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Are you a Christian? Do you go to church? If you’re anything like most Christians I know, you probably go to church… a lot. But what if you were like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, stranded on a remote island, far removed from society and its helps? What if your only company was a volleyball named Wilson? What kind of Christian would you be in that situation?
That’s the situation I’ve placed myself in by abandoning my church membership. For any group of people, there is the temptation to put your best foot forward just in case the focus falls on you. It’s human nature to portray yourself ideally. But apart from having an audience to perform for, I come face to face with what God has to look at every day: the kind of Christian I actually am.
Without the constant support of people who believe what I believe, will my beliefs change? Can I still be a Christian all alone? Frankly, if I need a bunch of Christians around me in order to be one, then I’m not one at all. I’ll be honest. I’m a little scared and I’m trying this out even though I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible for me. It could happen. But let’s see how I do.
Deuteronomy 30:17 says “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”
This should be easy, right? Life is good. Death is bad. But if given a choice, where “life” is difficult, and “death” is easy, I may very well choose death. I’ve damn sure done it before. I’ll tell you now: if I’m at a restaurant and “life” tastes like beans, I’ll probably order death. I HATE beans. Clearly my logic is flawed. And this is the type of moral fortitude I’m walking into the wilderness with. [If you have any inroads with Jesus and his people, you should be praying for me RIGHT NOW.]
If you wonder how you might do in my situation, take a moment to really consider the answers to these questions:
How would you know God was pleased with you if no one was around to validate it?
If a majority of people vocally opposed what you thought you knew, you might change what you believe in order to feel socially accepted. This could easily happen in the workplace when religious and political affiliations clash. Or if no one opposed you at all, you may not have a reason to care whether God is pleased or not.
How would you manage to worship if no one lead a group sing along?
Would you remember all the words? Maybe just the choruses? Would you try to make up something sincere and hope God was satisfied with it? If you had a horrible singing voice, would you just skip that part altogether?
What about “sin management”?
Some only go to a “house of worship” to feel absolved of feelings of guilt and shame. They may feel attendance buys the forgiveness of their sin. Unable to clean yourself, would we eventually find you somewhere caked in layers of your own spiritual filth? (Be honest!)
How would you cope without basic human contact?
For many church attendees, the hug, handshake, or touch they might receive during a welcome greeting or typical altar call is the only human connection they may have.
What could substitute for the psychological needs church attendance fills?
If you’re Catholic, the cathartic feeling of being absolved of wrongdoing after confessing to a priest may be irreplaceable. If you’re a Charismatic Christian, you may need the emotional release that comes from dancing, crying, or shouting in public. How else could that need be fulfilled if a church or other religious organization didn’t establish a culture where that was deemed okay?
So look. If this goes well, I will emerge from the bush much like Tom Hanks, clothed in third world couture declaring “I have made FIRE!” I promise I will do a victory dance around the homemade grill and tell you all about it.
On the other hand, if this attempt turns out to be a miserable, miserable… miserable failure. I do have a Plan B to tuck my tail between my legs and go running back to a traditional church. The system may have flaws, but like Murphy’s Law states “if it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.”
Now that I think about it, I’d like to rename this course of action Plan G. …or possibly Q.
Wish me luck.
What kind of Christian would you be without a church?
Please leave your answer in a comment below. (Use a fake name if you need to. LOL)
Three years after posting this piece, I wrote a follow-up to it: