Thursday, March 17, 2016

3.17.16 Bee-otch of the Day: organized religion

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Name: organized religion
Age: ageless
Occupation: supposed leaders of Christianity
Last Seen: everywhere
Bee-otched For: trying to put me down

This Sunday, I am going to do something I thought I would never do years ago.

The reason why I thought I would never do what I'm going to do is simply because I just wasn't a church person. I avoided church like the Bubonic Plague. The reason goes back to when I was a kid.

When I was young, I went to church on Sundays with my mom. I was in Sunday School but we stopped going. After my parents' divorce when I was 12, My Dad finally decided to go to church himself and I went with him. But then we stopped again.

A few years passed and my Dad was upset about not having a true soulmate. Then, one day on his school bus route, he dropped off three new kids. Their father was there waiting for them and he introduced himself to him. He told the kids' father that he was divorced and he recommended his church to him and me. We went on a Sunday and we were impressed by the church's huge size. It was the biggest church in northern Michigan.

New Hope Community Church started in a man's house near Traverse City in 1990. A few months later, it relocated to the gymnasium of Mill Creek Elementary School in Williamsburg where it remained for six years. They moved to their current locale in 1996. Needless to say, it was poised to become northern Michigan's first true megachurch. When my Dad and I came, we immediately met a ton of new people and we ended up having our own ministries. I joined the youth group and Dad joined the singles ministry where he met a nice woman his age who was very attractive and athletic. Things were cool and groovy for a while, but then the bottom dropped out.

In my Dad's case, he got tired of how his singles ministry leaders were treating him, telling him not to re-marry and doing crazy things like not dancing when the group was at a club. Even worse, his girlfriend - the one he met at church - started cheating on him. Even I started having problems in youth group. Originally, it was one big mess of middle and high schoolers playing dodgeball followed by the youth pastor, John Clark - now the lead pastor at West Side Community Church - giving out a message. Well, the youth ministry got so big that they decided to split the middle and high schoolers. The 6-8th graders still got smacked with dodgeballs while the 10-12th graders went into small groups (the freshmen got to choose where they wanted to go). I HATED the small groups. The reason was because a lot of the time, my small group leader asked VERY personal questions, like "how often do you think about sex?" with my other small group mates - some of them classmates of mine - staring down at me. Practically each week, Clark would tell us BS that sex is bad for you and watching MTV was bad for you and yadda yadda yadda.

Oh, and I missed the infamous Detroit Red Wings-Colorado Avalanche bloodbath for that. S.M.H.

But then, the shoe fell.

A little over a year after Dad and I attended our first service at New Hope, pastor David Standfest started telling us that it was time for the church's next phase in becoming even bigger. He then unleashed "Untie the Colt" Sunday, which he wanted the whole congregation to donate a whopping $1.7 million to expand the church. The money would go to build a new 1,700-seat auditorium. Two businessmen - one owned a hardware store chain and another owned a restaurant - even sold their businesses to help with the project. Standfest persuaded his flock to sell their properties to expand the church. Some - like my Dad - were pissed. He told me one Sunday that it's stupid that here he is, going on lots of vacations, living in a nice house and putting his kids in nice, private schools and yet he's begging for money. Standfest even used Bible verses to promote his little prosperity gospel. Funny, since the restaurant owner died last year at the age of 60. So much for a nice, long life.

Well, Standfest got his wish and actually raised a little over $2 million for the project. That's $2 million that didn't feed the hungry, clothed the naked or helped somebody with cancer pay their medical bills. Not long after Colt Sunday, his wife passed and he moved to Grand Rapids and started another New Hope Community Church, this time at the Wave Room at Celebration! Cinema North. According to their website, they believe in having a small group in worship. We'll see how long that lasts.

Dad and I tried a few more churches after New Hope to no good avail. We did like one church, but it was too far away. However, sometimes, people would come up to us and ask why we left. "Oh, we wanted to try something else" would be my common answer. My last church service was at a sad little Pentecostal church that was in what looked like a portable classroom in Mancelona that a former ex-girlfriend attended.

For years, I loathed ALL organized religion. Too many scandals, too much misused money, too much ego. The fact that I ended up working for a Christian company that paid me a shitty wage for 10 1/2 years while my boss lived a extravagant life deepened my hatred even more. You asked me to attend your church and I would say no. Hell, I'd rather go to the strip club vs. a church since you don't see too many strippers flying around in $70 million jets.

Years ago, I heard about a church that's pretty much the opposite of what a lot of megachurches are doing. Many of their congregations are small, nonjudgmental and don't throw you into a guilt trip. I started attending last June and loved it. Hymns instead of sugar-coated contemporary crap that's the same eight verses over and over, an organist and a choir instead of a cheesy band and a pastor who makes a reasonable salary and not too much for his own good. Now, I'm going to get an official Baptism on Sunday. I was sorta Baptized when I was little, but it involved a pastor touching my head with a rose and no water. Of course, ya gotta have water for a Baptism.

You see, not all churches are bad. This one I attend is truly has a come as you are atmosphere. Instead of investing in a sanctuary that seats the same as an arena, they've kept it simple. The only major expense they've had since I started attending was when they installed solar panels. Yes, my church cares about the environment. They've even told their parishioners about the importance of water and to hold up those suffering in Flint. They've even used their basement to help house the homeless. Oh, and they're LGBT-friendly.

Folks, THAT'S WHAT CHURCHES NEED TO DO!  They don't need jet planes, huge mansions and the so-called prosperity gospel to survive. All they need is the truth and they will succeed. That's what brought me to this particular church. And as long as they don't sell out, I plan to stay.

And that's what Jesus would do.

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