Church. It’s kind of weird.

Disclaimer: My goal in this post is not to offend anyone.  This is just my opinion.  So if you read this and you’re offended, read it again.  If you’re still offended, quit reading it.  It’s not good to read things that make you angry.

My opinion on the weirdness of church is coming from a background that involved growing up in a cult that told its members how to discipline their children (spanking was encouraged and expected) and whether or not it was okay for women to wear makeup. (It was and then it was not and then it was again, and while the cult is still in existence, I’m no longer a member and have no idea whether makeup is still the mark of a harlot.  Personally, I think being paid for sex is the mark of a harlot, but what do I know?)

We haven’t been back to our regular church since The Great Kid’s Church Fiasco of 2012 where I actually wished women had testicles so that I could kick The Beast’s teacher in them and then follow that up by throat punching her sanctimonious children.

I’m violent today.  I think it’s probably hunger.

Or maybe I’m just violent.  I don’t know.

I did speak with the director of the children’s program and told her what had happened with The Beast and how upset it made me and that I wanted to physically harm a fellow church member.  The director was very kind and apologetic and told me that if we decided to return to church, they would make sure that The Beast didn’t go back into her class.

Most likely they’re concerned I’ll kick the teacher in the she-testicles and throat punch her children.

We’ve been visiting another church with some of our friends in the meantime, and it has made me realize how bizarre it would be to be someone who is coming into a church for the first time.

A while back we visited a church that was great, had great programs, great people, great music.  But the pastor did this thing with his hands when he was speaking.  He would look at his hands and then move them in a way that made it look like he was massaging a large globe.  It drove me bonkers and we couldn’t go back to that church.

Yes, I realize that’s a petty reason not to go to a church, but if you’re there every Sunday, you should be able to look at the pastor without thinking about him molesting decorative office furniture.

So, back to the church we’ve been visiting.  First of all, this church, like every other church on the planet, makes us greet one another.  This truly drives me nuts, as I’ve mentioned previously.  I don’t think it serves any purpose other than to spread germs.  It’s forced and fake and I hate it hate it hate it hate it.  I never know what to say.  Do I just say hello or do I actually introduce myself if I don’t know them?  And if it’s someone I already know, why do I need to shake their hand in church?  I probably already said hello to them in the lobby before church.

I digress.

Does your church do communion?  We did not do communion growing up, and the first time I did communion after leaving the cult, I was kind of thrown by it. It’s just kind of weird if you’re not used to it.

At our regular church, the ushers pass around trays of wafers and juice, so you pick up a wafer and a small thimble of juice and do communion in your seat.  I was used to this.

This past Sunday was communion Sunday at the church we’ve been visiting.  And when it came time for communion, the pastor broke a loaf of bread in half. I thought to myself, what the jack is he doing with the bread?  Is he going to pass it around and have everybody take a bite?

Then he uncovered a chalice of juice.  Was he going to pass the juice chalice around and have everyone take a sip out of it?  It is more likely that Satan would fly out of Hell on a unicorn, repent and join in the hymn singing than I would ever drink out of a chalice that a bunch of strangers have touched to their lips.

I was kind of relieved when the pastor invited everyone who wanted to take communion to walk to the front of the church so that the pastor could hand you a piece of bread to dip in the juice.

After the initial feeling of relief, the horror set in, because while I wasn’t going to be drinking from a germ-infested chalice, I was going to be eating bread that was being broken off and handed to me by the pastor of the church.  You know, that guy that all the people in the church want to shake hands with.  So I immediately started assessing how likely it was that the pastor washed his hands right before the church service started.

Somehow, I do not think that is what God wants me to reflect on during communion.  The whole way to the front of the church, I was saying to myself, “It’s like I’m letting every single person in this building lick my bread before I eat it.”

I realize that at our regular church it’s very likely that other people are touching the wafers on the plate, but at this church I knew that one man who had touched a lot of hands that morning was manhandling my bread.

And that’s when I decided that church is kind of weird.  Each church has traditions and practices and ideas, and I’m not saying that one is right and the others are wrong, but if I were some random person on the street walking into a church for the first time, I’d probably be more than a little weirded out by some of it.

Another possibility in all of this is that church is totally normal and I’m actually bringing the weirdness to the equation.

Maybe I’ll start my own church called the Hypochondriac’s Church of God.  The members of my church will never be forced to touch each other, and our communion wafers will come individually wrapped.

You can come if you want.

Just wash your hands first.

26 thoughts on “Church. It’s kind of weird.

  1. As a Catholic, this is very interesting to read. Although the theology is probably very, very different from what you grew up with, I do feel I should point out that in the Catholic Mass the “Sign of Peace” is an optional part of the liturgy (more traditional congregations don’t do it) and Holy Communion is at most touched by two people besides you. There is a communal chalice for the Precious Blood but you are not required to partake and for many centuries only the priest did anyway.

    Since Catholics believe in the Real Presence (I.e. the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ) we are very particular about how it is handled. “Communion services” at other churches, like the ones you describe, strike me as way too casual and irreverent. (Plus, if you’re going to believe it’s “just wine” or “just grape juice” I don’t understand AT ALL putting it in a communal cup. If it’s not sacred, it’s not going to keep the germs out.)

    • See, this is very interesting to me. I honestly know NOTHING about the different religions. I went from the cult to a nondenomination church, so I truly have no idea if the way this church does things is how others do it. And I didn’t know that the Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the blood and body. That’s incredibly interesting. Obviously I haven’t studied this stuff AT ALL. And I had to Google what the Sign of Peace was. Maybe if I read up on the symbolism behind the rituals I won’t be so weirded out. And it feels incredibly irreverent when I’m worried about germs. That is probably just me, though. Everyone else is probably totally focused on what they should be focused on. Me, I’m obsessed with preventing stomach bugs.

      • See, and I thought everyone called it the “Sign of Peace”!

        I am a convert to Catholicism and have an interest in theology (yeah…I’m a nerd…)But yes, symbolism is important for the rituals and goes a long way towards explaining things that otherwise seem out of left field. One of the major criticisms (from Protestants and former Catholics) of the Mass is that it’s not Biblical, for instance, and almost every line (excepting the priest’s sermon, which is usually about Scripture) in the Mass is derived directly from the Bible! But if you weren’t a Bible scholar, or just didn’t pay attention and were just bored doing the same thing every week, and/or had bad catechesis growing up (not sure what it’s like for Protestants, but I easily know more former Catholics in my parents’ generation than those still practicing – and by and large it’s because they were never taught…um, anything) you would never know. It would just be what you did.

        If you find yourself getting distracted, you can always offer up your suffering to the Lord in prayer. I do this on a regular basis when my little guy screeches all the way through Mass, or throws his Bible board book at other parishioners! Jesus was fully human. He knows what it’s like to be us and doesn’t mind if we share it with Him (in fact, He’d rather we did!) And it doesn’t have to be a flowery prayer – I am rather fond of simply saying “Oh Jesus, please help!”

      • “Oh Jesus, please help!” is an hourly prayer in this house! Your last paragraph had me cracking up. It’s good to know my kid isn’t the only one.

  2. This post made me laugh cause ive thought the very same things before, actually I think the same thing every week about the whole greeting thing….I Hate It!!!!!

  3. I go to Catholic church when I go….the wafers are okay because only one person touches them when they hand it to you. But the wine? HELL NO I’m not sipping out of the same cup everyone else drank out of. PASS. I skip the wine.

    • I had no idea everyone actually drank from the same cup. This blows my mind. I’m so sheltered it’s unbelievable.

  4. I was raised Catholic, and am still a kinda-praciticing-but-for-sure-forcing-my-kids-to-until-they-are-old-enough-to-decide-to-be-Heathens-on-their-own-Catholic, buy my boyfriend is Weslyan. We had our daughter Baptised Catholic, though, so his entire family was at our church for that. And from their perspective, it IS suspiciously cultish. We all stand up, sit down, kneel, and recite memorized things without any real direction to do so. We just do it because we KNOW it. And it IS weird if you aren’t used to it, or even if you just think about it too much 🙂 His mom was even TAKING PICTURES during a Catholic Mass. I was like, “WTF is she DOING?? This is church. You can’t TAKE PICTURES DURING MASS!!!” ‘Cuz at her church, she can. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. I kinda like the idea of a more relaxed/updated service, but Catholicism in ingrained in me and I’m really just too lazy to unlearn that and learn something new 😉 Loved this post, though! I also don’t enjoy the greeting or the peace sign handshaking. And you’re supposed to be able to, like, cross your arms across your chest to indicate you don’t want to shake hands, but so few people actually do it that it looks REALLY weird/out of place and most people are just confused by you. You might try it, though, just to blog about the reaction you get 😉

    • This made me laugh. I love that Boyfriend’s mom was taking pictures during church. I went to a Catholic funeral once (My Grandmother was a convert) and I remember being so confused. I was 17 years old and everyone just instinctively knew when they were supposed to sit or kneel or stand and I had no clue what was going on! And I’m going to cross my arms in church this Sunday and see if anyone gets the clue!

  5. This post cracked me up. I’m an atheist, but when I was younger I went to church a few times with friends and I was always totally bemused. I get the whole symbolism thing, and I get the whole Catholic/Protestant thing and why there are differences, but . . . Isn’t everyone basically worshipping the same god anyway? Each to his or her own, I suppose.

  6. Hi, Recovering Catholic here.
    I was so relieved when the Catholic Church changed their Communion practices to putting it in your hand. When I was first forced into going… I mean when I first went to church, you had to open your mouth and the priest dropped it in directly. What sucked is that he usually nudged your bottom lip with his finger and you know that he probably nudged everyone else’s lip with his finger and therefore you had the germs from a hundred other peope place directly into your mouth. I just had to hope that the “Healing Powers of Jesus” were powerful enough to kill all the germs, like something out of the finale of the Raiders of the Lost Arc.

    I was also bugged by the Sign of Peace. Apparantly they frown on high fiving. But at least it was something to do, besides staring at the butts of the people in front of you.

    • Okay. Yeah. See, there’s no way I could every let another person put food in my mouth and touch my lips with his fingers after he touched the lips of countless others. I could barely stand the stupid “feed cake to each other” thing at my wedding. I’d be all for high-fiving in church.

  7. i’m a recovering adventist and it’s been so long since i darkened the door of a church that i honestly cannot recall their version of communion. This post had me in stitched because I can emphathize. We were too snooty to do the greeting early on, but just before I left they started that nonsense. No thanks. i was there because my father was the minister, but usually cut out to go listen to heavy metal in the parking lot. now i keep my observations extremely personal and private. I don’t believe that being inside of a building gets me any closer (spiritually) than being out in nature amongst his creations. to each their own.

  8. I do not attend church and I haven’t for a few decades. I applaud you for your post. People get so weirded out about religion. To me, church is weird because everyone has a different interpretation of the Bible and the way things should be done. In my opinion there is a lot of ritual for rituals sake even some guesswork. I’ve seen those bumper stickers that read, “If you don’t believe in God; you better hope you are right.” What a turnoff. If you are a believer, great! But why turn your nose up at non-believers? You really don’t know any more than anyone else in this world when it comes to God. I counter those types with yet another bumper sticker, “I like Jesus, it’s his followers I can’t stand.” My experiences as a kid turned me off of all churches. I guess that I am just not a joiner.

    When I was a kid my dad was constantly searching for the right religion, the right church. As a result, we went to A LOT of different church services when I was little. I remember being scared of the statues that were along the pews in one particular Catholic church that we attended. I made my dad hold my hand as we walked by. Even at that age I didn’t think church should be filled with such scary objects. I mean, Jesus on a cross with blood and thorns scared the heck out of me as a kid. Why would you put that up there for all to see? I just couldn’t understand. If my son was killed, I wouldn’t want a picture of his death scene on the wall. Anyway, I remember seeing some crazy stuff. I remember the hand shaking thing and people refusing to do it. My dad left no church unturned. From big tent revivals to Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the Jehovah Witnesses stuck and that is where we ended up going. Except they didn’t call their place of worship a church, they called it a Kingdom Hall. I was probably 9 years old when my parents were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. I remember crying when I was told that we would not be celebrating Christmas or birthdays or just about anything. I wasn’t even allowed to salute the flag in school. I could stand respectfully but that was it. I caught so much shit from teachers that it wasn’t even funny. I handed them the pamphlet explaining why but they still grilled me about it. I felt like telling them, “Look, this wasn’t my idea.” but I never did. I just sucked it up and shrugged my shoulders. My dad may have even died because of his beliefs. He was in a car accident and refused blood transfusions that may have saved his life. Looking back, I think it was smart because it was 1983 and the whole Aids crisis was starting. So who knows what might have happened if he had gotten a blood transfusion. Anyway, I stopped going to “meetings” after my dad died. I was 11 years old. I was never baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness or anything else. It was probably like any other church with it’s cliques and the like but after a while it just didn’t seem like going to Kingdom Hall was about God so I stopped going. I didn’t like going door to door. I didn’t like not celebrating holidays and I just didn’t believe their version of God. I caught grief for it but that is another long story. . .

    As a result, as an adult, I don’t feel the need to join a church of any kind. I don’t think you need to go to church to work on being a good person in this life or how to tell you to do the right thing. Do I believe in God? Sure. Do I think He will understand? Yes. Do some people need church in their lives? Sure. Does it mean they are better because they go to church? No. I say live and let let live because none of us really know. All we have to go on is Faith.

    • I LOVE this comment. I also grew up in a church that did not permit the keeping of Christmas. We didn’t celebrate birthdays. We did celebrate Thanksgiving, though. And in the second grade I met a girl who was a Jehovah’s Witness and she and I instantly became friends over our shared feelings of being outcasts. I remember doing alternate art projects during the holiday seasons because my teachers knew that I didn’t celebrate those holidays, and they didn’t want me to do anything “against my religion.” So while all the other third graders were decorating their Christmas trees, I was painting a rainbow. Every year I had to go to each of my teachers and explain to them that I was leaving for two weeks for a required religious convention and could they please get my work together so that I could keep up with it while I was gone. That was always fun. Nothing a teacher likes more than having to figure out two weeks’ worth of classwork for one student.

      We were also very anti-medicine growing up. I distinctly remember hearing a story in church about how some young girl was diagnosed with diabetes and refused to be treated with insulin so that instead God could heal her, and she died. I remember thinking at the time that that was insane and I hoped that I wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes because I was going to take the medicine. Was she faithful or foolish? I don’t know. I just knew that if that was faith, I didn’t have it.

      And I agree that a large part of what we see in church is guesswork. I’m sure every church wants to believe that they are doing it the right way, but I think God is likely watching and thinking, “Man, you guys have totally jacked that one up.” And growing up in a church that said not going to church was a sin, I’ve now fluctuated to the other end of the spectrum. Now, believing that church has its benefits but in no way makes you better than anyone else, I have a hard time making myself go. I enjoy parts of it. I enjoy the actual learning aspect. Not a fan of the rituals at all. So it’s a weekly battle to make myself attend.

      I read your comment and instantly felt like you and I were kindred spirits, if I can borrow the words of Anne of Green Gables. I’m the last person on earth that will ever tell someone what God thinks or expects from us.

      Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write your comment. I truly appreciate it.

      • Thank you in return. I was really afraid to write my story. It’s nice to have someone who understands and I had a feeling after reading your blog that you would understand completely.

        I love the quote from Anne of Green Gables. She was always one of my favorites! 🙂

  9. Church, and religious practices in general, ARE weird. However, I love going to church (I’m Catholic). i don’t care if I go alone, or if I go with my children and have to shush them — I love the ritual, hearing the Word, listening to the priest (even when i disagree with his POV). It’s a little space in my crazy ass week that I get to sit and be still (internally if nothing else). I don’t think too much about germs, although I do tend to look at people as they are going to communion and reflecting on their outfits and/or shoes. So that’s probably not what I should be doing. I try to wait until I’ve prayed a little to get all shallow like that. 😉

  10. I am a Presbyterian, and recently our Pastor followed a calling to a larger church across town. Because my family really enjoyed him and his sermons, we attended a service at his new church over the summer. They actually had small bottles of hand sanitizer at the end of each pew, and advised everyone to please use it prior to the Communion being served. They also passed around the plate with small wafers and small thimbles of juice, but some of the thimbles were actually SEALED, so you could make sure to get something with no germs! If you still lived in Pittsburgh, I would tell you that this is the place for you!

  11. Okay, so before we decided to just stop going to church, I insisted to my husband that if we MUST attend, that we always have to be 10 minutes late so that we could skip the awkward awfulness that is the hand shaking! Ugh! If everyone hates it, why do we still do it?!?

  12. If the Hypochondriac’s Church of God doesn’t work out, maybe you could do the greeting Howie Mandel style (I’m sure you must be familiar w/ his fear of germs). That is, start a fist bump movement in your current church. 😉

  13. I’m Catholic also and love it so much so, that I wish everyone was 🙂 If you study Christian history, if you trace it all the way back to the time of Christ, you’ll find the Catholic Church all by its lonesome. Every other Christian or pseudo-Christian (Mormons, JW’s, Unitarians) denomination in the last 2000 years are break-off’s from the one true Church. And yes, saying that does piss people off sometimes, so my apologies if anyone doesn’t like that 🙂 In any case, I go to the traditional Latin Mass here in Pgh, and while we take communion on the tongue, the priest has *never* touched my mouth. In a non-trad parish (which all others are) all the people that hand out communion, go in behind the altar and wash or sanitize their hands before distribution, and the cup is optional and no one gives you weird looks if you don’t partake. See John 6:51 ” I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Having said that I have to add, we have *closed Communion,* so you have to be Catholic to partake anyway LOL so no germ worries at all! Try it out, you might like it. Write me if you have any questions, I have a grad degree in Catholic theology so could answer anything you might be wondering about.

  14. Where do I sign up!! I am a fellow germophobe and that is one of the actual real, I’ve-never-told- anyone-for-fear-of-mockery reasons that I don’t attend church regularly.

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