Up From Methodism: A must read, if you want to

Honestly, as many of you know, I started going to church during high school so I could hang out with some girl. Occasionally, growing up, there were church services sprinkled here and there. It was not that we did not believe in God. I never heard that—although I doubted for a while. No, church just was not something we did. What a turn of events; it seems like now all I do is church!

Having no religious background has its advantages, at least that is what I gather from many people. Now, our family is prepared to make church the center of its life for a very long time. Still, there are many people who feel the church has burned them. That is to say, that their church experiences proved little about God and much about the hypocrisy and wiles of the people they grew up with. Maybe it was a warlord Sunday school teacher, an over-the-top preacher or the finger-pointing, plank in their eye neighbor who was always more than willing to admit your faults. Whoever it was, many people have been turned away by the church’s short comings. And many of those many have made it for good.

The stories all sound remarkably similar. Were people in other generations reading different Bibles? What led people to act in such ways? How did such a powerful message of hope and salvation mutate into something so hurtful? There I go; I realize I may be judging a whole cohort of brothers and sisters with a single keystroke. Yeah, that is how I roll. I do try to mindful of how I might be doing the same thing, but it is a lot easier to see where we have already been. Plus it seems like Jesus did the same thing to many of the Pharisees—so there!

All this talk stems from my reading of Up From Methodism: A Memoir of a Man Gone to the Devil. This is a short reliving of some of Herbert Asbury’s sooo-religious childhood. Any good United Methodist recognizes the Asbury name. Herbert happened to be the great-great-nephew of America’s first Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury.

There. I just made you a better United Methodist.

Herbert grew up in a small town, full of religious zealots, bigots and finger pointers. If you thought church was all fun, all day, then this book might rattle your Jesus cage. It mirrors many of the stories you might hear from someone today explaining why they do not go to church. Essentially, it is a story of a community of faith that seems to get it all wrong. Of course, Herbert's way of calling them out is a little more stronger than that.

If you read it, you might feel differently about the way you see some people who do not go to church. Think about it: Weren’t we taught that if you burn your hand on the stove, do not put your hand back there again. In that light, it makes perfect sense to think about why some people would never want to step foot in a church again, some people.  With that in mind, it is a fairly easy read that might help you understand others better.  It was written in 1926; so, be prepared for some antiquated references.

If you cannot remember a day you were not in church, you might want to read this book.
Go ahead; take a walk on the wild side.

If your story sounds like some of what I have already described, you may not want to read this 
book. Why bring all that back right now?

What I took away from this reading is the reminder that who we are on Sunday should be just that…who we are. What I do on Sunday morning at church is a part of who I am every other day of the week. The world does not need more Sunday Christians, those whose life only has room for God on Sunday morning. Although there is forgiveness, let's not go about our faith that way.  And no, I had no idea there was a wiki page for the term "Sunday Christians."

God is too good and has done too much for us to respond in any other way than learning to live a life "worthy of our calling." When we do not want to carry our faith throughout the week we discount what God is doing. Also, we just might be turning someone else away for good.

Do you have a story like Herbert's?  How much have you ever considered the real reason(s) why someone did not go to church?  I would be interested to hear your experiences.

0 Responses :