Rejected by Religion?

A man pushing an ejector button with his right-hand thumb.

As spotted on Jonny Baker’s excellent blog:

rejection hurts – a new advert from ucc – brilliant!

The post, and link refers to a new campaign by the United Church of Christ in the USA to promote “an online community where people can share their personal stories of how they felt unwanted or alienated by organized religion.”

The advert shows a church building equipped with ejector pews! You can download the advert too, in Flash Apple QuickTime or Windows Media formats.

There’s another advert showing a couple of bouncers at the door of the Church turning certain people away. It’s very well done, and gets you thinking.

I wonder how many of our Churches today would reject Jesus if he wandered in? Which raises all sorts of questions such as what is Church? What is Church not? From a fairly early age I bristled at the idea of turning up week after week in my “Sunday best”, as though going to church was the “respectible” and “social” thing to do.

Christianity, I began to discover was about discipleship and relationships — learning to walk more closely every day with Jesus; and about our relationship with Jesus/God and our relationships with others. It wasn’t about how I looked, or how I dressed. It was about what I was like inside and how that affected my behaviour.

For too long Churches appear to be demanding that if people want to come along and become a part of them they first need to behave in a particular way, which might lead to believing, and only then will they allow them to belong. Rather than allowing people simply first to belong, and in belonging they begin to learn what it means to believe, which then affects how they behave.

When I was growing up in Selkirk a few of my school friends started coming along to church each Sunday. They’d sit down the front (I was in the choir) wearing their rock/metal music and t-shirts and leather jackets and long hair. I was so appalled by the rude comments about their appearance that I grew my hair too — ah! those were the days when I could! — in part as a protest. I was seen as the young man who was going to become a priest and therefore I was acceptable. I wanted to see if I would still be acceptable if I had long hair and wore Metallica and Godflesh t-shirts.

I began to get the same sorts of negative comments about the length of my hair, but they weren’t quite as harsh … and then the comments to my friends began to lighten too. But it was a little too late as they had already began to leave, and then we all left for university anyway.

That’s how I saw it, anyway. What an opportunity we have in the Church to love people, unconditionally. And we end up worrying about the oddest of things that get in the way and make us act in the most unhospitable of ways.

I pray for forgiveness.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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