Monday, August 18, 2008

The Vaguely Christian Church

Here. I don’t know. I feel like there should be incense. I feel like there should be beads and lava lamps all around. And Indian rugs. And Ravi Shankar on the stereo. I feel like we should all be sitting cross-legged on the floor, taking sensitivity training from well-dressed, attractive looking people who have taken a detour from their careers in modeling.

The people. Well. They are very friendly. They have that friendliness about them that makes them seem a little like the Moonies of yore. As if someone has brainwashed them with Mickey Mouse Club reruns for maybe ten or twenty years. For ten or twenty years kept them high on hash and nitrous oxide and chocolate brownies and the smell of wildflower fields and the sounds of a stream coursing over stones and through reeds and marsh grasses piped throughout the facility.

As if they had been isolated in a manufactured environment in which nothing bad ever was allowed to happen. As if they had been persuaded that the world and human experience is thoroughly and unremittingly peaceful and happy.

We sing songs about peace and love. We even hold hands. We sway to the music. We meditate. We pray prayers out of. Prayers that seem like they were written by a greeting card company that wants to be spiritual without being specifically religious. Lots of references to the Good and the Light, for example. To the Force for Good that Permeates all Things.

I feel as though I’ve been set down in a pastel world and have been asked to paint the few white spaces that are left with a palate populated by pastels. Everywhere I look around here, the shape and the form has a soft focus to it. Everything is a little foggy and sunlit and vague.

There are one or two references to Jesus. Jesus, the Divine. Divine because he was made by God, just as we are. Just as we are Divine.

The homily is called The Teaching. Something like that. And there isn’t one reference to the Bible or God or Jesus throughout the whole thing. It’s kind of a self-improvement pep talk type of deal. In which discovery after discovery is made to the profound delight and satisfaction of the speaker. Discoveries that all have to do with the improvement and enlightenment of the self. With the spiritual and moral improvement of the self. References to spiritual laws of various kinds are made. Invariant, unambiguous, discoverable, and provable spiritual laws.

Much discussion of prosperity and how prosperity is our destiny and the plan of the universe. How we only need to step toward the outer circle of light in which we find ourselves, and the circle of light will expand to accommodate us. Will enlarge itself to center us in a widening circle of light wherever we will go.

There is a guest musician who plays a guitar and sings. And we listen to her as though we have come here to be entertained. We clap when she finishes each song. On the whole, she plays and sings beautifully.

Piano and flute accompany our singing. We sing two songs all by ourselves. The singing is dominated by women’s voices. The singing is high-pitched and upbeat. I’m reminded of children singing in a school program.

We visitors are given guest packets that tell us what this church is all about. We are welcomed after the service by many. Many introduce themselves to us and wish us well. They ask us to return. They all have name-tags, and they are all quite persistently friendly.

Quite persistently and consistently cheery and animated and positive and encouraging. And everyone seems to be laughing or chuckling or smiling as we make our way slowly back out into the day.

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