house frames, that our focus should be to bring glory to God.
I tend to ignore the rhetoric, but it I have to confess that similar statements have vexed me for some time. Christians glorify their god because that, along with baptism, is how you prove your faith. And while there's quite the division over whether faith requires works ... and for some sects, whether the humanity of Jesus is even important... it always struck me that whatever the metaphysical nature of the thing referred to as God, Allah, Zeus, Shiva as well as a thousand other names from as many cultural constructs) happens to be, I find it hard to believe that it/he/she/they NEED us to adulate all over it/him/her/them.
Then again,I have to remember that the only intentions I can control are my own. And even that is a struggle at times.
What I liked about the experience was that at the end of the day, the frames for two houses were built. Whether this winter proves to be a cold one, a wet one, or a warm and mild one, the fact remains that two families have homes to protect them from it. And while I may not have wielded any power tools....and while I may be the most ineffectual mock carpenter around... I felt like I was doing a little of the good work of the world.
And so I'll close the blog with a question that sums up not only my views on Christianity, but organized religion in general:
Do you think that Jesus, ever once, would have rather someone ask him the proper way to build a door jam?
Location:Willow Creek, KY United States