You seem to have a great perspective on morality. My question is in regard to the propriety of attending church if your beliefs don’t align completely with those of the institution.
My dilemma is that, having been brought up by agnostic-to-atheistic parents, I was not brought up in a faith tradition but was baptized as an adult when I was 29. This lack of childhood indoctrination leaves me doubting, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around believing, despite many years of immersion in parish life. I miss the community aspects and would like to return to being a regular churchgoer, but my doubting keeps me from it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, e.g., reciting the creed if I don’t believe it all.
Do you think going to church under these circumstances would be deceitful?
You’re to be commended for your thoughtfulness. It’s really touching.
I do not think that your going to church, when you’re not 100 percent on board with everything that church teaches, in and of itself qualifies you as a hypocrite.
I also don’t think that the reason you doubt or disagree with some of your church’s teachings is because you weren’t brought up in the church. If one Sunday morning everyone sitting in church who didn’t fully agree with everything taught by that church suddenly vanished, there’d be a whole lot of pastors dumbfoundedly looking at empty sanctuaries—for the moment before they, too, disappeared.
People just love tweaking stuff to fit them exactly. Hence everything from “Have it your way!” to Build-A-Bear, to (at last count) 18 krazillion Christian denominations.
Of course, I can’t recommend that you join any church that’s helping to bring into the world any measure of pain, harm or injustice—any church, in other words, that is essentially ignoring both Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”), and Jesus’ Great Commandment (“Love your neighbor as yourself”).
A church sidestepping the Sermon on the Mount and The Great Commandment is like a president of the Bob Marley Fan Club who can’t hum along to “One Love.” Makes no sense; can’t be good.
So when it comes to what church you join, let your conscience be your guide. But once you’ve found one that you can be proud to be a part of? Go for it. Attend their services, show up at their picnics with something reasonably edible, and generally avail yourself of all the extremely valuable benefits that come from belonging to an active, healthy church.
You can always just not say the parts of any creed you have a problem with. The Creed Police won’t barge in and tackle you. (And if they do, definitely find another church.)
Church is about prayer and God and the communion of one’s soul with the divine, certainly. But it’s also very much — and I think it can be said even primarily — about community. Life is hard, and the more alone you are, the harder it is.
If you’re a member of a church, you are never alone. You always belong, always fit in, are always accepted. That’s why churches, synagogues, mosques and temples endure. Belonging to a collective of like-minded individuals is a human need as basic as eating and sleeping. We all need a tribe.
For most, finding the right place to worship, and the right people to worship with, feels like coming home.
And for many people, of course, it feels a whole lot better than that.