I’ve been at a conference most of the week. It’s the biennial meeting for the denomination I’m part of.
Many people I talk to in the hospital and elsewhere say that they are not much interested in organized religion, the kind that is represented by this conference.
In defense, the joke we tell is that organized religion isn’t very organized. And the platitude we offer is that we aren’t about religion, we’re about relationship. Or better, God’s not about religion, he’s about relationship.
But as I sit in the back, as I listen to elements of our event that I don’t understand, as I attend as a chaplain on my own rather than as part of a congregation, as I find myself in a room away from the crowd writing this, I understand the distance people feel when they consider “church”.
But while I’ve been here, I’ve looked at the outside world through the cracks between conversations and meetings. And by “outside world” I mean anything happening elsewhere. And by cracks I mean twitter and facebook. I’ve had to form impressions based on the comments and observations and allegations and assertions of the people I’ve chosen to pay attention to.
And I’m not much interested in the disorganized discourse that I’m hearing. There is so much noise, so much frustration, so much despair and disparagement.
As an introvert, as a problem-solver, as an emotional person, I get stuck. I don’t know which fear to fix, which wild accusation or illogical conclusion to debate.
In the hallways, I have conversations. People look me in the eye, hug me, honestly ask how I’m doing. Some of them are spending hours a week trying to explain God’s words through their words and fingers and dollars and calendars. They walk with people through the hardest moments people face. They say things like, “it was hard when I lost my wife, but I was loved and I’m working and I live with a hope.” They are honestly working to offer meaningful answers to those questions about organized religion. And they have been doing it for years and decades.
When I compare the tears of these people with the tearing down in my feed, I want to understand more of the hope they have. Because the way to respond to offhand comments is with moment by moment active commitment to something that matters.