Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Jesus Loves You"

Incidentally, despite my atheist beliefs, I continue to attend church. This is due to three primary reasons: (1) I have been an atheist for barely over a year, and still have many dear friends that I would only see at church. (2) If I chose to openly disclose my atheism I would be confronted with a lot of bothersome social baggage that I would rather avoid at this point in my life. (3) It also so happens that the church I attend is, at least as far as I can tell, one of the closest replicas of how I believe Christian church is supposed to be. There are no abusive priests, sermons about the dangers of hellfire and sin, and more or less the church clergy and members are more concerned with altruism than the unceremonious bigotry and guile of stereotypical churches these days. I wish to avoid sounding ostentatious or conceited when I say that, but it is true that the 'maturity' -if you will- of the particular church I attend spares me of being disgusted or angry whenever I am there.

So, that being said, I attended the Christmas services held at my church very recently. Something particular caught my attention during one of these services, something that I had never observed before. One of the priests, after serving the children or teenagers communion at the front of the church, would say the usual line "the blood of Christ, blah blah blah," but then followed it by "Jesus Loves You." Now, although such a statement may seem perfectly normal, it certainly was not something I was expecting. Additionally-it might have only been my individual perception- but I could swear that I noted a slight tinge of uncertainty and hesitation in his voice as he said it. Perhaps this was due to the fact that it is certainly an odd thing to say to someone, that Jesus loves them, not that I doubt his personal conviction of the words he spoke, but simply that it caught my attention. It was certainly an uncommon and interesting experience for me.

Now, beyond the superficial matters of that anecdote, it was even stranger to me why the priest would feel obligated to make such a statement. Saying "Jesus loves you" in my opinion implies that the recipient of such a comment is in some way in need of encouragement, or is perceived to be in a time of ambiguity or confusion in his or her life and requires advice. Perhaps, considering the season, the priest intended it as a reminder or some sort, but it stills seemed to me then and especially now upon reflection an awkward and obscure thing to say, at least in the setting I encountered it in.

Anyway just some thought.


the chaplain said...

I've been an atheist for about 7 months and I still go to church. When one's family has been involved in the church for generations, pulling out suddenly and unexpectedly creates lots of unnecessary tension and heartache for people, including oneself. I've been attending less frequently and I quit the choir several months ago, but I do maintain a fairly good connection. The people in church are still my friends and I have to weigh some family considerations too. If people ask questions, I will speak honestly. The time for a bigger break from the past will come, but it hasn't arrived yet.