Sunday, September 7, 2008

Show Us What's Inside Church #3!

It's sort of funny how something that wouldn't feel comfortable or wouldn't be ok at home is suddenly great when it's the most familiar option.

Three Sundays in Abuja, three different churches.  First it was Winner's Church with one of the girls; then it was a Catholic church with the other girl.  Today was with my new family, and had the preacher not been constantly thanking the Lord for "our country Nigeria," I wouldn't have known I was in Africa.  It was just like any praise church I've been to in the United States.

The Church
Outside the building, ushers in orange vests directed traffic into marked parking spaces in a real parking lot, with asphalt, medians and trees.  When that lot was full, the cars went to the dirt over-flow lot behind the church, and when that lot was full, they parked on the soccer field.

Inside, the building looked nothing like other African buildings.  The walls were wood paneled, not cement.  The floor was carpeted, not cement.  The chairs were those cushioned metal chairs that can be hooked together on the sides or stacked easily out of the way.  The sanctuary had a balcony with a railing.  The pulpit and band were on a raised stage.

The Service
The choir consisted of about 9 people, 8 of whom lined up at microphones behind the lead singer.  The words to the hymns shown on the big screen overhead.  Electric guitars, a keyboard and a drum set accompanied the choir.  The preacher told people what scriptures he was going to read, and everyone pulled out their Bibles to follow along.

Normally, I don't really like praises churches.  I prefer old fashioned hymns to the new-fangled repeat-two-lines-for-three-minutes songs.  I like organs, not electric guitars and drums in church.  But today, today I really liked the praise church.  It was familiar; it felt like home.  Nobody encouraged me to give to money to God so I could have a baby, nobody tried to sell me candles or brochures or anything else before the end of the service (like they did at the Catholic church).  I didn't have to put oil on my head; I didn't feel extremely awkward for not having a scarf on my head (Catholic church again).  It was nice.

The Sermon
The sermon today was about the coming of the end of the world.  And what did the preacher point to?  The hurricanes, floods, famines, other natural disasters?  No.  California.  California and the same sex marriage law.  "I remember," he says, "I remember when California passed their same sex marriage law.  I remember reading about it on the internet."  You remember?!  Reading it on the internet!I was there!  I had to chuckle just a little bit.  But then the preacher started explaining how he read a comment from someone who said they were Christian and thought the new couples should be left alone to do what they feel is right.  This was a prime example of the failing morality prophesied for the end of time, a perfect example of people who will call themselves Christian but go to Hell anyway.  He urged everyone to do their duty as Christians and post their own comments on the internet.

Now can someone please explain this to me:  The Old Testament says men should not lie with other men.  But it also says not to eat pigs.  So why is one ok and the other not?  People say, 'well Jesus came and just changed the rules so that you just don't do what is bad for you.  Eating pig is not bad, but homosexuality is.'  Why?  And what happened to not judging others?  (Incidentally, there are other rules in the same section of the Bible that most Christians (and churches) would consider archaic health concerns.)

Same Same, but Different
As different as the three churches I've attended were, they all had some things in common.  Every one of them had three services.  Every one of them was in a large, and nearly full building.  And everyone of them involved some sort of pushing and shoving through crowds either to enter, leave or both.  People here go to church, it's a given.  (And I'm including mosque in that term.)  No one asks "do you go to church?"  They just ask, "which church do you go?"  Any answer is ok, as long as you're going somewhere.


MaryRuth said...

Oh yeah, us Californians are "going to hell in a rocketship" as my fundamentalist EX-coworker used to tell us. The same guy that refused to even be in the same room as my other ex-coworker--the gay one in the 25+ year relationship.
After the fundamentalist was fired (for being really bad at his job) we found all sorts of porn on his computer.

goldenrail said...

MR: It's definitely not a new idea. My great-grandfather used to say all the gay people moved to CA because God was going to make it fall into the ocean some day. That was 50 or 60 years ago.