A writer at the Blaze today echoed the voices of teenagers everywhere when it comes to religion. In reference to the already infamous Pew poll that came out yesterday showing Christianity to be in decline, he declared, somewhat in jest, the reason for this to be “Christianity is boring.”
One of the commentors to his post hit the nail on the head. “If it’s boring,” she writes, “you’re doing it wrong.”
Religion, prayers, Sunday services, Mass, etc do not exist to entertain us. They exist to help us come closer to God, to re-energize our resolve to follow His plan, to come together in communion with other believers and to allow us to grow into good, decent people. In case you missed it, Christianity, Catholicism in particular, is HARD.
Mass is to Catholics what meetings are to alcoholics. Ever heard of rocking AV displays, dancing girls and mind-enhancing music at an AA meeting? Me either. If you think Mass or whatever kind of Sunday service you go to, if you go to any, should be designed to entertain you, maybe you should leave organized religion. Maybe you are, or should be, one of the six people who have left the Catholic Church for every one who has joined it in recent years.
The Catholic Mass, like other Christian services, is designed to encourage reflection, worship, repentance and many other exercises that help us evaluate and advance our relationship with The Lord. I love a good homilest and engaging priest as much as anyone. When I was in college at the University of Dayton, our provost not only gave a moving homily, he recited the Gospel dramatically. From memory. His Masses were packed to the gills on parents weekends and often held in the field house instead of the chapel.
Yes, he was entertaining, if you want to call it that. “The best priest I ever saw,” my dad used to tell people. But Father was also thought-provoking, challenging and integral in faith formation at UD at that time. He was the priest everyone would want at their parish. But not every parish can have a Father Heft. All priests have gifts to share, but not all are great speakers. At many moments in a lifetime of Masses, we must deal with a variety of priests – the rambler who forgets it’s a 1 p.m. Steeler kick-off, the one who just asks for money, the one who has stage fright, the one who wants to talk lofty theology instead of relate Jesus to parishioners, and so forth.
What makes Mass moving and “entertaining” if you will, is us. When we trust in the sacredness of the Mass, when we allow ourselves to engage in ceremony, to assess our relationship with God, to move past all the other things on our minds and focus on why we’re there in the first place, WE make the Mass meaningful for ourselves. A vibrant priest helps. But theatrics are not the necessary element to finding fulfillment.
The fact that we find Christianity “boring” says a lot more about us than it does about the Church, or about God. His lessons are not easy. We don’t want to hear about the un-Christian things we expose our children to. No one wants to hear about the need to condemn abortion, abuse, gossip, pride and gluttony. We don’t want to feel “uncomfortable” in relationships with gay friends and family because were Catholic. We don’t want to necessarily share our wealth with the poor. We’d rather accept the expertise of pseudo-scholars who tell us God is dead and the ways of the Church, which have challenged believers for millennia, are archaic. But really, what’s old fashioned about listening to your parents, not taking things that aren’t yours, and not sleeping with your neighbor’s husband? Yet we still haven’t conquered these temptations in all our modernness.
Truly, if entertainment is really what your looking for, Sunday services actually have it all. Betrayal, sex, incest, murder, war, barbarism, fire and brimstone. And that’s just in the first chapter of the Bible. I had a great high school religion teacher who used to call out verse numbers and make some unsuspecting kid in his class read them aloud. He loved the part where Lot’s daughters decide to seduce their drunk father to ensure that they’ll have children, now that their hometown of Sodom has burned to the ground.
I wonder what those who declare this boringness would think of those I recently wrote about who would bring all Catholics back to pre-Vatican II Masses where the priest prayed, in Latin, with his back to the congregation. Imagine the disconnection they would feel not being able to understand a single word of the service!
No, people don’t leave the church today because Christianity is boring. They leave it because it’s easier and more fun to follow the crowd on its way to eternal damnation.