Garrison Keillor said, “Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.”
Many of us, I think, do a mental checklist sort of thing when we leave church on Sunday morning. “Well, that’s done. Another week gone by and another Sunday at church.” There’s a level of satisfaction in being able to say that, and maybe even comfort and peace. But I know what Keillor is talking about because it’s not very different from what my Aunt Tess used to say.
Aunt Tess was an amazon of a woman – somewhere between 5’10” and 5’11” – big, beautiful and glamorous, and for many years, the only woman in the family who routinely dyed her hair a light, bright blonde, smoked cigarettes, and even, between husbands, went to bars! She did not care a bit what her more sedate younger sisters said about her, and even less about the warnings they gave about ruining her reputation. Tess looked with disdain on their warning as well as on their faithful churchgoing. Tess didn’t think much of people who went to parties on Saturday night, drank themselves silly, then dragged themselves out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church. “Hypocrites!”, she’d snort – and felt justified in never going to church herself. She admitted there might be something to my suggestion that maybe those are the very people who most belong in church on Sunday morning. No matter; in general Tess believed that you can’t behave one way all week, and then switch gears and call yourself good because you went to church on Sunday. I suppose at some level we could agree with her – much as I think Mr. Keillor would agree. But I believe all we churchgoers are trying to get somewhere elusive and barely understood, and we’re all at different places on that road. I have hope for myself and for the world as long as we’re on the road, so I can’t be as critical as my Aunt Tess. But I do think about another quote that recently floated up from my memory – I don’t have it exactly right, but I recall that it argued that religion that is most truly religion ceases to be religion, and becomes life. I suspect that when that happens, we won’t even be aware any longer that we’re on the road – we will simply be living the journey, the faith, the hope—in short, the religion.
I think it’s worth the effort.