Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shit preachers say and apparently get away with

There are not many occasions where you'd find me in a church. It boils down to either sightseeing as a tourist or attending because of family/friend commitments, such as christenings, weddings or funerals. Going into churches and having a look around as a tourist is definitely my favourite. Churches tend to have quite fascinating architecture, especially if they've been around for a few hundred years.

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This baroque church in Munich was pretty epic.

Anything else is more like a necessary evil, if you pardon the pun.

Sure, I could decline attending these things, or I could sit outside the building and wait for it to finish but you can't exactly decline going to someone's wedding or funeral because you disagree with their religion. Well, technically it's more polite to decline the invitation than sit outside and refuse to go in, which I once saw someone doing at a christening. If you do that, you're a bit of a dick, to be honest. If you've been invited, you either don't show up at all, or you arrive at the reception afterwards - you don't show up outside the church and then make a scene about how you're refusing to attend the ceremony.

Or, of course, you attend and shut up about how much you'd rather skip the church bit altogether, because you don't want to spoil the day for the people who invited you. Even though you'll be bored out of your skull after five minutes. (And go "... dafuq?!" when you hear something to the effect of "do you renounce Satan in the name of this child?")

Short ceremonies aren't so bad, because they're fairly quick, obviously. I've been to short church weddings, and I've been to ones that seem to last forever. Same with funerals. You get in, there's perhaps a bit of singing and then it's over, great. Unless the people are (or were) properly religious, in which case you might be looking at a good couple of hours, with actual preaching instead of the generic pleasantries. Ugh.

At least I don't have to join in the singing, because I genuinely don't know the tunes to any British hymns (and very few Swedish, most of which are Christmas carols - and okay, some of them exist in both countries, so I guess I know a few British ones), even if I'm starting to pick up How Great Thou Art by now. It seems to be a popular choice.

Anyway. It wouldn't have been as bad if the person doing the preaching didn't have a tendency to say things that, when you actually pay attention to what they're saying, make you want to shout out "Objection!" in true court drama fashion. I haven't been to a single church ceremony in recent years where there hasn't been at least one thing that has ticked me off.

Like that wedding where the preacher said you could only truly love someone - and be loved in return - if you love God. (So basically, most of us are unloved and our marriages mean nothing. Thanks a lot, asshole.)

Or my own grandmother's funeral, where the priest said you wouldn't be able to grieve if you weren't a Christian, or words to that effect. (Because that whole crying our eyes out business was obviously down to getting dust in our eyes or something. Secretly chopping onions in the pew, perhaps.)

Or another funeral, where the deceased wasn't in a "better place" according to those left behind, but that he was in a better place according to the deceased himself. (Because being dead sure beats being alive with his much loved family?)

Or, at the very same funeral, where the grandchildren were told that their beloved grandfather had always loved Jesus more than he loved them. Sure, he loved his grandchildren a whole lot, but no, Jesus had always occupied the number one spot in his heart. (Because the grandchildren weren't inconsolable enough already?)

Or when the preacher said that Jesus died on the cross, went to hell and was resurrected. Now, I'm not the most avid reader of the Bible, but I don't remember ever hearing anything about how he went to hell for a couple of days before coming back. Was that a deleted scene that you only find out about if you join the Baptists? (I'm pretty sure the story goes that he died on the cross, his dead body was put in a cave and a few days later got better again, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone.)

"You must have mis-heard them. Clearly they wouldn't have said anything like that." No, I assure you, I heard them perfectly well. They really did say those things. Perhaps not verbatim, but close enough. "But then that's obviously not what they meant. You're taking it out of context!" No, not really? I was listening to what was being said, and because I don't happen to subscribe to the same ideas as them, I actually paid attention to what was being said and how. And if they didn't mean it the way it came out, perhaps they should've thought about that when they wrote the sermon?

Yes, you might believe the truest, purest love you can ever get is only given by God Almighty (and/or Jesus), and that's all well and good - for you. Telling grief-stricken, CRYING CHILDREN they lack the ability to grieve their loved ones, or that they were only their loved one's second best after some dude who has been dead the past 2000-odd years, makes you an INCONSIDERATE, HEARTLESS BASTARD, and you have no business conducting a service for a mixed audience.

If you're preaching to the crowd, i.e. a regular church service, that's fair enough. Everyone's there because they have come specifically to hear what you have to say, and they are most likely all believers anyway, so no one will care. If it's a service for a life event, which means you're 99% certain to have a mixed audience, as most people aren't regular church-goers but will attend life events of friends and family, be a little careful with what you say, especially when it comes to funerals.

The comment during a wedding service about how "you can only truly love someone if you love God" is stupid, but fairly harmless. You groan inwardly and think up less flattering ways you'd like to say "wow, you're amazingly ignorant", but that's about it. If it's a funeral, you can actually do more harm than good by saying the wrong thing. My grandmother's funeral was 15 years ago now, and the comment that "anyone who doesn't love Jesus/know God/whatever don't know what grief is" still makes me angry.

I just hope the "second best after Jesus" grandchildren weren't listening, or at least that they were too preoccupied to realise what was being said about them. They needed to be able to say goodbye and grieve in peace, not to hear that their deeply loved and missed grandparent is better off without them, because that's just cruel.