I have always gone to church, but I almost quit. In fact, I almost quit every week. I spend many Sundays wondering what the point is? Many times I don’t really enjoy it. I doubt if I’d be missed. Intellectually, I know God is not found in a building. In fact, I often wonder if God is to be found at all? I don’t feel especially close to anyone there. I don’t experience elation or a spiritual high.
I was seriously contemplating becoming a “None.” I know a lot of Nones. I know why they became Nones. I feel like I’m always on the verge of becoming a None, too. Because, really. What would happen to me if I quit?
My answer to that question changes. Today, I think I go to church because if I didn’t, I might loose what little faith I cling to. Going to church, for me, is worship. I depend on the concept of worship to weekly define and bolster my faith in the Big Idea that there is a Divine Soul who loves me.
All people worship.
Worship has been a part of human existence for a very long time. Depending on the century and culture, a worship experience looks different. But, the basic gist or functions remain the same no matter where or when it occurs. There is an idea that sparks deep emotion, breeding loyalty to a ritual that reminds us of that idea. These components are found in all religions and even in non-religious activities that are formed around an idea that inspires and practices routine.
For instance, millions of people travel to Disney to experience worship. Even me.
The idea: Wishes have the power to make dreams come true. (Listen to this sermon, and tell me you don’t feel like glorying! Disney Wishes Firework Show, Disney Magic Kingdom) Ask anyone over the age of 12 if they really believe that idea, and you’ll get a negative. But, the idea inspires nevertheless. The idea that births worship doesn’t necessary have to be true or even be believed to be true. The idea just needs to breed intense emotion. Disney has many ideas, but hallmark Disney is: dreams come true. We can all achieve a happy ending.
The emotional value of Disney’s core idea is undisputed. It is the happiest place on earth! Blessedness is an important emotion to worship, but other emotions can promote worship as well, as long as the emotion is profound. Fear is often the emotion felt as a result of religious ideas, and it is often a more powerful motivator than enjoyment. Disney delivers great emotional value.
Loyalty is bred in many different ways. Profound attachment, zeal, faith, and even duty play a part in being committed. Sometimes we are loyal because we want to be, and sometimes we are loyal even when we don’t want to be. The idea of loyalty in worship introduces self-determination to the component of worship. Ask any Disney fan why they keep returning to Disney Parks, and you’ll get many different answers. People commit for many different reasons. But, loyal fans keep plunking down their money to partake in the rituals surrounding the experience of Disney.
Rituals surrounding Disney are too many to name. Taking a yearly trip to Disney Theme Parks has been compared to medieval religious pilgrimages. The discipline involved to save money for the excursion, the repetition of themes, the physical participation, the spending, and the imaginative exercises remind us of religious habits that have been formed to remind us of the Big Idea. In ritual, we experience something physically, with repetition, so that the idea that started the whole experience is recalled and refreshed.
Disney has all the components of a worship experience. Hence, it is filled with meaning for millions and it inspires deep commitment.
Church without worship is pointless.
As I reflect on my Disney worship experience, I also reflect on why I still go to church. Why haven’t I become a None, when I empathize so much with them? And perhaps if you are a None, you will find the reason in your answers to one of these questions.
Do I believe in the Idea? I struggle with unbelief every minute, but I hope with my whole being the Idea is true. That is my experience of faith. I believe, so I sort it out accordingly. I doubt, so I sort it out accordingly.
Do I experience emotion from the Idea? Oh yes, but the emotions that come to mind first are annoyance, frustration, even dread. The church has been a disheartening place. But, it has also been a place of encouragement, hope, and love. It would be unfair to focus on the bad without recalling the good. Church is also a consistent place that I can focus on the Idea and give it space to elicit emotion within me.
Am I loyal to the Idea? I am. And this is the strongest reason I still go to church. If I believe the Idea, then I must act like it. I proclaim my faith every Sunday when I go to church. Even when that faith is faltering.
Does the ritual still remind me of the Idea? Sometimes all the things I don’t like about church get in the way of the Idea. Christian ritual, for me, is a disciplined practice of faith. I attend church, take Jesus’ body and blood, witness baptisms, and serve others to bolster the hope of the Idea. Religious practices without thought are pointless. Going to church without using that time to remember the Idea is useless.
Because of the Big Idea of a Divine Soul who loves me, I go to church. I worship at church because I make a point to. If I became a None, I know I would loose the little faith I have without the ritual to remind me that I am loyal to the Idea that sparks great emotion within.