Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not a Big Deal

The wife said it again. She used that phrase. No, not the dreaded “we need to talk”, thankfully; that one -especially when uttered by ex-1 - has caused me more stomach trouble than flu and cheap burritos combined. (Hmmm…flu combined with cheap burritos. Now that would be a rough day.) This was more benign – “we should start going to church again”.

I know to some people that would be far from a benign suggestion, possibly leading to a rude reply and, depending on who said it, perhaps fisticuffs. In this case both my daughter and I just emitted non-committal but agreeable-sounding hums and kept eating. It wasn’t until later that I wondered why, given how little I usually get out of it, the idea didn’t and still doesn’t bother me more. This led me to ponder my lifelong experiences with churchgoing (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to be specific).

I know this sounds odd, but looking back at my childhood I can’t say I thought of going to church in religious terms. It was just a part of domestic life, something the family did. Once there I acted like I think many “heathens” do when missionaries preach to them; I listened, said “that’s nice to know” and got on with life. It simply had no impact on me beyond the practical applications (the non-religious Commandments aren’t a bad guide to living). As for the confirmation classes, I kicked butt. I memorized all the material and could rattle it off like a recording. But here again, it didn’t move me. I observed and understood what it meant to other people, but I was unaffected.

I did derive tangible benefits. I attended some statewide church youth gatherings and had a great time. Those gatherings tended to have many more girls than boys, which was a boon to me; I rarely sat down at the dances, and it was at one of these that I had my first make-out session.

It was at church that I first got some responsibility and a bit of freedom, albeit due to extenuating circumstances. High school boys traditionally served as ushers, but due to a population gap at our very small church I started ushering when I was in sixth grade. (Incidentally, shouldn’t the term be “ushing” ? Drivers drive, players play, why do ushers usher instead of ush? More language mystery.) This meant not only escorting people to and from pews and taking the collection, but getting to sit in a back pew separate from my family; big stuff for an 11yo. As a high-schooler I had my girlfriend sit with me occasionally.

You have no doubt noticed that the benefits were mostly secular, and some were unintended from the church’s perspective. Nevertheless, they were real, and still bring back some fond memories. I also can’t say I was scarred in any way by the religious part of my upbringing, or that its absence would have made my life obviously better. Perhaps that's why I don't get any more annoyed about church than I do about, say, going to a craft show. Church was never a huge bother;It was just part of growing up.