21 August 2005

Sunny Day and my walk away from God

I was thinking about a couple of things in church today, none of them having to do with what was happening in church as both of the services were, again, practices in mediocrity and laziness. But my mind keeps a truckin' even when I'm supposed to be running the overhead machine. I remember how when I was in college I used to get crazy about getting people to come to these InterVarsity conferences. Man, I would use the vice for it, the whole "what are your priorities" speech that came out as subtly as I could without saying, "You will be less of a Christian if you don't come to the retreat." Here's what I am finally coming to realize about all those big conferences: it's fake. I mean, I shouldn't say fake as much as manufactured. You take people out of their element, play music and use lights to excite and then calm people, and finally, get someone to stand up in front of everyone and say this is the real reality and everything else is not real. Then you go to breakout groups, talk about changing your life, and then Sunday night pack up and go home after talking about the "post-retreat letdown."  Or rather, "what you will do when we aren't telling you what to do" which is really "here, we'll tell you what to do when we're not telling you what to do."

I think it's strange that a lot of conversions happen at events like these. We're always trying to get non-Christians into spaces where we can dim the lights, play music and tell them to change their lives. And pressure them in our own element. What's up with that? Is this a bitter, older version of me taking a bitter swing at his old self? Well, maybe, but I think it's this: I'm beginning to see that religion, not God, exerts a lot more control on people than previously suspected. Why is it that everyone knows what God wants except me? Oh wait, I just have to read your book to tell me how to read the Bible to read your meaning out of it? Thanks for that. Here's your $15.99. I don't think I could ever follow another religious leader who first didn't admit that he or she had no clue about anything and was trying to figure this out with the rest of us. And this quiet coercion bullshit has got to stop. Also notice that a lot of current political pressure comes to us in the same kind of distinct black and white, good and evil, for us and against us PowerPoint slides. I don't see a connection though.

Dim the lights and play Sunny Day's "One," I'm going to land this:

I remember my first year at Knox: I had just discovered my special purpose and was eager to keep it in gear. Thus, I had plans to leave Knox one weekend in November to go North, to Chicago to be with my girlfriend and watch what became Sunny Day Real Estate's last show in Chicago. Doug, our faithful IV staff worker, laid out the guilt on me, priorities, growing closer to God, all that stuff. He even made fun of the band's name, the low blow which did him in because, I remember thinking, if he doesn't understand Sunny Day, he can't understand why I'm going. The night, in retrospect, was entirely bittersweet as my girlfriend left me that next spring and it was one of the last times she sat on my lap while we waited for the show together. It was still so young. One of the last times I felt truly innocent and good. There you have it, the truth: I skipped the 2000 Bible and Life conference to begin learning the hardest lesson about love that we all have to learn at some point. And I don't think I'll ever regret it.