Thursday, January 20, 2005

Religion...

I was out sick Tuesday, not very fun. But I dug into some of my old videos and found one that I hadn't watched in a while. To set this up properly, I was very good friends with a Presbyterian minister whose sermons challenged my faith and helped me grow. I first got to know him in the early 80's, and then he moved to a church in the Los Angeles area. I kept up my acquaintance with him, visiting his church often in the years. He was the one that officiated at my wedding. He was a very well-read, very educated man, with a quick acerbic wit. He was a master of the one-liner, and loved to embarass members of his congregation at the service. But it was always done with love and warmth, so it only served to endear him to his congregations. At my wedding I expected him to be sharp, and give me several verbal jabs intent to tease. But he said some wonderful things about me, which made our wedding more special. More to the point, Dr. Todd was a very good preacher, and I often found myself stirred and stimulated at his sermons. About 1o years ago I was going through a time of searching. I had been raised in a very traditional church, with ministers in robes, full choirs, organ, the works. I am more comfortable in that worship environment. The new, more contemporary services that are appealing to many are not to me. Yet I viewed those who attended such churches as zealous for The Lord, which I have never been. It caused within me a time of questioning and introspection, which I told to Dr. Todd within a letter. He used that letter as a basis for a sermon, which I went to hear, and bought both a video and cassette tape on. So, as I said, on Tuesday I popped in the video. It was wonderful to see him again: he is tall, looks a lot like John Cleese, but has long hair, a beard, and underneath his traditional Scottish robe and clerical collar are a pair of cowboy boots. There were two things in his sermon that spoke to me last Tuesday: first, he spoke of being in the L.A. area as wonderful place full of diversity of thought, culture and religion. Whereas today our society seems to be polarizing towards a more centrist view of Christianity, Dr. Todd advocated 10 years ago (and it's still relevant today) the need to absorb these other idealogies, cultures and thoughts. I believe that is important too. Whether it is in reading, conversing with others, or learning about cultures and their beliefs. It can also apply to being open to new music, books, art, movies - any form of art. It allows one to become more rounded and open. The second thing Dr. Todd said is going to be more difficult to express, and it really wasn't something he said. It was the culture of his church, his personal theology. Dr. Todd called it "The Oasis Society". He was referring to church as a whole - a place to go and be refreshed on the journey. However, I see most churches, particularly the conservative ones, not as oasis, but as refuges. They allow the people to come in, but not to be refreshed. They are for the purpose of shelter - protection from the outside world. I do not believe that was our Lord's intent. We are to go out and be in the world, but not of it. The contemporary church, in my view, teaches not to go out in the world, and if you do, don't allow it to affect you. It seemed to me that Dr. Todd's view was the opposite: come to church, get energized, get fed (when you are fed and healthy you are more likely to not get sick), and then go out. That is very unique, and an idea that I do not see anymore.
In this time of continual searching for both myself, my wife and our family, I feel more empowered than I did before. Thank you, Dr. Todd.