One of the annoying things about attending church when you are an ex-Christian is that all your old habits of action and thought come back all too readily.
When I first decided to join the choir at my wife’s United Methodist church, I had to decide whether I would “pretend” to be a believer or not. When the first opportunity to participate in the Eucharist (notice the effortless use of Episcopal terminology) came, I decided NOT to take communion and had to stand there in the choir loft and let all the other singers squeeze past me. That was going to look odd if it happened every month. I was attending this church to not only provide my children a united parental front (my wife and I had already settled on the fact that the kids would be raised with church, with me or otherwise) but also to do some soft networking in preparation for the coming Generational Crisis. Anyway, it was then that I decided that I was in for the proverbial pound rather than pretending I could limit the cost to a penny. I started tithing, taking communion, and reciting the Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer. I had been a devout Episcopalian (oxymoron?) from the ages of about 14 to 20, so I knew and was comfortable with all the “moves” required during a liturgical worship service.
Perhaps activating those long quiet mental pathways have caused other disused parts of my brain to re-awaken. It all started this past Palm Sunday. The choir has been all psyched for Holy Week, with big plans for a Maundy Thursday service, three pieces on Easter itself, brass instrumentation, etc… I arrived at the church for the early service assuming that such an important Sunday (again, that Episcopalian outlook) would call for everyone to sing during both services instead of the usual one. Instead, I found that no one else got this message. Then I thought, “Hey! That is a dinky little anthem we’re doing today!” A little let down, I took my place in the choir loft, did the Creed and Confession and waited through the “announcements.”
Now, normally I find the idea that the service comes to a screeching halt so they can announce a bake sale before proceeding to the Prayer’s a little weird. But on Palm Sunday they have something special in mind… They have the instructor for the new Aerobics Class come to the lectern and speak! It goes Hymn, Apostle’s Creed, Confession of Sins, Hand Bells, Aerobics, and Lord’s Prayer. As they used to sing on Sesame Street, “One of these is not like the others. One of these things just isn’t the same.”
After church my wife and I bemoan the fact that it is almost impossible to maintain an worshipful atmosphere when the minister tells Bama jokes and encourages people to leave the sanctuary during the final hymn if they have anything important to do before Sunday School starts!
“Wait a minute,” you say, “aren’t you an Atheist?” What the hell am I doing complaining about the worship service when I view its basis as a pack of delusions? Now you see my dilemma. By choosing to become a crypto-skeptic I am being sucked back into thinking like a Christian. I find this a little annoying, but I also realize it is something I will have to learn to live with. This is why I have come to think of myself as an ex-Christian rather than a simple Atheist – can’t escape my upbringing. Still trying to squelch the urge to leap to my feet during sermons to scream, “That just isn’t true!!”
P.S.: For those of you who are thinking, “Perhaps it is really God trying to get through to you but you are just too stubborn to acknowledge His Call”. Yeah, right. As I like to say, God knows where I live if He wants me. And He presumably knows what it will take to reach me. Hell, He put out for Thomas. I think I deserve no less.