Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Hardest Thing about Religion

Hello out there! Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Lest we stray from our objective, please remember that this space is dedicated to all the deities who have been lost to recorded history, as well as to their praise and worship teams.

What is a praise and worship team?

Well, I got the term from my sister when she was attending a Pentecostal church. The people who run the show -- the musicians, singers, church ladies who make casseroles, accountants, tithe collectors, ushers, etc. -- are the team. They are the movers and shakers that work their butts off so that you can go right into the church and have a fabulous faith experience. Make no mistake, these people work hard. They are often frustrated, especially by those of us who just sit there, enjoying the view.

If a praise and worship team likes a particular pastor, and that pastor is re-located, the team will often go along to the new church, if at all feasible. Sometimes teams start churches of their own. Sometimes team players will get angry at the voluntary work load and say, "No more. This is unappreciated. Let someone else do it." This is what happened to me way back when I was a Methodist. I got scolded for being late to the diaper baby room where I volunteered. There was a sleet storm raging, but no matter ... a well-coiffed grandmother in stilettos was angry because she was missing the opening hymn.

 Have you gone to a church where you just didn't feel at home, even if you approved the doctrine? Have you tried to fit a shoe onto your foot, religion-wise, because that shoe is the only game in town? Have you said or done something that turned everyone against you? Have you felt uncompensated for all your hard and thankless work?

I'm preaching to my intelligent choir here when I say that these sorts of problems are not religious problems, they are human problems. There's not a religion or a Path on the planet that is invulnerable to the vagaries of the human condition. I'll take it a step further. If dolphins have religions, I'll bet they behave the same way.

Personalities go into the mix of every single Path. Have you ever read an active thread being generated by a Witch War? These can be really dreadful. They can make you cringe. Why is that? Because you are a Pagan, and you intrinsically feel that Pagans should be above such behavior. But Pagans are human too.

I've read many thoughtful essays about how Pagans should find like-minded individuals with whom to worship the gods and goddesses. Oh, if that were only easy! People are people. Someone is going to be frustrated about having to make all the masks for Body Tribal. Someone is quietly judging you for showing up in cut-off shorts. Disrespectful to the deities, right? BAMP. A point of contention for the humans. Bored gods are notorious for loving you in your cut-off shorts, just because you care about Them. Don't try to explain this to someone who has spent eight years and a thousand dollars on Ritual attire.

We really don't even need to go to the extremes. Sometimes it's as simple as not rocking the vibe in a certain group where everyone else is perfectly content. This has happened to me with a Pagan community that is in my immediate vicinity, with members who have tried hard to get me to come and to feel at home when I get there. I can't fault these folks. They were all very nice to me. I pledged membership and regretted it immediately. Just did not work for me.

I do feel like group worship is a good thing, though. So it was with special pleasure that (thanks, Facebook!) my first Grove re-united for a Lughnasadh Ritual. This is the weird thing. I just like this Grove. I like where we meet. I like the Ritual. I love the people. We have no dues, no ties to any national or international organization, and no leadership. So yeah, being small in numbers and meeting in a fairly remote location, it is hard for us to get together. But when we do, it's a high and holy moment for the bored gods.

The moral of this sermon is simple: If you cannot find a group, a Coven, a Blot, a Grove, where you feel sympatico, I think it's perfectly fine for you to rock on solitary. I would even offer this advice to Christians. Go praise Jesus alone in the forest! He'll hear you.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

With any spirituality group I've participated in, my practice has always been "take what you need and leave the rest" i.e. I don't expect to resonate with every person and every ritual/activity. That kind of 100% synchronization is impossible, I believe. If a group's dynamics get weird or dysfunctional, then I'm outta there quick! It's rare that I find a group which meets even my basic needs, though. Unless I run it myself, LOL! Then I'm the Queen of All and Everything.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's true among the Unitarian Universalists too. I've seen very hard-working enthusiastic people driven out of the church by not only the under-appreciation, but criticism of how they are doing these thankless tasks by people who do not do the work. It stinks. but it is just human. humans can be pretty nasty beings. also, pretty wonderful.