Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Church of Brunch

I just read an article in First Things about a story that recently aired on NPR. The subject of the story was the Church of Brunch, a congregation of believers and atheists that leaves religion, deities, and dogma at the door and gather for a non-god-centered Sunday ceremony.

Services begin an hour before noon as the community joins in song in order to stir fire into the hearts of the non-faithful. Any song will do so long as it is inspirational, nonreligious, and has the potential to invoke full, conscious, and active participation on the part of the assembly.

On the day NPR was visiting, Cat Stevens’ classic hit from Harold and Maude, “Sing Out,” was being playfully strummed on a single guitar while what sounded like a dozen or so voices filled the air with a spirit that found itself somewhere between a campfire sing-a-long and a Steubenville Youth Conference.

Since this is an entirely nonreligious gathering, the Torah, the Qur’an, and the Bible are deemed offensive, but there is always a place for inspirational and thought-provoking readings. Whether from Shakespeare, Kerouac, or Sexton, any and all can touch the human heart in some way and remind hearers that they are alive and that something has happened, something is happening, or something will probably happen in the future. And if anyone in the assembly feels called to offer some reflections on the reading, such contributions are most welcome and appreciated.

Quiet contemplation comes next. After hearing the word and allowing it to be broken open within the community, silence is needed to allow the word to penetrate the hearts of the non-faithful. Of course, as with any Sunday service, silence is easy for some and difficult for others, but, in the end, the community is better off after three or four minutes of quiet.

Finally, the community is just about ready to approach the table of fellowship—but not until they first raise their heads and join together in a Johnny Cash number. Seeing that his most recent albums have been coated in religious imagery and metaphor, reaching back into the vault and flat-picking a hearty version of “Folsom Prison Blues” is deemed more appropriate. After the song, there is the traditional sign of peace, and then it’s time to break bread.

There's nothing like singing "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," sharing a sign of peace, and then sitting down to a vegan potluck with your brothers and sisters in brunch.

Isn't there something just sad about all this? When I read this, all I see are lost and broken people, like all of us, trying desperately to find a sense of meaning and community. Unfortunately, they are determined to keep God out, so their search is a hopeless one. What do words mean, or songs inspire if there is no hope or truth? Where is the meaning in a world where humans are simply animals whose only reason for being is reproduction? And intelligence, conciousness, and creativity are simply to tools to ensure this? If so, what community can there be besides the herd? Why look for hope if we are no more valuable to the universe than cockroaches?

I see people wrestling with the innate longing in their souls to be in relationship with their creator. I see them reaching toward the sky for meaning. I see God with his arms open wide. And I see people turning away, looking instead for something that isn't there, choosing themselves and this world over Him.

No comments: