So there we are, sitting in church. No seriously. We belong to a church. Me. And Jim. We go to church. No really. This is new for me, newer for Jim, and unfortunately and much to my own surprise, he is far more open to it than I am.
So there we are, sitting in church, and much as I did back in my grade school days at St. James, I found myself sitting in church and being as judgy as possible. If you could peek inside my mind, my thought process was something like this:
Why is that woman wearing that SHIRT? Lady, that haircut is doing you no favors. Maybe next time they could get less tone deaf people in the choir. That kid needs to be smacked… oh man, his Dad shouldn’t hit him so hard in church! Man, I want a taco. You don’t have to be rich, to be my girl, you don’t have to be coooool, to rule my world….
Yeah, that weekly time of reflection… I generally use it to daydream and give random strangers the stink eye. Godly? Not so much, I guess. But I do tend to pay attention from time to time. My loss of ability to pay attention usually happens when the choir is on the fifth verse of a song that was too long at verse number two — and you just KNOW they’re going to hit the chorus again, twice. For some reason, I revert to the attention span of a first grader when this happens.
But yesterday, we got to the second reading, and it came from James. It compared the tongue to the rudder of a ship, that a ship needs huge sails and strong winds to move, but the tiny little rudder is what actually guides it. Much the same way as you have this body and this life… but how you speak determines where you go. “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing,” the passage read.
Naturally, I found the reading very political. It immediately made me think of Mr. Joe Wilson and his shout-out at the President the other day.
It made me think of the moral superiority that people in this country believe they have versus the rest of the world. It made me think of Keith Olbermann referring to Mr. Wilson as “stupid,” and of Glen Beck referring to the President as a “racist.” It made me think of a little girl committing suicide because a grown woman, disguising herself as a teen boy, was cruel to her on Facebook. It made me think of the kid we harassed mercilessly at St. James. It made me think of Rush Limbaugh’s nastiness toward the President, and Al Franken’s nastiness at Rush Limbaugh.
Naturally, there are some people who rip apart others, and I think, “right on.” And at other times, I think, “well, how dare them!” But while I found myself agreeing with the passage, that it “ought not be so” that we curse some and bless others with the same tongue, I also thought, it’s impossible NOT to. It’s impossible not to curse those who hurt you, and praise those who help you. It’s impossible at least for me.
I considered that maybe I was taking the passage too seriously, too literally. That it wasn’t about forcing us to NOT speak badly, to NOT be judgy, but instead, to think about it before we speak, because our words have consequences. Like, say, if you utter out nastiness at the President before thinking about it, suddenly your opponent has an additional $1 million in his campaign fund. Or when you call the President a racist, your advertisers don’t like you so much.
But then again, when you spout hate against the President every day, sometimes you are rewarded with a huge audience and an eight-figure checking account. And when you write books calling someone a “big fat idiot” in the title, you are sometimes rewarded with a seat in the United States Senate.
So what gives? This is the kind of thing I struggle with as we return to church these days, is understanding the lessons brought forward. I hate to be so cynical, but sometimes I think, get real already. It’s naive to think we can all just be nice to each other. It’s just not going to happen.
But I’ll continue to sit in church on Sunday. Not because I am looking for absolution. But hopefully, I’ll start taking the lessons to heart, and hear them as a way to live rather than as a political commentary. I’ll try to listen to the whole thing, rather than get lost in Prince songs and dreams of Taco Bell swirling around my head. I’ll try to ignore the fashion choices of the woman sitting in front of me.
I guess we’ll just see where this goes.