Even at my most agnostic I always identified as a Christian. Most of the time it would manifest itself as anger whenever the term Christian was used as a pejorative referring to evangelicals and not all or even most Christians. It would touch some nerve deep inside. The nerve of an eight year old boy sitting in the entry hall of Grace Presbyterian Church reading Tolkien for the readathon event the church was hosting or the boy that first learned about space, dinosaurs, chemistry, and how to eat with chopsticks at church summer camp.
For someone that wrote his New Testament term paper on why we don’t have to go to church I had a lot of fond memories that took place in a church. So, when my wife came to me and said she wanted church to be a part of our children’s lives I was a little concerned.
I hadn’t become any more or less Christian through the years. I love religion and by that I mean I love stories and I count the Christian Bible to be one collection in a world of collections of interesting stories. For me there is little difference between the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, The Mabinogi, or the Kalevala. They are all glimpses into cultures and customs from different worlds and different times, and if there is a one true God then wouldn’t that God, the ineffable and unknowable God spread his message to all peoples throughout all times and wouldn’t the fallible and fragile mind of mind create different and unique stories from their interpretations from the mind of God?
Now imagine you are a person that thinks like this and have been asked to find a church for your family. Also imagine it is 2019 and Christian Nationalism is on the rise and the loudest Christians are those that wield religion as a cudgel of hate.
I don’t want to call anything to do with Covid-19 lucky but the big old pause button that got hit on life in 2020 helped to stall our search for a church. As that pause button got lifted we decided to put the boys into pre-school to give ourselves a brief respite during the week and that pre-school happened to be housed in a Presbyterian church.
My wife hadn’t mentioned wanting to join a church for a bit but it still lurked on the edge of conversations. I had even bought the same study Bible I had in college ready to teach Christianity to our children in my own way. I’ve always enjoyed the Quaker thought of wherever two people gather to worship is a church. I’m also a hardcore works over faith person and have used the term clanging gong to refer to certain genres of Christians in the past.
That was an overly long and convoluted intro to what I wanted to talk about. We eventually joined the Presbyterian church that houses our kids pre-school and have found it to be very opening and welcoming and supportive of our social stances and positions. The Presbyterian USA’s official position on gun control, gay marriage, trans rights, and abortion rights align with our views, and more than that our Pastor is a wonderful, well educated, and welcoming individual.
But here is the consequence of all that. For me everything comes back to food. Trust me. I just finished reading a chapter in a book where a character got tea and I am upset that it is too late for me to have a cup of tea. When I read a book I want to eat the food from the book.
That extends to the Bible and so when it came up of what to cook for a children’s family birthday party tomorrow I thought of the Bible and how all these people in the Old Testament worship by throwing a BBQ for God. Think about how many times someone sacrifices an oxen or lamb, grills it up, and God comes down to join them because the order is pleasing to him.
Now think about how this extends into the New Testament and how Jesus spreads his message by drinking and eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus is entirely God and entirely man and Jesus loves eating and drinking. So, if we want to have good blessings for our children on the celebration of their birthday we need to make a meal that is pleasing to God so we are having leg of lamb with a raspberry demi-glace, mac and cheese, green beans, and watergate salad.