Sunday, Sept 28th 2014
Kensington Community Church, United Church of Christ – http://www.kensingtonucc.com/
In a small, traditional style chapel on a residential street Kensington Community Church stands pleasantly on the corner of in all its The typical southwestern cream colored stucco and red tiled roof dominates the complex which boasts various halls and rooms for use by both congregation members and church functions, as well as available for use by appointment. Beautiful stained glass windows dominate the chapel walls and above the lectern, depicting important scenes and figures from the Bible.
A collection of casually dressed people milled around the entrance a score of minutes before nine a.m., chatting amicably and a small prayer group of young people was gathered in a circle in a small courtyard beyond, praying hand in hand. I deduced that they were part of the same group that would be leading the service today, as it was explained to me by my contact within the Church that this Sunday’s service was to be presented by the Youth Ministry. Open minded, honest appraisals and lowered expectation was my self-affirmation as I crossed the sunlit threshold into the chapel. See, I try… honest I do.
The fellow at the door (why are all the greeters bearded and paunchy older guys?) smiled wide and welcomed me while simultaneously handing me a program. After thanking him and taking the pamphlet, I inspected the inner sanction as I looked around for my acquaintance with whom I had propositioned earlier in the week about the possibility of attending her congregation. The décor was tasteful and pleasing, all the more so from the sunlight cascading into the room from the stained glass down onto the double rows of pews. Several dozen people were already in attendance, a near full spectrum of age and class, casual to dressy and not a person did I see sitting alone or looking bored. An interesting observance I had not seen at any other church, there are usually always loners and single attendees that choose not to relate or interface with their fellow church-goers. I’ll admit that I was pleased to be one who would interject a little individuality into their midst. Black sheep that I am.
At the very front of the chapel, in a pew on the left hand side next to the piano was Kelly, a colleague of mine and fellow Toastmaster member of our company club. Her blond hair, pale skin and cherubic features appropriately compliment her curvy figure and the confident air she presents. A singer in the choir at the Church as well as a participant in various choir projects at Playhouses in the area, she is an accomplished individual in many respects. But perhaps more than that, she is the mother of two beautiful children.
Her youngest, Maya, is a shy and tiny font of innocence, the embodiment of an adorable little girl. Stuffed animal held close and hiding behind Kelly, introductions were one sided, which from a child’s viewpoint of a stranger is perfectly acceptable. If you don’t think so, you either don’t have children or are a dullard of cruel proportions, maybe both. It was explained that she had an inclination of enjoying the spirituality that was found within church services and was always accompanying her mother on Sundays. I am still on the fence concerning my judgment of this promotion of her “spiritual” association. Is her mother encouraging something naturally resident within her and merely supporting her in her self-discovery? Or does the spirituality come from the indoctrination that holds so many children in thrall? The kind that results from force fed bible classes, children’s Sunday services and constant enforcement of religious doctrine? I hope, for the sake of the little one and my own desire to not look with a mulled sense of derision upon her mother that it is the former and not the latter.
Her oldest, Sage is a young adult of seven (and a half, do not forget the half I am told) and with a willful determination to find her own path in life. From the stories of her actions, deeds and ideas the young lady is quite befitting of her namesake. And according to Kelly she has a predilection for the clairvoyant, telling her things of other people she couldn’t know and on occasion speaks to people not there. Whether this is a form of functioning autism which manifests itself in ways not understood, simply exaggeration and happenstance or merely a gifted child with a penchant for reading people and projecting her abilities into personalities of her own devising, I have not a clue. As an individual who projects fictional figures onto my environs for various purposes, usually for reinforcement of situations dealing with Lesser Magic and for my own benefit, I choose to look upon it as something akin to that. Sadly, I was not treated to the pleasure of meeting her, as she was at home recovering from a busy weekend. Perhaps another time.
After a welcoming hug (I am pretty fucking cuddly after all) and introductions to her fellow choir singers, I took my seat as the service looked to be nearing its beginning. The gaggle of young prayerites (if that’s not a word, it is now) came bustling into the chapel and took seats in the front rows of the pews on the right-hand side. Awkward in their bodies as most teenagers tend to be, they took their places and chattered enthusiastically, if not a little nervously. I must say that I quite enjoyed listening to the choir groups less than “appropriate” conversation while I observed the gathered congregation, which ranged from discussion of a cross-dressing fellow who was unable to attend today’s service (and of which his apparently new-found hairlessness was of great comedic value) to the shirt of an elderly choir member which reminded the pastor of a Columbian drug lords garb. All of which seemed to be good natured ribbing of an amicable nature, and given the acceptance and affection for all sources of humor, I found it rather endearing. Though maybe I just have a soft spot for transvestites and Scarface. Cock and cocaine, now THAT’S a topic worth gathering for!
During the taking of seats and general hubbub before the service, a ginger-haired fellow walked along the congregation and greeted, welcomed and brought his ever smiling good cheer to the atmosphere. I truly must have non-believer stamped above me in neon-lighting (crimson if you please) as his enquiry of me while jovial and pleasant was most pervasive. Some redirection, on being invited to attend the service and satiate my curiosity of what was promoted within the halls on an intellectual level appeased his query and I did not need to expand upon my intentions further. In good form, he relayed his hope that I would enjoy myself and find something of use, then moved on. I smiled and thanked him for the sentiments, assuring him that I would. Only the moronic and spiteful find no value in the paths they choose to wander.
Shortly after, the same ginger haired fellow whom had strolled along the pews took the stage and gregariously welcomed those present. Darryl Kistler (henceforth titled DK) by name and senior minister of the church, always seemed to be flashing those pearly whites, and with a contrast that compliments his complexion, I certainly don’t fault him for using it. A perfectly good looking fellow.
The opening welcome was relevant, as he relayed that as the topic of the youth’s service was tolerance, and that there had been so many issues recently in the world with profiling, a theme on the value of diversity was a most important reminder. Tolerance, diversity, understanding and acceptance…. surely I had not come into a Christian church this morning! I almost wanted to stand and point, screaming “Blasphemer!” in an overly dramatic and imperious tone. But I opted to continue listening.
He continued with requesting and encouraging that the congregation members fill out the reviews available, which would provide evaluations for the services held. Way ahead of you there DK. *insert snicker here* I’d certainly want to hear if people actually gave a shit about what I was pouring into their minds. “Does this help you believe more, or less in the bogeyman?” An important question for those forty-five year olds who still believe in the beasties under their beds. As for my beasties, mine came out of the shadows long ago, and are in fact helping me to write this very review. Larry says Hi, and hopes you enjoy the longer, more expressive words. They are his forte after all. Petey says Fuck off. (My apologies, he’s kind of emo like that.)
Next on the docket was asking for volunteers to help drop off food stuffs and items to Rachael’s’ House, a shelter for homeless, abused and transient women. While a part of the Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, I feel it has its merits and is a worthwhile venture for those wishing to support such ends. Though I do not know how far the root of religious corruption and judgment runs from the dogma of the supporting entity into the services rendered. Mother Teresa once ran much the same type of racket, except in her case at the expense of the dying and suffering poor of impoverished areas. A detestable woman, whose wrinkled face and dried up virgin cunny deserves none of the accolades and reverence her name evokes in remembrance. But such is the power of the faith and the media.
After that, it was the reminder of next Sunday being World Communion Sunday and that they wished to promote the same acceptance of diversity as they were today. Everyone should bring a personally relevant, culturally based bread item to share. And right on cue, the portly fellow from the choir asked aloud if Wonderbread was an acceptable option for those of the Caucasian persuasion. After much laughter from the congregation, DK asserted in the affirmative that indeed, Wonderbread could and should be on the menu. At least they seemed to have an un-politically correct sense of humor. A nice change from the stilted G-rated humor usually attempted during the past services I had attended. I wondered at that moment if they knew how Moses made his tea. Because… you know… He-brews it! And if you didn’t at least smile for that one, please stop reading and go outside and play hide-and-go-fuck-yourself in traffic. Because you made Petey cry. It’s his favorite joke.
An upcoming 5-week workshop titled “Our Relationship with Money” was promoted aloud next. While the brochure provided at the back of the announcement speaks not a word of faith, God, Jesus or religious gobbledygook, I would be suspicious of it having some dogmatic approach to money not espoused in the notice. Still, for those in the congregation it could be something they might want to hear. And hey there is free child care available… WAIT! That’s the catch. “Come, learn of money and drop off your kids so we can put the bug of Christ in their ear and then send them home with you so it can germinate within their tiny little brains!!!” I think they did a movie about that didn’t they? I’m not yet cynical enough to believe that that level of indoctrination is taking place… at least at Kensington Community Church. … But I’ve been wrong before! DUN DUN DUNN!!!!!
Finally, after that “everything but the kitchen sink” set of announcements, DK spoke an opening prayer of his own. He asked for the congregation to open up their hearts, minds and spirits to God and to the message the youth would be presenting that day. Quite brief all things considered. He asked for the chimes to be done and then took his seat and the stage was left for the youth to take over.
At this time, over a dozen chimes sounded in single measure, not unlike the tolling of a Tibetan wheel bell which I likened to the ringing of my gong in my own ritual chamber. While my own is rather deep and resonating, theirs was more cheery and tinkling.
Upon the culmination of the final toll, a willowy young lady, (name redacted due to unknown age of individual) approached the podium and looked out upon the crowd. Dressed in a very, very short mini-skirt, a good deal of make-up, high-heels and long free flowing blond hair, she was every bit the teenage girl that one would expect to dress in such a way and to play victim if any advances, appropriate or not were to come her way. But that is just my old high-school self-reminding me of how such girls and their ways tended to be. I’m not deluded enough to think that things have changed all that much that my past-self’s observations are far from the mark.
For those thinking, doesn’t the Bible say something about proper attire or some such? Well yes fellow scholar and freethinker, too right you are. The first and most simple being;
Deuteronomy 22:11 – You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.
Now I don’t know what clothing you wear or what it’s made of, but this rarely quoted verse actually refers to not having the layperson wear clothes which the priests wore. To us, it is like saying, “Don’t wear a Police Officer’s uniform, impersonation of a government servant or official is illegal.” Except in this case, it was also seen as blasphemy not simply a criminal act. So if you’re one of the twits using this against people of faith, stop. They might be wearing a garment of wool and linen, but unless they are impersonating a cleric of some sort, not the best of uses.
Instead, this verse is the appropriate one to use if you like shouting matches and have a penchant for being an argumentative douchebag. It has actual context of being in line with a directive and is quite succinct in its relating of what should be done;
1 Timothy 2:9-10 – Likewise, also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for woman who profess godliness – with good works.
These two verses, which are in the context of appropriate conduct for what a women should wear would indeed label the young lady (and more than a few of the female congregation members) as blasphemous and unholy in appearance. The entire chapter 1 and 2 of Timothy has more interesting edicts for what is ungodly, profane and disobedient to God. I highly recommend perusing its entirety if you desire to expand upon my quote above.
But back to the lovely young lady, whom I hope felt comfortable and pretty in her choice of aesthetics. She welcomed everyone and thanked us for being there to support and listen to the youth’s service for this Sunday. The message they wished to relay was one of acceptance and tolerance. That;
“As God loves each and every one of us, and accepts each and every one of us, we should in turn do the same and follow his example.”
Now, I don’t know which God they are worshipping… but that’s not the Christian God that I know of. Or the rest of the world for that matter. Nor is it the one in the Bible as far as I have read and perused of which I have done more than a good deal of in recent months. Still, if the worst (best actually) that can be said of this “flock” is that they really aren’t true Christians, I’ll chalk it up as a great and glorious find. Like a starving homeless guy finding a bag of buried gold coins, only to realize they are foil wrapped chocolates. Hey, at least it’s something to eat right?
After her opening, she announced the youths choice of opening song, a catchy and newly famous song, titled “Calling All Angels”. The choir took their place and the pianist started up the tune. The single drop down video screen panned the lyrics as the song rolled along and the congregation joined in. A different female vocalist from the youth sang each main verse and it was actually quite well put together. Still, not my favorite song on the best of days so I opted to sit that one out. Not that I haven’t called on my share of angels mind you… but that type of summons is usually reserved for the twilight hours and the clicking of a few words into the search engine and a tissue or twelve.
As the young, leggy lady in the mini-skirt resumed her seating after the song, another wispy (awkwardly so, in a kind of… starving Auschwitz Jew way) young woman took the dais and read the opening prayer. Having been flashed up on the screen as well as provided in the itinerary, I can relay the message verbatim;
“God, we thank you for this morning as we gather in the spirit of youth. Remind us that being a hero is as simple as sharing a smile, a laugh, a song, or a story.”
Which was answered by the congregation with;
“Teach us that the gift of understanding opens our hearts to compassion and faith. Help us to promote understanding among others. Allow us to calm our minds and find the grace within ourselves. Amen.”
If you took out the God and faith part, throw in some reinforcement of not being taken advantage of and that what we do we must do for ourselves, I’d have happily joined in with a hearty “Hail Satan full of grace, please protect my no-no place!” … What, am I the only Satanist that says that? It’s also great for busy parking lots, just replace the last bit with, “please give me a parking space!”
At this time, the children were called to the front for a segment of the service dubbed story time. A completely lovable, laughable and at least for myself rather representative story of how much of history has been written. But this time, from the other side of things. The story? The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. With scenes containing the Big Bad Pig using a sledge, jack-hammer and then dynamite to get at the innocent and industrious little wolves. I highly recommend it if you have children or are just inclined to seek out the “other side” of the story. Which, if you’re bothering to read my lengthy musings and diatribes, you probably are.
Following the relating of the fairy tale (which unfortunately had a pleasant ending of understanding with the Pig and of them all living happily ever after) the little children from preschool to 3rd grade were called up front to present their musical rendition. A little number called Pharaoh Pharaoh which used movies clips and a power-point sing-along to have the congregation join in. It was rather cute for what it was, taking the rhythm from the classic song Louis Louis. Yes, that quite controversial and classic song with dozens of versions, most deliciously perverse in word and design. Should you like to entertain yourself by imagining a group of small children doing the Egyptian walk while singing this song, below are the lyrics;
CHORUS: Pharaoh, Pharaoh, whoa whoa, let my people go! (2x)
A burnin’ bush told me just the other day
That I should go to Egypt and say,
“It’s time to let my people be free –
Listen to God if you won’t listen to me!”
Well me and my people goin’ to the Red Sea,
With Pharaoh’s best army comin’ after me.
I took my staff, stuck it in the stand,
And all of God’s people walked on dry land.
Now Pharaoh’s army was a-comin’ too,
So whattaya think that God did do?
Had me take my staff and clear my throat,
And all of Pharaoh’s army did the dead man’s float.
Well that’s the story of the stubborn goat.
Pharaoh should’ve known that chariots don’t float.
The lesson is simple, it’s easy to find,
When God says, “GO!” you had better mind!
Afterward to thunderous applause, and as is probably the same in every Church these days the young ones were led as lambs to the slaughter to be read stories of scripture which fill their hearts and minds with the desire to please God and serve his will through the giving of their lives.. in one way or another. Nope, still not used to such despicable brain rape of children. Harsh? I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the idea of indoctrination and the force feeding of such thoughts to the little ones, no matter their bent or desire. I honestly hope to never get to that point of complacency. Religion should be found in one’s own time through support, guidance and a nurturing of the individual within.
If you wish to read the Biblical accounting of the story of Moses and the Pharaoh, and how God was the twisted mastermind behind it all, you may find it in the book of Exodus. Exodus, chapter 11 begins the part where Moses tells Pharaoh to let his people go and all of the plagues which follow can be read there. Obviously, much was left out of the comical jingle sung by the children. But it, like much of the Bible is quite a fantastical tale of magic and intrigue, dastardly plots and murder.
After the children had been herded out, the Community Partner Moment took place and a representative of Second Chance was asked to approach the podium and talk on what the organization does and how they need help. The association as was explained helps young adults from High School and Middle School that have gotten into criminal trouble and need assistance becoming integrated back into school after they are released from the juvenile detention facility. The pleasant and active looking Kristen Kvernland (KK for short) thanked the congregation for their past donations and support and called for continued contributions of both time and funds. She spoke of tolerance and justice and of how only by helping the youth of today can a better foundation for tomorrow be built. Not a word of God, religion, Jesus or any such hocus pocus. Just a heartfelt call to action for those interested in helping adolescent children and teenagers get another start on their life. Everybody fucks up after all, it’s just a matter of whether you happen to be caught or not. Some mistakes do follow you the rest of your life.
Next up were a teenage brother and sister, and while their wardrobe choice escapes me, it was their choice of subjects to promote that was of interest anyway. The two extolled upon the virtues of the various heroes in the Bible, and how the youth ministry, from grades seven to twelve were all heroes in their own way. Being involved in their Church and community, helping to promote tolerance in those around them and understanding in a world where we vilify others. I just really, really didn’t think I had walked into a Christian church at this point. The stained glass figures told me otherwise… but could this be some hippy-feel-good sect of Christianity or were these youth so completely confused as to what is actually encouraged, even demanded of a believer in the Bible?
So, let us delve a little deeper into the tolerance (or intolerance as it happens to be) found within the Bible. With a reminder that what is written is professed to be God’s will, or through the words of his prophets his will to be done.
Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
Punishing the children and grandchildren for the elders mistakes seems really understanding, forgiving and tolerant, right? I trust I don’t have to extrapolate on this one further.
Exodus 23:31-33 – I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”
The above excerpt was included in its contextual entirety to be given as a statement of perspective as it is specific for a time in the past, but the concept which is underlined is the point in case. Moving beyond the, “I’m going to kick people out of their homes and you will drive them out before you” bit of warmongering, we see that there can be no cooperation (or covenant) with those who worship other God’s and no acceptance in any way of their beliefs or ways. You are not to live with them or around them, or they will cause you to sin.
Exodus 31:14-15 – Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
So if you do any work whatsoever (even so far as picking up sticks, yes that is in the Bible too, Numbers 12:32-36 if you want to check) then your life is forfeit and you should be put to death and your soul is to be cut off. This of course includes all who are not of the faith and do not keep the Sabbath holy. But then again, according to multiple sources the Sabbath day is actually Saturday, not Sunday. It would be easy to digress upon this topic but must move on.
And if that was not enough for you, or not specifically intolerant enough of those just a little different, I present you with this little gem;
Leviticus 21:17-23 “Speak to Aaron, saying, none of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.”
So in their nature, as supposedly God made them, the blind, lame, mutilated, injured, deformed, defective or diseased are profane (unholy, unclean, unworthy and wicked) and should not be allowed to approach the altar of God or his sanctuaries. Now, God was talking to Moses who was in turn to speak to the sons of Aaron (the priests) but as you can read, this commandment extended to their generations (children and family members). Now if you were God, to whom would you be tolerant to if not those whom serve you? Apparently not the God of Israel.
Now came the part of the service that would be akin to the reading of scripture and relation of it to the lives of the congregation. Except… not a single verse of scripture was mentioned or quoted through the entire service. Instead, the youth ministry presenter Patrick Clark, a well-dressed young fellow in a tasteful pink shirt and khaki pants chose to provide their own source of inspirations from a video titled, “First Gay Hug”. Now, for those who know of viral videos on the web and the controversial issues that they always present, this video was modeled after the First Kiss Video which by all accounts was scripted with actors. I could find no such information on the “First Gay Hug” video shown during the presentation but in all honesty, I don’t really care about its voracity. How many hits it has on youtube or however much money a person makes by being truthful or deceitful, pandering in one way or another to the masses is not a topic of concern for this evaluation. Instead, that the youth showed this video AT ALL, and that it was well received with smiles, clapping, good natured smiling and general acceptance from the congregation spoke volumes to me.
At the culmination of the three minute video (go youtube it if you haven’t seen it already and make your own judgments on it if you need to), Patrick gave a message of understanding which rang true and followed queue with the videos message. He spoke of how, so often there is a miscommunication or ignorance apparent in those who do not understand others, and quite often it is those of faith who are the culprits. He explained that through a wish to gain favor with society, we lose sight of gaining favor with God and his love and acceptance for us. And those with different ways than ours should not be feared or hated, but loved and tolerated.
I quoted before various examples on intolerance and lack of understanding or compassion (which is constantly promoted as God’s way from believers these days) on which the edicts of the laws are set to be passed. But as we move onto quite the fire and brimstone topic of Homosexuality and Christianity, I will quote for consideration the following verses;
Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
I cannot really see any wiggle room on this one. Male on male, or female on female fornication is punishable by death and is a most grievous (capital) offense against God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
All of you thieving, drunken, idol worshiping homosexuals better watch yourselves, because you’re not going to that fabulous and most bling filled of places in the sky. Gold and precious stones of the most valuable kinds make up the Kingdom of God. John said so in Revelations 21:10-27. He went there, carried aloft by angels for a visit to the pearly gates after all. It must be true. I do hope he tried the veal.
1 Timothy 1:8-10 – Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine …
And I think that good ol’ Timothy summed it up quite nicely. Along with slavery, liars and murderers (good call on those by the way) those who practice homosexuality are profane, unholy and lawless. I guess it’s kind of the same thing right? “Sword-fighting” and “scissor-sex” are absolutely the same as enslavement of your fellow human, lying of all kinds and stripes and the flagrant slaughter of people.
But Patrick brought up a personal question that he had asked himself during the writing of the piece he was presenting, that “either the Devil masks his lies well to hide the villains amongst us… or that there are actually no villains at all.” He chose the latter, not the former to serve as his muse and this, above all else that I have heard from any theist in quite some time, and from one so young gave me a tender moment of gratification in hearing. This young man had essentially chosen not to place the blame at the feet of the boogeyman, or to blame others for how they were, but to instead accept and seek to understand ways different than his own. Responsibility for himself and promoting that accountability to others. Hells bells! What a concept! Roll on Mr. Clark.
Note: While I quite disagree that anyone who actually feels as Patrick does is indeed a Christian of any kind, and that there are passages in the Bible which detail that tolerance, understanding and acceptance of others traditions, ways and life choices is in fact an offense worthy of death, I quite feel that this little congregation is a diamond in the rough. I feel that with time, effort and continual introspection perhaps they will recognize themselves for the deistically inclined, humanitarian that they by all accounts seem to be. Once they can let go of the Bible and its doctrine (which they seem to be doing a fine job of) they have only to identify themselves with their true calling, uninhibited by the perversion and rejection of man’s carnal nature which is Christianity.
Patrick continued on to liken this experience to the new movie Maleficent and how the story we had been told as children was not in fact the whole story. We come to find out that the “evil fairy” was really the wronged party and she indeed came to be a loving, powerful and while wounded in spirit, ultimately positive guiding force in the lives of those in the kingdom. This present day example was transitioned into speaking of Christ and how he never made foes and he always pulled people close to him in love and acceptance. Though we quite honestly know that he must have made his fair share of enemies, your friends don’t usually set you up for a sham hearing and crucifixion. Though I have been to a few parties that… maybe another time.
But his parting message was of personal importance, as he spoke of the importance of experiencing other religions and that this seeking of wisdom is not an act of disrespect to our own religion. Hell yes to that! He was of course coming from a rather different perspective than I, but I’ll take what I can get. Sadly, that is simply not the way it is written in the Bible as the following verses show us;
Deuteronomy 13:6-10 – If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
I know someone reading this and wishing it to not sound like the horrible proclamation it is might say, “Well that was a long time ago and they meant worshipping and giving homage to another God, being curious isn’t a sin.” Well contraire, mon-frère. While worship is generally explained as singing or praising quite clearly, to a jealous God even associating with those who worship other God’s is a sin and worthy of death as is provided in clear detail by the following two verses (others exist).
Romans 16:17 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
So those who might introduce you to any kind of experience that is contrary to that of God’s teaching, which would include speaking or acting in a way different than the God of the Bible must be kept away from. If. Only. Le sigh.
Exodus 22:20 – Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.
There is that jealous God thing again. Destroy all who sacrifice (which includes animal, ritual, human, food and materials possessions but also time, energy and praise) to another God. So we see quite plainly that young Patrick is quite mistaken in his pronouncement that going out to experience other religions is not a sign of disrespect to Christianity. But hey, I’m on your side Mr. Clark. Keep on doing your thing, maybe you’ll get there some day. Brains over Bible any day.
Thus finished, the young man returned to his seat and I did indeed clap (the only others I clapped for were the children) along with the rest of the audience. As far as sermons (of a sort) went, it was the best so far in my wanderings.
And wouldn’t you know it, the offerings and tithes were asked for at the end of the service. Called Gifts of Stewardship, offering plates were walked down the aisles by the youth that serviced the ministry. A nice touch and no I did not contribute. I was getting coffee with Kelly afterward and I was looking to pay (though she did not let me, cheeky Lady she is) for whatever her and the little one wanted. What devil wouldn’t need a vanilla latte with an extra shot in it after a foray into the house of God?
During the gift of stewardship procession, the five main presenters of the youth ministry lead the congregation in a song, “Go the Distance”. Yes, the one by Michael Bolton. Not a Bolton fan myself, but I suppose as a song to represent stewardship and thanksgiving… it sort of works… Nope, not really, not even a little. Oh well, I tried.
But the Prayer of Thanksgiving to follow was distinctive in its message;
“With our hearts full of gratitude and our hands steady and strong, we thank you for these gifts to be shared. Allow us to shine from within and light the world with our time and talents.”
And the congregation replied afterward with, “To believe, belong, become; to promote understanding and embrace our differences; to ourselves; and to be heroes to those around us. Amen!”
At that time, DK (Senior Pastor Darryl if you forgot) resumed his position on the stage and called for thanks and clapping in regards to the Youth Ministry and the wonderful job they had done. He parroted the service succinctly and reinforced that Gods understanding is within us and we must strive to be tolerant and loving of those who we might seek to object to and vilify. (Another moment in which I thought… Shit, do they know I’m in the fucking audience?)
A simple prayer ended the service portion after congratulations were presented to the youth;
“May God find you and keep you in your comings and goings and show you the way to tolerance and acceptance of those different than us, as we are all children of God.”
The closing song was, “There’s a Spirit of Love in This Place” and there was no leaving or ducking out early from a single member present which I found to be respectable. Some services people choose the last song as an ideal time to duck out and beat traffic. But to the last, all stayed and slowly made their way in groups to the refreshment area to congratulate the youth further on a job well done, and had I not had plans with my cherubic acquaintance and her daughter for a stroll down the street to the coffee shop, I might have done so as well. Attractive and amicable personal associations over strangers any day. And the adorable little Maya just sealed the deal.
While I have made it a point to keep my after-service conversations with my contacts in the strictest of confidences, in this particular case I feel that expanding upon the general philosophies of the church are paramount. As we walked and I evaded the question of my self-identification, several enlightening assertions were relayed by Kelly about her Church. And I am happy to say that my earlier fear on her not being simply a supportive and encouraging mother was unfounded. While it may be viewed from a different perspective to an outsider, that is not her bent or intention at all.
During her three years of fellowship with the congregation, she has never heard them mention hell or punishment, but more simply that all can be forgiven and that in fact forgiveness is God’s way to them. An interesting notion to be sure and not one I had heard from other Christians before.
The idea of God is more abstract than literal, and the old axiom of “A man in the sky keeping count and tally of our lives” is not their belief. God could be anything to any number of people and this belief of a creator could manifest in different ways to different people. Which sounds much more akin to deism than any theistic-ally structured belief that Christianity or Christians adhere to.
The Church has done a rather thorough job of rewriting or using verbiage consistent with not identifying God as a man or he or Lord, but rather as a “greater than this material world” entity which resides over this plane we live on. (Plane as in plane of existence. They don’t believe we reside on a jumbo jet.)
And perhaps the most interesting is that Christ is not seen as some perfect embodiment of man and by no means is this just another Jesus-freak congregation. But he is still seen as a teacher and important figure that did great works throughout his life. Jesus takes a backseat to God and the person identifying with their spiritual relation to that idea, which hey, why shouldn’t he? He is dead after all.
These specific explanations were worthy of including, as they present an even more Christ-less Church than I had experienced during the service. While I must extoll that this service was not the typical meat and potatoes sermonizing that takes place on a typical Sunday at Kensington Community Church, I feel that as the youth of the congregation presented such things as I relayed and it was met with such fervor and gusto, it is a fair representation of what the Church is about. I really quite enjoyed myself, all things considered. The people were fun and the service was engaging, catchy and interesting.
And that is going to conclude another chapter of A God Amongst Them and my assessment of Kensington Community Church. As always, this Citizen wishes you the best in your dark endeavors and thanks you for coming along with me in this, another of my adventures in being A Spy in the House of God!