I receive a blog update every so often from Pastor Rick Groves of the 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. I have never met the man, so I cannot pass judgment on him as a person, but I can comment on opinions he puts forth in his blog. One recent entry asked the question of what non-Christians think when they drive by his church. (Link to blog) He goes on to say, he wants to find a way for people not to just drive by, but to “actually stop in and find the warmth of the savior Jesus Christ.” On the surface, this is a fine sentiment, but the question brings up other thoughts beyond this attempt to grow the flock.
There is another more disturbing interpretation to the question. When a person asks “What do you think of me?” and becomes concerned about what the answer may be, this easily spills into narcissism if taken too far. Whether or not this is what the Pastor intended, I cannot say. However, this church, like all mega-churches in this area, is not shy about their presence. They broadcast it big and bright. Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana is on a large hillside overlooking several thousand homes. It is surrounded by probably 100 acres of prime location like a medieval castle dominating the $500,000 residences and golf course below. Grace Community Church in Noblesville looks like a large sprawling white shopping mall where Jesus is always always available. My point is the god they worship in these buildings, as described in the bible, is a narcissist. Christians probably recoil at this conclusion, but one only has to look at a few bible entries to see this. “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me.” (Exodus 23:14). God then goes into detailed instructions on how to worship him. Any Being that tells you how and when to worship himself is self-absorbed and power drunk beyond comprehension. There are plenty of despotic dictators who prove this point. Many buildings in which Christians worship display this egotism through an architectural interpretation. So my thought when I drive by is they are saying, “God, everybody! Look at us! We’re really big! Notice us!”
To return to the probable intent of his question, readers of his blog and members of his congregation can find the answer themselves in a very simple way. They only need to drive by a Catholic Church, Jewish Synagogue, or Islamic Mosque. Or maybe the Mormon Church in Carmel. Or the Seventh Day Adventist, or the Quaker Chapel, or the Greek Orthodox. There are enough religious structures on the north side of Indianapolis that you could see dozens in a single afternoon. Drive by these places and ask yourself how you feel about the religion and the people who practice that form of worship. That will be your answer. Be honest with yourself. Really honest, not just what someone else wants you to tell yourself.
Many supposedly good fundamentalist people from all religions are not as kind and welcoming as they want to think they are. I have lived and worked with people from all religious and social backgrounds. I am a white middle-aged man, and most Christians assume I am a Christian as well, though few can conceive of the fact that my mother was Jewish. Prejudice among Christians is as alive today as it has ever been, and these same people have no clue of their own bigotry. These supposedly good Christians regularly make private derogatory comments about non-whites, Jews, Muslims, Gays, Women, Democrats. They are full of odd opinions about our black, Kenyan born, Arab, Islamic, Communist, Socialist, Nazi, President with a VERIFIED Hawaiian birth certificate. Christians insist on perpetuating the nonsense about Obama being a Muslim. This piece of fiction continues to make serious headway. This is clearly a public smear towards all Muslims and intended to instill fear in the electorate. Even if he was, we have something called freedom of religion that is often conveniently interpreted as a Freedom unless you are a non-Christian.
Luckily, most religious people are hypocrites, including those at 91st Street. If church goers literally followed and acted as instructed in the bible, they would all be in jail. Here is one of many examples:
“Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest,holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the Sabbath shall be put to death.” Exodus 31:15 (The Sabbath, by the way, is Saturday not Sunday)
I SERIOUSLY DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU FOLLOW THIS ADVICE. Biblical apologists can explain this however they want, but the fact remains the message is unambiguous. Yet, we gleefully watch college football on Saturdays without shooting all the players and coaches. However, there are people who take the bible too literally. For a truly odd and disturbing example, there is something called Christian Domestic Discipline. This provides guidelines for a husband to spank, or more accurately beat, his wife into proper behavior. This includes maintenance spankings so she does not forget.
Essentially, when I drive by a church, two thoughts come to mind. The first is why do the people who attend there think they are better than the people who attend down the road? Different religions and even denominational splits are due to someone’s interpretation and the conclusion that they are right and everyone else is wrong; there are thousands of years of history to support this. This is a dangerously divisive path that humans fail to depart from and one that has led to millions of deaths throughout the millennia. Today, this continues to interfere with countless lives. My second thought is what a waste of good real estate. 91st Street Christian is a beautiful building in a park setting. I was there last year to listen to the Kenyan College Choir and it is an impressive facility. It was an excellent presentation of music from all faiths. As an atheist, I did not burst into flames so thanks for that as well. Northview is massive and dominates a hillside in an upscale community. Grace Community, sorry but it looks like a huge shopping plaza in a cornfield along 146th street. Apparently, Grace Christian prays to a God who has a lesser appreciation for scenery and Holy architecture. A developer or city planner could have done much better with these pieces of land.
So Pastor Rick or whomever may be interested, speaking only for myself I usually do not pay attention to religious things when I drive. But when I do, that is what I think when I pass by yours or any church.