Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heavenly HR: God's inclement weather policy

Back when I was a regular churchgoer, particularly during my adventures in fundamentalism, Sunday church attendance was like the mail—rain, snow, sleet, or hail, we were expected to get through the elements and darken the doorway of God’s house. Apparently, He’s relaxed the standards since I left the fold. Either that, or security trumps all else in post-9-11 America, including theology.

Now, anytime a snowflake is forecast, churches of all stripes and denominations line up to see who can be the first to postpone Sunday services. I guess God’s hand of protection doesn’t apply to winter’s snow and ice. Seems a bit odd to me, not that I particularly care, at my current post-Xian juncture of life.

I found one local cancellation rather ironic this morning, watching the rash of church cancellations scroll across the bottom of the television screen, watching David Gregory spar with Rahm Emanuel. A local congregation, The Shiloh, was listed alongside the avalanche of other statewide cancellations. This group is mostly made up of residents of my town of Durham. The pastor lives about 300 yards from the church’s front door. Most of the congregants live within a six mile radius, with probably half about 3-5 miles from the church. It's obvious that safety now trumps salvation in today’s harried world.

This also proves John Walton’s theory about God—that you don’t need to show up at church, on Sunday morning, to glorify Him. You can choose to worship your own way, in nature, or sitting in a comfortable chair, next to the wood stove, since God doesn’t reside in a building, or something like that.

I wonder what Jack Hyles would say about that? Hyles was the megalomaniac pastor of the First Baptist Church in Hammond, and the founder of Hyles-Anderson College, where I attended in the early 1980s. Hyles would periodically get a rant going about people missing church. It didn’t matter that you had worked all night, at some shitty job, barely making more than minimum wage, and were attending his non-accredited school, with barely two nickels to rub together. On Sunday morning, you were expected to be in God’s house, which was his church. God forbid that you might dose off during his sermon, even if you hadn’t slept in 72 hours, because you had been street preaching all night in Al Capone’s former hangout of Calumet City. Rushing home, you changed shirts, put on your necktie, and off you went to Saturday soul-winning, after being harangued by Brother Godfry, at his early morning Fisherman’s Club meeting. Then, after fulfilling your three hour requirement to bang on doors in dangerous neighborhoods all over the greater-Chicagoland area (like Gary, or East Chicago), you then had to rush home, pick up your wife for her Lamaze class, and weather her glare (or worse, a punch) when you dosed off during the two hours of instruction.

In addition to sleep deprivation, I remember some pretty harrying trips my wife and I made, with a newborn son strapped in back, from Merrillville to Hammond, on bald retread tires, sliding over U.S. 41, or spinning my way forward after a red-light stop, other churchgoers blowing their horns at me, frustrated that Bible-boy didn’t have enough cash to equip his car with tires made for the snow, or ice. I was in church, by God, however!

I've come to the conclusion that the supposedly unchanging Jehovah’s gotten soft over the past two decades.

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