Friday, September 19, 2008

Personality & Ritual

Wow! 4 posts in 2 days! I was going to reply to Heather but decided it might get a little long, and I want to keep talking about this.

I have to say that I totally think people choose churches according to their personalities/experience/family dynamics. We (people) choose a church that fits us in somewhat the same way we choose a marriage partner...someone with quirks we can put up with and a communication style that matches ours (though it can get pretty muddled up sometimes). People who are less demonstrative, for example, are way less likely to choose a Pentacostal church. People who are introverted and more reserved by nature may be drawn to quiter traditions, Catholic, Lutheran, etc... And I think how we feel about the church building also has something to do with who we are as individuals, how our personalities function, and our current worldview. When I was studying family therapy we used to talk about how we also tend to choose our denomination based on our family's flavor of dysfunction. Isn't that encouraging?

I can't tell you how difficult it is for me to deal with all that I just said above. I know it's so true, and, to a certain extent, I think it's ok. We come to God however we are, and we seek out a niche where we fit. God loves us in whichever niche we choose. But then there's this other part of me that wants to see a more unified body of Christ. AND there's a huge part of me that wants to say, "No! I'm not choosing this because of me. I'm choosing this because it's right." It isn't just that I want to be right, though I don't mind that either. It's that I don't want to be choosing out of my brokenness or dysfunction.

I *think* maybe this is related to what Heather was talking about when she first posted on the subject. She wanted to know if all people sit in church with prickles running up & down their spine or if it was just her own stuff getting in the way. I worry about that all the time, too. I don't want to be choosing not to attend the building just because I've been burned in church or because I'm too worried or judgmental or self-righteous or whiney. I want to choose whatever I choose for the "right" reasons. Which is maybe why this is such a huge topic here all of the sudden. We're talking it out, trying to figure out what's right.

Ok, the other thing I wanted to respond to is the importance of weekly/daily ritual, as Heather also mentioned. This is the one thing that draws me back to a church building, the one thing that keeps me second-guessing where we're at right now. Sure, we have family rituals, but the ritual of going to church can be so valuable. It's so tangible. Maybe this is why I miss going to church most for the sake of my children. Spirituality/Christianity is so abstract. The church building is SO concrete. It's so tangible and visable. I have to confess that, although I grew up in a Pentacostal tradition, I have always been drawn to incense & stained glass, memorized prayers and making the sign of the cross. I think it is innately human to desire the physical and tangible rituals to connect us with the things we cannot see. It helps up to move Christianity from our head and hearts into our bodies, our flesh and bones.

So, at this time we've chosen to live intentionally outside the walls of the church. We're hoping to create more ritual, community and connection outside the building. It isn't easy to be in either position right now, though - either inside our outside the church building. Both places have challenges. I can't help but feel that there's a stirring going on right now of God's people. We are getting restless and ready to change. Nothing sits well or easily. As I've said before over at The Midnight Cafe, you always know that if you're a little (or a lot) uneasy and you feel like you're living on the edge of a cliff, you're probably exactly where God wants you to be. You have to hang in there & follow God's lead. Life on a Cliff


Sabrina said...

Well said! Thanks for your insight!

Heather of the EO said...

Another good post, lady.
There are so many sides to so many things we're discussing. Because as this idea comes up of individual choice due to individual personalities, I'm wondering too if it's my "good" stuff, or my "bad" stuff, that leads me back inside those walls. Is it legalism and guilt? Or something in my gut that calls me to boundaries and concrete symbolism for the purpose of growth and change. Maybe both?

Jiles said...

"[Church is] so tangible...Christianity is so abstract."

It has helped me, a rather "heady" guy, to ground my faith, to find ways to make it sensual and not just cerebral because "I" am my whole body and experience. Jesus initiated the eucharist, the church's oldest ritual--he chose to use something as real and sensual as food...that we (sometimes) harvest, prepare, smell, touch, tear, chew, taste, swallow, and shit out. That's not that abstract!

He also held out his hands for Thomas to touch and inspect so that he could believe.

The church helps me do that. Left all alone I'm basically a brain disconnected from my body when it comes to faith. A forgetful one at that, I literally need to be reminded of the gospel, in sermon and relationships every week or I start to feel like shit again and get all self-centered and anxious and trivial and.... It is grounded in shared ritual in the "building" but was present when me and my homey from church ran around Phalen after wed church meeting too.

Heather of the EO said...

So are you saying that Christianity isn't abstract? I get that the eucharist is not. Or the crucifixion, or water into wine, or washing feet, or parables....they are pretty concrete.

I get that. But I'm picking your brain more because I do think a lot of spirituality, which we have to have to embrace Christianity is very abstract and individual and such. Do you think so too?
If it is, then it makes sense that there is a struggle like this about what church really means and if every person "should" go.

Or might it be true that we "heady, lazy types who feel like shit" need the ritual A LOT more than people who are much better at experiencing church in every day life. I doubt I'm being clear.
Just picking your brain. My brain is very tiny sometimes. I like how you think, even though I feel like I have to read things a few times to understand :)

MidnightCafe said...

Jiles, Thanks for taking the time to respond at length. Your comment got me thinking some more, and, as I seem to be on a roll right now, I wrote another post in response.

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