Thursday, August 17, 2006

On "Worship"

I don’t go to church to worship. At least, not in the traditional sense.

This is the conclusion I came to, after a comment by PeaceBang. I am glad that there are those who come to our churches to worship. I think that all forms of spirituality enhance the experience for each of us. Okay, maybe not sacrificing a chicken. But then again, I’ve never been privy to that particular experience.

However, if going by the standard definition of worship, that’s not why I go to church.

Per the American Heritage dict, worship is:

1. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
2. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.

I’m not a Christian and I am a theist only in the broadest sense of the word “God.”

So what do I worship?

I don’t.

PeaceBang noted that “your post validates my sad conclusion that we are, in fact, worshiping ourselves.”

Tee-hee. I’ve been president of our church. BELEEEEEVE me, I don’t worship our church. Of course, anyone who has been a church president who doesn’t run screaming into the night … oh, I’m sorry. That’s another topic.

But getting away from worship and into the heart of the matter … so, if I don’t worship a deity and don’t worship my church, why do I go? Is it just for community? Just to be around like-minded individuals, and can’t I do the same thing going to a meeting of the Sierra Club?


I go to a Unitarian Universalist church, because I believe that is where I can take my spirit, my soul, for its learning. I can learn to be a better person at my church. I can think about what my purpose is here on earth at my church. I can search and find answers to the questions that call out from my heart and not feel that I must keep them separate from the questions that call out from my brain. I am a Unitarian Universalist because that is the only thing I can be. I cannot say it better than A. Powell Davies:

"Why should any of us be confined within a single area of religious culture? When I read Amos and Jeremiah, I say 'Would to God I were a Jew.' When I read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I say 'Would I were a Galilean.' When I read the 13th of 1st Corinthians, I wish with all my heart that I might be a Christian after the manner of the Apostle Paul. When I think of Buddha and his Eightfold Path, I say, 'I, too, would be a Buddhist.' And when I remember the trial of Socrates, I say in awe but with exalted spirit, 'Oh that I might be so brave a humanist.' And thus at the end, there is nothing I can say but that, like Emerson and Channing, I want to live with the privilege of the illimitable mind.”

I have not had the experience of God/Christ being a saving grace in my life. But when I have most needed salvation, it has come in the form of a song, or a phone call, or a message written in my blog. (Thanks again, Rev. Christine.) It has come in a passage of a book. A poem. A package of diapers dropped off by one of my fellow congregants, because the congregation heard that we couldn’t use cloth dipes anymore, due to the chemo.

I realize that to some, this is not salvation. But it has been a deliverance for me. I have been pulled back from the brink. When my heart felt as though it were being ripped apart, these things provided the needle and thread to sew it back together. When my soul was tormented with questions for which I had no answer, my church – my religion -- provided the salve.

According to, Robert Ingersoll, nineteenth-century agnostic, said, "He who loves, worships.

By that definition, I worship. But to try and parse “who” I worship...

Well, that’s just missing the whole point.


LT said...

Hey, if you had started with the Ingersoll definition of worship, you would have said that you do go to church to worship, although not in the sense that the dictionary defines it.
Do you think that Peacebang restricts her understanding of worship to what the dictionary says?
In fact, if you read the readings in the back of gray hymnal, you will find that Ingersoll's definition is pretty much the norm in Unitarian Universalist circles.

The argument that UU's don't really worship since they are either not theists, or that the God they do believe in is so impersonal that our worshipful actions are inconsequential (like worshipping gravity) is pure straw. U/U's have been redefining worship for over a hundred years or more.
The only purpose of the argument now is to impute to Christians and Theists such silly and backward ideas about worship that they can be declared the ignorant 'other'.

LaReinaCobre said...

I feel the same way about church, LE. I'm not even sure I go to church to learn sometimes, but I could (if I made the time and found the right programs).

I don't worship myself, or other UUs!

Did you ever read any books by Jose Saramago. His books are so spiritual and then I learned that he is an atheist! I find this inspiring.

Jamie Goodwin said...

I just want to say that by your post it appears to me that you in fact do go to church to worship.. you have just limited the word. Worship is about finding that which is of worth in our lives. For some, yes, this includes a specific faith or belief in a deity, for others it is about community and support, for still others it is in the challenge and life skills.. for many of us it is both b and c or all of the above.

PeaceBang said...

I really wish you hadn't taken my remarks out of context and included them in your post as though I was talking to you. Which is what any reader of your posting could conclude.

I don't mind people jumping off my posts to write their own. I do mind being quoted out of context and being used as a straw man. I would *never* treat one of your postings in this way. My questions about worship are far broader and more respectful than you have insinutated here.

PeaceBang said...

AW, POOP on me.
I'm on my way out the door and don't have time to write an appropriate retraction of my last comment.

First: SORRY. I just get really upset when people leapfrog off my posts and quote me in some way I perceive to be twisted. Given that I have a tendency to generate as many as a dozen UU blog responses to any given post, I have been on red alert of late. Many UU bloggers have been in the practice of quoting what they *think* I said instead of what I *did* say. I find myself doing more clarification on other people's blogs than I would prefer to do in the best of all possible cyberworlds.

I see that you did quote me accurately and that I did say to you, directly, in response to an earlier post of yours, that you've confirmed my worry that we're worshiping ourselves as congregations (not as individuals).

I do think the distinction is important. You're ruminating on what you are doing as an individual in this latest post. Earlier, you were reflecting on what we are doing as communities. You took a statement I made about the movement and applied it to yourself, personally. It's a small, but I think important, detail.

Sorry again for my snit, and thanks for weighing in.

Lizard Eater said...

PB, you are, as always, a model of grace and decorum. Thank you for that.

And yes -- community/personal ... there is a distinction.