I sleep in on Sunday’s now.
As I stumbled down the hallway towards the light coming from the kitchen this morning the melody of a popular Evangelical worship song slowly penetrated my “I am not a morning person” brain fog. My wife’s pitchy soprano kicked in on the chorus, “Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to….”.
- I have a PTSD reaction. I am feeling manipulated. All the repugnant ideas of a God requiring death and blood and violence to satisfy his wrath and ‘holiness’ and that the horrific act is somehow ‘proof’ of how much God ‘loves’ me. The idea of being ‘saved’. ‘Saved’ from the Eternal Conscious Torment created by a depraved, pagan God.
- I can tell my wife is enjoying singing the worship song. It is meaningful to her. Am I forcing my path on her? I spent 5 decades worshiping like this. Who am I to deny her this?
- I miss worship. I can’t participate in Christian worship anymore. The message is too full of things I find morally repulsive and irrational. The “Good News” of Christianity sounds like “Toxic, Dysfuntional, Pagan News” to me. But I do miss the experiences of connection with God that I used to have in personal and church worship.
Unitarian Universalist Worship
I have tried worshiping at our local Unitarian Universalist church. And I will probably try again. But their strength is their weakness. I went to choir practice once. The lyrics of one song were redacted from “Spirit” to “Love”. The UU’s careful avoidance of dogma and belief in God results in lyrics of vague, inoffensive, life affirming sentimentalism. Songs without spiritual traction to connect with my spirit.
I discovered the Kirtan music of Krishna Das. The songs are simply chants of the names of God in Hindi or Sanskrit. I traveled to Madison, WI to see Krishna Das perform live. Between 500 to 1,000 people were packed into a Lutheran church. I felt an immediate spirit of camaraderie with the people sitting around me. I was reminded of some of my more powerful Evangelical worship experiences. The simple singing of the names of God avoids the specific dogma that ejects me from the worship experience. It is simple communion with God through music and singing in community.
If you want to check out Krishna Das I would recommend this Youtube video of his live performance of Baba Hanuman:
Cloud Cult Worship
I have found several bands that supplement my need for spiritual music that used to be filled by Contemporary Christian Music. Music from John Lennon, George Harrison, and some Beatles’ music. “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls. A band that has been especially important to me is Minnesota band “Cloud Cult”. I traveled to Duluth, MN this summer with my family to see Cloud Cult live. Very earnest, intelligent, spiritual and musically interesting. I stood in the front of the stage with other hard-core fans with my hands raised and tears streaming down my face as they performed this song:
Sometimes I go around the corner to “The Yoga Effect”. They have a free community meditation every Sunday morning. There is really nothing special about it. It is a simple guided meditation. But I always “feel it” when I meditate with other people. There is a different energy.
A La Carte Worship
Right now I am practicing “A La Carte” worship. There are many reasons for this. I am not settled enough in my beliefs or lack of beliefs to commit to an organization. And I am deeply suspicious of religious organizations. Religious organizations seem so hopelessly and inherently focused on sustaining their own existence. Keeping the machine running. Making payroll. Putting butts in seats. And like so many people, time is scarce as I am hustling multiple jobs to pay the bills.
But I do have a longing for a worship community. A worship community that does not have an organization behind it. A worship community that is not a weekly concert. Worship that is organic, heartfelt, earnest, and dogma-free.