This is my first time going to church since I was a child. I was at most 6 years old at the time, so I didn’t retain much besides seeing a lot of old people. Since everyone over 15 is old to a 6-year-old, most of the presumptions I had of Church has just been from movies: from the television show Californication, where the first scene was of a nun giving a blowjob to a man right in front of Jesus on the cross, or in The Walking Dead when the main characters ran inside the Church for shelter and used the guns in the basement to fend off from zombies. Anyways, it’s safe to say that my knowledge of church was minimal to nun. At the very least, seeing these shows provided me with some semblance of what church would be like.
I’ve never been religious, because my parents have always opted to instill values of science and art over faith, but I’ve recognized the choke-hold religion has on people. I didn’t expect church to radically change my views on faith, but I was ready to see what and why other people believed. I could envision vast and colorful stained-glass paintings engulfing the ceiling and the walls, and the choir and pastor energetically chanting the lord’s prayer. Besides that, I was excited to see if Church was just how it was in the movies.
I stepped foot in the Lutheran Church with my grandmother to my left and grandfather to my right, excited to show me why and how Lutheran’s act together. Going into this I didn’t know anything about Lutherans I had assumed they were very similar to Catholics, and even at that, I barely knew anything about Catholicism. I ended learning that there’s a vast difference between the two. For example, Lutherans believe scripture alone has the authority to determine doctrine; while the Roman Catholic Church gives this authority also to the pope, the church, and certain traditions of the church. The biggest surprise was the fact that Lutheran’s believe they are loved and accepted by god, regardless of how good they ethical behave. A person is saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. There is no need for betterment because regardless of how bad you are, god loves you. I definitely don’t relate to that, but I can see why many lost souls would resonate with this message. It is a mentality that makes you feel safety, that no matter what you do, god loves you. But the fact that it’s a given, doesn’t push you to better yourself in any way. It’s akin to the saying “you’re perfect just as you are,” which is a detrimental saying because as humans we need to be constantly growing and changing to be happy. It’s a short cut to self-betterment.
Despite not personally relating to the doctrine, the energy carried the congregation. The reason people go to church is to feel community, to feel loved, so even though the doctrine and scriptures are hammering that thought home, the presentation of it is what makes one feel it. It is the act of reciting faith that people are after. To know you are not alone is to be present with other people. Church acts as the “connection between unity and disunity,” by connecting art and life (Dewey). By actively engaging in the world through reciting scriptures and singing the gospel, we are “actively engaging with the world, and are able to experience art,” (Dewey). The Church was very musical, because the pastor played guitar for every song, and believe me, there were many. It was refreshingly entertaining. The effortless mix of storytelling and musical ensembles provided an enlightening experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t encompass the damage religion has on people.
Even though I liked the experience and would certainly do it again for the choir girls, I cannot support the doctrine. I know that since art is rooted in imagination, there should be some inclination for faith, but the only faith I have is in myself. Church is to religious people what concerts are to me. They are expressing their faith in God while I’m expressing my faith in life. The experiences are similar, as art is active and alive, but their beliefs are not mine. To live your life solely for the afterlife is a sad way to view life. It causes a rift with those who don’t agree in the same beliefs. The amount of wars waged based on imaginative differences is way too many.
I can look at this experience from two point of views. One, that I’m closing myself off to the possibilities of their doctrine being right, or two, that they are doing the opposite to me. Either way, Church showed me that we should instill basic (borderline universal) ethical values that teach people how to live in harmony besides our differences. Not based upon faith or theism, but realistic values and shared standards (Hans Kung). Church can be the gateway to that, but instead it divides us. In a way, I’m stopping myself from experiencing their artistic expression to the fullest by excluding the possibility of their world view. According to Dewey, without trying it I will never reach truth, but honestly, if there is an afterlife, I’m sure I’ll just end up under the ground.
Grabenhoffer, G. B., Rev. (n.d.). Lutheran vs. Catholic. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from https://www.faithlutherancorning.org/lutheran-vs-catholic
Livingston, J. C. (2009). Anatomy of the sacred: An introduction to religion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
My third source is the addition interview for Jerry Larson.
Kung, H. (2010, February 09). The Global Ethic. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/spiritofthings/the-global-ethic/3107876
Leddy, T. (2016, February 08). Dewey’s Aesthetics. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dewey-aesthetics/