Updated: Nov 7, 2020
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
“Dogma, my man,” J. K. asked while putting away the paddles and balls after their ping pong match, “are you going to church anywhere these days?”
“No,” Dr. Dogma smiled at his old friend, “I have kind of had it with organized religion.”
“What?” J.K. blinked in surprise. “Come on man, you used to be so fired up for the Lord. You’re a religious studies professor, for crying out loud!”
Dr. Dogma chuckled. “In the midst of being fired up I got burned one time too many.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I guess more than anything, I just don’t see the value in the church itself. Seems to me many times the church is just a building where the like-minded members meet to reinforce their belief in experiencing God.” Dr. Dogma shrugged. “I always thought the purpose of the church was to promote an outside response inspired through an inside practice. What I have been wondering lately is where church fits into belief.”
J.K. immediately went into a sincere and heartfelt dialogue explaining how the church was inspired by God to teach people His way. Dr. Dogma listened patiently to his friend. “The Church is God’s hands, feet, and mouth in the world. It is only through banding together the believers, which is the church, that the gospel message of Jesus Christ can spread to every corner of the world. The church is the beacon of light standing on a hill in a dark and sinful world. The Church feeds people spiritually, and,” he chuckled slightly, “sometimes physically too. It is the church that points the way. Look at how the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority affect the political climate of this country! They provide a great moral compass, and both of those groups are rooted in the church.
“You know,” J.K. stated, wrapping up his mini sermon, “I hate when people like you leave the church. That is the exact opposite of what God wants. We need people like you to help others think about what we do within the church. When people like you leave, Satan is winning.”
Dr. Dogma stiffened. “J.K,” he started, patting his shoulder, “we have been friends for a long time, and you know I love you. You are my brother from another mother. But, to tell you the truth, it bothers me that it bothers you that I find no value in the church.”
J.K. opened his mouth to speak, but Dr. Dogma continued, “May I explain my position?” J.K. nodded. “I’m not trying to persuade you to my way of thinking, just as you shouldn’t attempt to persuade me to your way of thinking. To each his own. I value our relationship, so if it’s okay, before we call it a night, I would like to give you my reasoning for exiting organized religion.”
“Sure, brother, speak,” J.K. smiled before tossing in, “just none of your religious studies speak.”
“My entire life,” Dr. Dogma began, “I have been searching for God. I have been looking here and there, high and low. Some say God is this way and some say God is that way. Think about the religions of the world; each instructs human beings on how to find, experience, and interact with God. I have looked and listened for God in countless churches, in countless prayer groups, in countless worship services, and even serving on mission trips; I did not see God and I did not hear God.” Dr. Dogma paused briefly to regard his friend. “Believe it or not, my life long prayer has been for God to speak to me audibly just one time, just as he spoke to Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Paul.”
He went on to say, “For years I thought I was searching in vain, and I truly believed I would never hear from God, let alone ever see him.” Just as J.K. prepared to interject, Dr. Dogma held up a finger. “Be clear, my friend, I have never doubted God or God’s existence, but I wanted more. And then one day it suddenly dawned on me, God is everywhere and God is everything.
“I think everyone agrees that God is nature in all of its splendor and might, but more I have found that God is actually in everyone. We are taught that human beings were created in the image of God so it only stands to reason that it is within human beings that I will see and hear God. This leads me directly to the church.”
Dr. Dogma’s head shook slightly. “For some reason, people put the attendance of church services as a requirementfor belief in God and a prerequisite for being ‘a good Christian.’ Now, I have found that most collective worship gatherings, a.k.a. church, are more focused on perpetuating that specific church’s belief system instead of gathering to simply worship God. Most seem to stress, this is how WE worship God. Going further, I have found there is little difference between the collective members of a church and the ‘unchurched.’ Sure, there are always exceptions to every rule, but my personal experience with ‘church-goers’ and ‘non church-goers’ has been non discriminating.”
“What do you mean by that?” J.K. asked rigidly.
“Well,” Dr. Dogma clasped his hands together, “put them all in a bag and shake them up. When you dump them out, for the most part, they all look and more importantly act the same. If people regularly attend church, which says to others they believe in something, shouldn’t that belief influence their behavior? By shear definition, belief should establish and govern behavior. The way I see it, behavior is seen in the parking lot, during rush hour traffic, in the grocery store, on the golf course, around the negotiation table, at the ballpark, at work, at school…everywhere. I have encountered so many church-goers that lose their ‘church’ as soon as the rubber meets the road i.e. as soon as their car leaves the church parking lot. So, what is the value of church when it doesn’t translate into the actions and reactions after Sunday services conclude?”
J.K. was silent. Dr. Dogma continued, “The church that you attend believes in the two great commandments, which are quite simply ‘love God’ and ‘treat others as you wish to be treated.’ If I do this daily in my comings and goings, aren’t I doing all that I was instructed to do? What is attending church going to do for me? Aren’t my actions better worship of God than sitting in a pew listening to someone telling me their biased version of God’s instructions? In this created universe, it is the created beings, mainly human beings, that have the power to influence and impact the world. Without human intervention, all God can do is scream, whisper, and stand by, trying to influence the ways within the world. It takes the action of the human beings who listen to God’s influence to bring His will into fruition.
“I believe,” Dr. Dogma stated firmly, “God is a higher vibration that is actively influencing this creation, our world, through human beings, every moment of every day. Further still, how can a human being understand a being that exists beyond good and evil? The only way a human being understands anything is through contrast, and contrast is manifested by the actions of our fellow humans. God works though people, plain and simple.
“Then who has more power the creator or the created?” Dr. Dogma paused for a split second, allowing the question to sink into J.K. “I say it is the created, the people. People reflect how the world interacts with and listens to God. It is through people, through their kindness, their compassion, their encouragement, their effort, their energy, their sweat, and their thoughts, that God’s presence is felt by the world. And conversely, it is the lack of these same attributes that make the world doubt God.
“So, you see my friend,” he smiled, “it is not the church that matters nearly as much as the actual people. I prefer to live each day as I believe God would have me live and therefore practice my belief everyday versus just on Sundays. Because of this, I do not need a weekly reminder on how to treat my fellow man. I feel people tend to rely on the church for these consistent reminders and reassurances instead of embodying these core beliefs into their daily practice of living. In order for God to live through us, we must live to see and hear God. This, of course, means you cannot make your life ‘all about you,’ which has become the norm in our ‘me first’ society. People seem unwilling to set aside their own agendas to truly see, hear, and embody God.”
After a brief silence, J.K.’s expression morphed from shock to one of complete seriousness. “Dogma, I only heard two very distinct messages. One is that you are tired of hypocrites, and sure who isn’t, but we’re human and you cannot judge God by human behaviors. Second, it sounds like you are basically saying God and man are the same, which I simply can’t agree with.”
Dr. Dogma sighed. “J.K. you missed my point entirely. The only way you can understand God is through humans. In no way did I say that God and man are the same. What I did imply was the church seems to confuse the created as a whole on their individual responsibility to the creator. For God to be alive and well in the world, people cannot place their sole reliance on the church. It is the people, not the church, who are the eyes, ears, hands, feet, legs, and mouth of God. I believe we do see and hear God because people are the body of God, and it is each of us, not the church, that bear the responsibility to be what we want to see. For I truly believe…
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YOU MAY BE THE ONLY IMAGE OF GOD SOME PEOPLE SEE
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