The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Monday, June 04, 2007

You Gotta Have Faith?

Posted by Seeking Solace |

I went to a memorial service over the weekend. Most Awesome Former Colleague's husband passed away after battling a long illness. The service was held at a local "megachruch". I have never attended one of these churches, but was quite curious about thier appeal. After all, there is so much media buzz about these churches being more of a form of entertainment rather than worship. So, Husband and I, who are lapsed Catholics, went with a totally open mind.

As we approached the building that housed the church, it looked more like a mall than a church. The church was located in the center of an office park, not a typical place for a church. The main chapel area looked more like a concert hall rather than the inside of a church. The seat were like those you would see in any auditorium. There were two large screen monitors too. But, once agian, we kept an open mind.

The memorial service was quite lovely. The service was filed with music selections that VAFC's husband loved. The pastor gave a nice talk about having a life plan. There were some lovely eulogies given by family members.

Then, it happened.

Toward the end of the service, the pastor made a remark about those who embrace "weird" faiths like those who shave thier heads and shake tambourines in the streets. (I guess he doesn't like Hare Krishna). He said the only way for us to be on the right path was to accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior. He asked us to bow our heads, close our eyes and raise our hands if we were ready to accept this journey.


First, if I am in a large group, don't ask me to close my eyes and raise my hand for anything because I WILL cheat and peek. (You know you would too, so don't give me that "Oh, no I would not" crap.) And, I did peek down both sides of my row. No one raised thier hands. I can't say for those in front of me, because I did keep my head bowed.

That being said, since when does a memorial service become a recruiting session? Is it really appropriate for a pastor to encourage people in this way at a time when we should be memorializing someone else???

(Note to Prisca: I would really love your take on this!)

I am not trying to be insensitive or blasphemous. Cynical and skeptical, yes. If I am wrong, I will say 10 Hail Marys, 10 Our Fathers and a good Act of Contrition!


BrightStar said...

oh my word... yeah, I think some churches take every opportunity to convert. It seems superficial to me, like the raising of a hand indicates a fundamental change of heart? Personally, I think we need to rededicate ourselves to our faith / spirituality / self-improvment / whatever-motivates-you-to-put-love-and-goodness-into-the-world on a daily basis -- it's not a one time conversion thing.

RageyOne said...

I think B* is right, some churhces take every chance to try and recruit members. I've been to several of those mega-churches in the past and they really turn me off. :( Personally, I don't see how you can get anything out of a church where the pastor doesn't know your name. Give me a small church and I'm goodl

Anonymous said...

oh, ick. I mean seriously ick. I hate the whole crisis conversation narrative and this would seem to be neither the time nor the place. And as for the "weird" it ever really necessary to say something like that? I think not.

then again, if you're worried everybody is damned to hell...I guess that's a powerful motivator. They actually do something similar every sunday at my MIL's church only the agreement is not raising the hand, it's to look up and make eye contact with the pastor. I. can't. not. peek. gah! last time, I accidentally caught his eye and he said "thank you...i see you right there...praise God..." no one knows it was me but I was mortified.

Kai said...

I've encountered this at weddings, but never a memorial service! How wildly inappropriate!

Seeking Solace said...

I am glad I am not the only one who thought the whole process was more like a recruiting seminar than a memorial service.

comebacknikki said...

Something similar happened at my grandfather's funeral. The pastor went on and on about the need for everyone to convert and accept Jesus (most of my family is super religious anyway, so he was really preaching to the choir) - he even went so far as to say it was my grandfather's dying wish that everyone he loved be saved.

Not only was it inappropriate, it seemed to be a horrible guilt-inducing trip. Who's going to say no to a dead man? (Well, besides me). This wasn't even one of those mega churchs - my grandfather lived in a town of 100 or so!

Prisca said...

So sorry to hear you encountered the least attractive features of mega-churches.

Here's my longer take on this (sorry to be late with this-- it's been a LONG week at my house)....

What you experienced is really common amongst denominational and non-denominational churches who view the individual's personal salvation as THE CORE issue in the religious experience. In my experience this is a much more common practice at churches with Southern Baptist theology at their cores. Many non-denominational churches are really masquerading as Southern Baptist churches (by this I mean they love the SBC's theology but not don't want their name or affiliation). If your focus is primarily on 'saving' people then you need to use EVERY opportunity to do this. You scare folks into accepting Christ and then they can claim 'salvation.' I abhor this, but I'm a United Methodist and I did not grow up with the whole scare you into salvation thing.

I find it far more helpful to think of the ways God works within us to love and SERVE others. I always find that the bible calls us outside ourselves and I hate this dreadful focus on me, me, me and "my choice" to be save. Phooey! God saves us before we even ask. It's not about what we do, it's about God. Our job is to live good lives and be kind to others. Who needs the kind of pressue you saw at the funeral? Then the focus stops being on the person who's gone and how his or her life was hopefully a representation of his or her faith.

Ah, I'm preaching, now!!

I hate it that you had to experience this because I'm always afraid this is precisely why so many people stay away from organized Christianity. Make sense? I'll get SBC hate mail now, won't I?! I don't mean to knock them, but I personally don't find that kind of service or approach helpful to the larger church.

Seeking Solace said...

Prisca: Thanks for your imput. I knew you would be a voice of reason about this!

It is true that the experience has soured me about Christianity and religion in general. I am hopeful to find my path soon!