Thursday, December 29, 2005

So, if YOU were "Dear Abby"...

In many circles, the advice columns of Ann Landers and Dear Abby are still very popular. I have never figured out why. Maybe it's an anonymity thing, I don't know. Anyway, Abby is gone and her daughter Jeanne has replaced her. I think Ann has been replaced as well, but none of the local papers run her column. Maybe I could petition for the job. I found this rather intriguing Dear Abby letter just after Christmas. Here is the question. What would you have to say?

DEAR ABBY: This is difficult, but I have no one here I can confide in. I'm ashamed, confused and unsure. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I am finding it more difficult every Sunday. Without going into specific beliefs and asking questions that can only be answered by faith, I will simplify: Is it better to go to church for the wrong reasons than not to go at all? I don't think I am fooling "Him" -- and I know I'm not fooling myself. The others, including my wife, are, if not wise to me, suspicious. I don't like my hypocrisy, but I'm afraid of the reactions -- and repercussions -- should I "out" myself and stay home. I'm uncomfortable masquerading every Sunday, being the loyal husband and worshipper while being untrue to myself. Help. (Or am I beyond it?) -- BETWEEN A ROCK AND A CLOSET

I have a hunch there are plenty of people in this same predicament. With that in mind, I'll do my best Abby impression and take on the issue.

DEAR BETWEEN (Or possibly Mr. Closet): You seem to be looking for a very simple answer to a very complex problem. You want a "yes" or "no" but the "why" is where your answer will be found. You're asking about which is the lesser of two evils, and frankly I'm not sure it matters so far as your soul is concerned.

Your church attendance counts for nothing if you don't do any worshipping. The only positive aspect I can see is that you are supporting your wife (you don't mention kids) in her spiritual life by attending. That is admirable. But if you are as transparent as you let on, you may be an added burden for her. However, you sleeping in on Sunday morning is no help either. If you do have kids, it only shows them how little you think of religion and/or God. You say you are afraid of the reactions and repercussions from others, but you seem to have no fear of God. That's interesting in itself.

Frankly, you may as well be honest with your wife and everyone else you've been trying to fool. That may be the best first step toward dealing with the "why" question you keep ignoring. You see, "church" is not the only way to worship God, but if you are uncomfortable in such a setting then you have some issues which need to be resolved. Often the people at church can cause discomfort -- whether from an old incident or from current personality conflicts. But a church is made up of sinners. You certainly can't expect a parishoner or even a clergyman to be perfect. What's important is that everyone is working toward becoming better; more like Christ. Allow those who hurt to become more mature in their faith. We all mess things up. Don't hold it against God. Yes, we want to be good and often fail. We are too proud to admit just how filthy we are. But that has nothing to do with you. Your concern is your own relationship with God.

It could be that you have a particular doctrinal question with which you need clarification. Research and study are your answers here. Don't be afraid to talk about these issues. Everybody has a tough time comprehending the Creator of the universe. Why should you be any different?

Perhaps the service itself is too boring or too slick or too phony. Why not try another church? There are plenty of churches with different worship styles to choose from. How about finding one which "speaks" to you?

Perhaps the biggest complaint about church is that many people don't feel worthy to be there. We know our sins and realize that God deserves a whole lot better than us. Of course Jesus' disciple Simon Peter felt the same way at the beginning. He told Jesus to get away because he felt so dirty being around Him. Peter managed to get over it. You can too.

There are many possibilities to answer the "why" but your choice to go or stay home is inconsequential.


Yes, my answer is too long, but feel free to cut it after the first sentence of the third paragraph. As a preacher, I naturally preach too long... By the way, Abby's actual answer:

DEAR BETWEEN: I have always believed that husbands and wives are members of the same "team" and should be able to level with each other, so I'm having trouble understanding why you are masquerading and hiding the way you feel. I also believe that people can communicate with God in their own way, wherever they are, because God is everywhere -- not just confined to church property. Because you are left feeling empty and unfulfilled by the Sunday sermons, you may need to look elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment. However, until you find the courage to express your feelings and stand by them, you will remain forever between a rock and a closet.

Sorry, Abby (actually Jeanne). While technically correct about finding God outside of church, this isn't an issue of what to do on Sunday morning. As with most things religious, it's a heart issue.

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