I’ve lived in Alabama all but a few months of my life (born in MA). I grew up here, went to college here, got married here, we’re building a home here, don’t plan to leave here. One of my biggest issues with the state is its strong Christian leanings. I was raised Christian…my grandfather is a retired Methodist minister and my father is a deacon at a Baptist church where my great-uncle is the pastor. I grew up in church, but over the years I’ve found myself more and more unsettled by what “church” and “church folks” have become. Maybe things have always been this way…or maybe there’s this “new age” church going on now.
Quickly, here are a few things that grind my gears about living in churchy Alabama:
- Most people assume that you’re Christian…and if you’re not something must be wrong with YOU! If you don’t have a church home in Alabama somebody will try to find you one!
- Many of these “Christians” are in name only and aren’t very well read. They don’t have a good understanding or respect for what they claim to believe. (It’s well documented that Alabama doesn’t have a stellar literacy record…these folks aren’t reading…just going by what somebody told them.) I can’t stand when people lean on particular verses without knowing the full context. Chances are they’re using it wrong. Many of these “new age” pastors and churches are all about the glamour and shallow message. They give you plenty of entertainment, but very little actual knowledge. Folks are in church several days a week and are still “falling short” and “backsliding”… they’re still in the club and gossiping…children still in jail and becoming young, unwed parents. Something is going wrong. Could be the shallow teachings that lead to shallow understanding and shallow reverence for the Word.
- These folks take little to no ownership in their own merits or wrong doings. It’s either God has blessed them or the devil is busy. With “new age” church folks, this often plays out online. Take this scenario: *posts picture of new car/house* “God sure has blessed me!” … (Maybe, but in reality you just saved your money and decided to purchase a car/house. You didn’t receive that car/house under extraordinary circumstances. You just want everybody to know you have it.) “New age” church folks LOVE to brag on social media under the guise of telling folks how good God has been to them.
I’m sure this is the case around the country, not just in Alabama. Why is it an issue for me? Oh, because the majority of voters and elected officials who make our laws are the same people I just discussed! How can I trust you to make wise decisions that will affect the entire state when you can’t even decide if you want to follow the laws of the religion you love so much? Decisions that affect the whole shouldn’t be made by groups of people who won’t even take agency over their own lives. “Oh, sorry I made that horrible mistake! The devil made me do it! We all fall short…”
I grew up in what I would call a small Baptist church in my small hometown. I recently found out that, despite my thinking, this particular Baptist church is the largest black church in a 15 mile radius. That’s beside the point, but so you get the full understanding… I was baptized in a creek. Yes, a creek and I still remember that. Well anyway, this was a good ole fashioned black church. We had one pastor, the pastor’s wife, and the deacons and the deaconess, and two Sunday school teachers — one for adults (this is where Granny taught) and one for kids. We had an adult choir and kid’s choir which somehow my Momma was over, so that meant this kid sang. The point of this is to understand that I know what “Church” is. I know what a good hymn sounds like when sang by a real deacon… Real church as I call it.
The problem with my current predicament is “My Church” is over three hours away now that I am in a bigger city and with big cities you get city churches. That’s not to say all city churches are bad but a lot of them in this area are of the “New Age” persuasion. If you don’t know what a new age church looks like let me provide you a visual. Typically these churches are rather large, which would lump them in the mega church category or modernized to the point you don’t know whether you step into a church or a concert. The pastor typically will read from an electronic tablet (not necessarily an end-all be-all) or even a phone. Your choir will have a piano, drummer, guitarist, and any number of various musical instruments.
You will probably see a praise dance team or two or three, because apparently grown people can’t leave the ridiculousness of dressing up like a mime to the kids who think that is cool to do. The version of the Bible you use will probably not have words like thou, shall, giveth, etc. because apparently in order for you to comprehend the already filtered voice of God set to words the Bible needs to be written in current terminology and again interpreted for you to understand it. The phrase lost in translation popped into my head as I wrote that last sentence so think on that.
You will also find that the musical selections are more a production incorporating the sounds of a choir that sounds more like a band or singing group (insert band or group here along with favorite music genre and year) set to the smooth sounds of the equivalent of a high school band in regards to the instruments being used. The phrase “come as you are” will be used quite often to fill the seats and the collection plates — mostly the collection plates, but to do God’s work of course. All the while ignoring the fact that knowing better means doing better, and that most of the people who come as they are dress better going to work, a club, or dinner than they do to pay reverence to the God they claim to serve. Then there is the pastor who just doesn’t quite come off pastorly, well at least in my opinion. He may come off as too hip, too shady, “suspect”, flashy, conceded, cult-like, etc. Now don’t get me wrong I have no problem with a pastor knowing of the world, but he shouldn’t actively be participating in all aspects of the world and providing guidance on following the good book at the same time.
Another way to spot a “new age” church is asking people why they go there. Do they go there because they are getting the good word? Are they being enlightened in the religion of their (there are other religions in the world and I am acknowledging that here) choosing? Do they feel they are fulfilling the mission of their God by doing the good works and interacting with God’s children? Or do they provide one of the following reasons about why they go:
- Well you know so-and-so goes there, so I go too.
- Everybody who is anybody attends this church.
- They play all the new songs, not that old stuff I remember when I was a kid.
- Going there is fun and I don’t feel like I’m being judged.
- They are come as you are, so I don’t have to dress up.
- There are a lot of perks of being a member at this church.
- They have great choir and all these different praise teams, and I always wanted to do that.
- The pastor seems cool.
- All the people my age go there.
Well if the response you got fell into one of these categories, guess what…that’s a “new age” church.
Her and I were discussing children and churches the other day and we both want our kids to experience church for themselves. Not a “new age” church, but a real church. I wonder how hard that process will truly be sometimes…