Friday, March 10, 2006

I Lied About Church Today

I lied about church today. Is that a definite trip to hell?

I walked into the post office today with an older lady. We shared some pleasantries and I went to drop my mail in the slot. I realized she was behind me and hurried because I thought she wanted to drop in some mail.

When I turned around she said with the most pleasant smile, "I'd like to invite you to my church, Apostolic Faith, on 17th."

Even while she was saying the words, I was forming my response. "I already have a church, but thank you" tumbled out of my mouth. It wasn't a complete lie, but it was a lie in spirit because what I think of when I say "church" is not what she thinks of. I hurried off before she could ask any questions.

But, truth be told - now, hours later, here comes the truth - I didn't want to talk to her about it. I didn't want to be in the position of defending - or even discussing - my views on religion, church, spirituality or other private matters. Because for me they are just that - private. I rarely discuss such things with even my closest friends, much less am I going to engage a stranger at the Hutchinson, Kansas post office in a discussion about my faith. And part of me resented being put in the position of telling that lie.

Of course, no one forced me to lie. I made that choice on my own.

And, I am impressed by people who believe in their church so much that they invite people they've shared a dozen words with to attend. That is an incredibly welcoming attitude. Now, of course, if I had actually shown up it might have taken them no time at all to determine they had made a huge mistake and the minister could implore the congregation to never invite another person. Or, they could have changed my attitude. Or, it could have just been a non-event for all of us. Who knows? But I do know it's impressive that their congregation is extending itself to others. I've known a couple of people over the years who've visited there because they had been asked.

Of course, I could have been more gracious. I wasn't prepared for the question and don't have a ready answer for it. I'm glad I ended with a "thank you" but I wish I had taken time to say something like, "but it's kind of you to ask." But, I didn't. Maybe next time I'll remember. Maybe I'll not be invited again. Maybe I'll remember and still not do it because I don't want to take a chance on having more of a conversation about religion.

Why am I not comfortable discussing my faith, you may be asking yourself? I would contend it's not "uncomfortable," as much as it is "invasive." Religion is private to me. It's another reason I don't care for the administration. I want my politics and my religion separate. I want to make judgements about each, without them being clouded by the other. I don't need a church body to define how I feel about certain topics. I do not need a government to chime in on it, involving itself in these incredibly private matters. I was blessed by God with a brain, and trained in public schools supported by the government to use it. Therefore I can make decisions on my own.

She was a very nice lady from what I could tell. But I was neither interested in attending her church, nor in discussing the reasons why. I'm just not a "putting a sign in my front yard to proclaim my allegiance to a church" sort of person. You see those signs all over town and more power to people who feel that strongly about their church, but it's not for me.

I'd rather people judge who I am based on my actions, not on my alliance with a particular group. Of course, given the fact that I lied about church today, maybe I should reconsider that position.

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