Directly across the street from my house is Clarendon Presbyterian. It's a cute little stone church, probably built in the 1920s or 30s. They prominently advertise their friendliness and inclusive philosophy with banners. They perform "commitment" services, despite the fact that the standard presbytery does not allow such things. They rent the premises out to an Aikido league and a dog obedience school. They seem very nice and lately I have thought very seriously about starting to attend.
The coming of spring finds me in a crisis of faith. Not about myself. I've always had a healthy arrogance despite whatever evidence may support a contrary finding. And definitely not about Jesus. I haven't believed in the risen-from-the dead-Son-of-God since before Victoria was born and I'm not about to start now. I'm losing faith in my people.
Last November, I spent election night in a bar in Athens, Georgia with a bunch of campaign volunteers after having worked long days trying to get this election won. Optimism prevailed into the night and then crashed against the rocks of reality. Still, I was the lone positive voice left in the group. I spent the next day comforting the younger volunteers. "Political change in America is slow, but that is for the best. No one side can gain too much advantage on a whim of the people. It will even out eventually. Don't you worry," I said.
Now I'm not so sure. It isn't exactly politics that has me down. It is much deeper than red state-blue state. The fact that the torture debate was only followed by a lazy media troubles me. The continued desolation of New Orleans bothers as well. South Dakota freaks me out good. The straw that broke the camel's back came two weeks ago, when I heard that the Justice Department would start prosecuting journalists who report leaked stories. Suddenly, I'm picturing people in jail for reporting things that are absolutely true. People put in jail for doing their job.
Of course, only crazy fascists could think up such a solution to a leaky intelligence system and who in their right mind could worry about crazy fascists? Let me say that faith has not been fazed by these folks or their dictatorial ideas or their NSA warrantless wiretaps or the lunatic left on WBAI who rejoice at the exact type of censorship that Focus on the Family would endorse. I sneer at censors. They waste my time and energy.
What killed it for me is the vacuum of silence in my people. I hear these stories, these plans, these concrete examples and I look around me and NO ONE CARES. People keep right on spending their money on McMansions and new cars and $8 bridal magazines and $60 dollar fishing rods and giant wall-mounted flat screen TVs. People who pretend to care might discuss Bush's poll numbers as if the fate of this country (and every other country, considering our economic and military reach these days) were a basketball score. "Oh," they say,"he's down to 34%." And then they voice their assent or they say that these polls mean nothing, that this is all some GAME that he can just come back and win in the end, like that autistic kid who hit all those three-pointers or like every cliched miracle sports movie ever made.
We're at "war" (I personally am not calling this thing a war - it looks more like a botched mission to me, since there's no draft, no rationing, no taking of business interests for the country's sake and no real enemy) and it's a movie. We've suspended habeas corpus, but we are keeping up with the coolest new ringtones. We are arguably creating a new generation of terrorists, but then again, Lindsay Lohan may or may not be anorexic (or maybe bulimic - what do you think?). Luxury over liberties, that should be our new motto. War without distinctly visible suffering.
And I am frustrated.
And so, despite the fact that I have not been in a church (other than weddings or funerals) for maybe twenty years, I am looking deeply into the stained glass. Maybe there, just maybe, is a tiny shelter of a world that can be nice without being shallow, gracious enough to let the air out of my self-righteousness, genuine enough to restore a little faith. More than likely, however, I'll just imagine what it's like in that little church. I'm sure that way it is not a disappointment. I'm sure the spring will slip by and I will let it go and sleep in on Sundays. That Jesus thing gets in the way a little, y'know?