(Response to http://www.ucc.org/feed-your-spirit/daily-devotional/spiritual-but-not-religious.html) I was riding my motorcycle just above the speed limit, nothing unsafe or extreme. I came upon a convertible automobile that was far left in the lane going slow. It looked like it may be turning left even without a signal. So I slowed, even if the car was turning I would slow and then it was obvious the car was not going to turn, thus I slowed even greater, even though I could have easily passed on the right with the space and the power of my bike. However, I have only my leather and helmet and would rather take a minute to insure the rubber side always stays down. Well, apparently the driver of the car saw me coming and was concerned as well and assumed I would go around on the right unsafely and stopped. So I stopped. No big deal, I’d rather everyone be extra safe. The driver seemed confused and I waved her to go on, as she did technically have the “right of way.” I thought nothing about it until the next light for now I was in the left lane to go straight and the convertible was the right lane to turn right. I came to a safe stop and lifted my visor as I do at most stops, to hear the driver in the convertible screaming at me. I was pretty sure I did not run over her cat and I know I did nothing dangerous and actually I was extra safe. I was so confused at this irate barage of words. I responded with my hand lifted up and saying, “blessings upon you.” The light turned and I gently resumed my course.
I was upset that I was yelled at. I even replayed the whole episode in my head a number of times, and I cannot figure out what I had done wrong. It seems that my only mistake was to be on a motorcycle, a sportbike no less. There had to be something in the angry driver’s past experience that made her react so vehemently. I could do nothing correct, and even though I tried by following the rules of the road, I was screamed at, because I was something in her eyes. She did not see all the other helmets, that is the “hats” I wear, such as husband, father, son, friend, and child of God.
I share this story for all of us Christians who meet people who see us the same as all other Christians, specifically ones that had hurt them previously. I want to react as I did on the road, but I must admit I was in shock and only had a moment and I believe the Holy Spirit had me bless this hysterical driver. But I must admit I am not always as good with people who learn I am a preacher. They project their own past experiences upon me. Luckily I have not been screamed at, but I have heard the line “I am spiritual, but not religious.” I used to attempt to convince them that church was important and relevant and some of the conversations were quite interesting. More than few times I had heard “I would go to your church.” That alone is not a reason to go to church, but I must admit it would make me feel good. I have found myself getting bored with these conversations, and honestly annoyed as well, because the assumptions I hear in those conversations is that my vocation is not needed and harmful. So, yes I agreed with Lillian Daniel’s blog titled, “Spiritual but Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.” I thought it was a well written reflection with good humor and truth, yet the reaction I observed from people who were not clergy and/or active in the church made me reflect further.
Now those who have been abused, ostracized, and harmed by the church, I welcome hysterical screaming and I would be willing not only to offer a blessing but also an apology. Most (not all) of those that tell me that they are spiritual and not religious were not directly hurt, but had not found the church relevant and they need to share this disappointment and misunderstanding of their lives. Thus upon reflecting on Lillian’s reflection I have decided not to change seats on the airplane (unless there is a seat with more legroom), but rather put on my helmet and ask the hard question: How did we, the Body of Christ, not make our church relevant?
As Paul writes, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12) So when someone who has found Christianity irrelevant sees I am part of this Body, I must realize that they already see me as wearing a suit of irrelevancy. To try to convince them to come to church may lead to an interesting dialogue for myself, but it confirms their assumptions; and to simply find them boring confirms the same assumption, the church is irrelevant. I believe we need to listen, even if it hurts, and leave them feeling blessed and heard. Hopefully, we will hear through our clergy helmets and learn how to make the Body of Christ more relevant.