Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Desperation is a Stinky Cologne

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
by Mark Smith

Microsoft really, really wants me to try Internet Explorer. They’ve been pushing it on me for a while now. They made this really nice commercial and they’ve been putting it all over the parts of the internet I frequent. This is the one I mean:

Doesn’t that look great? All that shinyness and lens flare pulls you right in, there’s a catchy song, and it’s full of bright colors and animations. It takes you all across the board--Facebook, Hulu, even Deviantart. Iron Man was there! He’s so cool. And if all the sensationalism doesn’t pull you in, they’ve got all these quotes from respectable sources talking about how awesome Internet Explorer is. The New York Times? It doesn’t get classier than that.

It’s too bad Internet Explorer is garbage. It’s the cesspit of browsers. The laughingstock of the world wide web. Firefox is much better. Chrome is much, much better. Opera is probably better, but only weirdos and Europeans use Opera. Still, it’s not Internet Explorer.

Have I tried IE9? I mean, really given it a fair shot? Of course not; it’s Internet Explorer. I already know that it’s terrible. I know that in the same way that I know that water is wet and that you should never tell a woman she has gained weight. These are inherent truths that I have such a firm belief in that I have absolutely no need to go back and re-investigate them. I know this so well that I’ve never opened Explorer...or did I? When did version 9 come out? How long have I had this computer? Anyway, I had to open it to download a different browser, but that hardly counts.

I think that many of my atheist and agnostic friends view the church in the same way that I view Internet Explorer. Most of them went to churches when they were younger--some of them tried several different faiths as they grew up. But in the end, they found the experience so profoundly negative that most wouldn’t come back to a church if they were paid to.

It probably isn’t hard for most of us to understand that. Those of us who grew up in the church have had our share of negative experiences--some minor, some life-shatteringly huge. The church body is not flawless, and we certainly recognize its flaws.

You see, not only have I had bad church experiences, but I’ve been bad church experiences. I grew up in a deeply evangelical church. “All you have to do is get them in the door,” they told me, “and we’ll convert them.” I spent my teenage years either fruitlessly inviting my friends to church or feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing it more often. If someone did come, they didn’t stay, and I couldn’t understand this. I was doing my part, why wasn’t God?

I was Internet Explorering them. I realize now what a waste of time and effort that was.
There is a part of me that remains evangelical. And Jesus did say to go forth and make disciples, right? Even so, I find it hard to imagine that his intention was for me to coerce my friends into being miserable on Sunday mornings. I would love for all my friends to have the peace of mind, sense of community, and support that comes from a strong church family. I don’t think I will get them that by “just telling them about Jesus” as I was told to in my youth. They know about Jesus, and me telling them that church and Jesus are better than they remember won’t change their minds.

So now I’m in a place where I focus on my own walk, not others. I do my best to love my neighbor and help my fellow man. I think I’m doing okay, but I have a long way to go. And I’m doing my best to respect the views and beliefs of everyone I meet because that seems to be a big part of loving them. Is that enough? I sure hope so.

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