Thursday, July 14, 2011

Church Isn't Supposed to Be Real Life

Ann's comment from the post I highlighted two days ago is excellent - and it stands by itself as a separate "topic" from the post enough that I want to highlight it exclusive of that post, with the bolding being my own emphasis of key points.

She said:

There’s Sunday for three hours, and then there’s the rest of your life. The faithful have real lives, with aerobics and cycling and obsessive internet surfing and eating too much and employment and cleaning the toilet and practical jokes and music and dancing and Big Brother on television.

People come to church and see everybody all proper and in their Sunday best and solemn and think, “I don’t fit in. I’m not like those people.” Well, those people aren’t like those people either! They’re putting on their Sunday clothes and Sunday manners and turning their attention away from the rest of their lives and toward the Lord. That’s a GOOD thing. But it isn’t real life. It isn’t supposed to be.


Nathan Meidell said...

Very thought-provoking. I hope my response adds to the conversation in a constructive, meaningful way.

These thoughts are a supreme example to me of the power of perspective. Which is real life? Is one more real than the other? Should there really be such a difference between the two?

I don't think so.

I believe whole-heartedly that we need to be true to ourselves no matter our environment (and that is almost a re-statement of Ann's comment). To think that every show of piety, of sabbath worship and devotion is a kind of facade( or at least a separate identity) is to step that much closer to becoming whited sepulchres, insincere and false.

The reality of the gospel life is what can guide and lift us in our everyday lives. We live better because our world view is not limited to just the things present before our eyes, but rather things beyond that field of vision. We look to an entire world of faith and power with divine guidance and divine potential. There are extremes in each case, but I still would not dare separate myself from either (knowing from experience the inevitable decline that for me follows).

So when we go about our real lives and abandon our "sabbath self" until the next time, we may be just as false as when abandoning our so called "real life" to attend church.

The one side should to be true to the other. If we turn on one to the exclusion of the other, we might lose something precious, and possibly stunt our growth like a bipolar or schizophrenic soul unable to tell reason from mania, or one identity from the other. They should be two sides of the same face, a physical and spiritual life to empower our souls rather than just teeter-tottering passage week by week. Shouldn't there always be a connection, a consistency in our character?

(Hebrews 11:1 speaks of insubstantiality as akin to the tangible and physical where faith is concerned.

Alma 32:35 even uses the very language of our current discussion.)

Papa D said...

Excellent thoughts, Nathan. Thanks for sharing them.

ji said...

I wonder if Church isn't really real life -- I am a son of God, and once a week I go to the house of prayer to meet with other children of God in worship. Why should someone say I am phony in that situation? No, maybe that is where I am most honest.

Papa D said...

ji, I don't think "phony" is a word that fits the intent of the comment - and it certainly doesn't fit how I see the messsage.

It can seem phony to some people, but I read it as saying that getting dressed up and going to church really is an authentic aspect of our lives - even if it isn't "real life" (meaning only "life outside church").

I believe strongly that we sometimes let that aspect of our lives become a mask or facade, behind which we hide our faults or warts - but I also believe strongly in the need to consecrate "sacred space" on a regular basis and for part of that sacred space to include a change in dress and action that constitutes a real difference from "real life".

It's an interesting balance, and I don't want either extreme. I think that's the message of the quote, in a nutshell - that it's ok if who we appear to be at church is slightly different than who we appear to be outside of church, as long as there is not true hypocrisy involved.

Nathan Meidell said...

The implications of the term "real life" are problematic for me. That's what set me off initially. I'm uncomfortable delegating those things with such a polarizing classification.

I think the idea of consecrating "sacred space" more fittingly embodies the heart of the initial statement. There would be, and probably should be an attitudinal and behavioral shift when we actively interact with all that is more sacred in our lives. That is not hypocrisy. It would just be our encounters with particular physical and spiritual spaces.

Papa D said...

Yeah, ji and Nathan, I understand how "real life" is problematic - but it was the term used in the comment, so I stuck with it. *grin*

ji said...

I agree that I ought to be able to show my warts at church, but I usually don't want to. And even if others see my warts at church, I don't want them to bring them to my attention. I don't have a problem with treating sacred space sacredly -- indeed, I prefer it.

On the Lord's day, to help us stay unspotted from the world, we go to the house of prayer. I want to leave the world behind me when I go to church meetings.

Others may want something different from church meetings.

This difference has always been with us.

For example, when I used to walk into a college classroom, I felt more comfortable if the seats were all line up in nice rows and columns -- and I felt less comfortable if the seats were all in a semi-circle. But others loved the touchy-feely suggested by a semi-circle. And this is all before the professor even comes into the room.

Papa D said...

I agree, ji - and I wish all members understood and could accept that others attend church meetings with different (but equally good) goals in mind that are important (and even necessary) at that time in their lives.

Patty said...

I love this idea! To be able to put aside our flaws, weaknesses, and sins for a few hours each Sunday while we try to focus on everything that's good and holy is a strength to us so that we can better try to live up to that level throughout the week.