I went to my 20-year high school reunion this summer. And it was weird. How little had changed from what I remember.
Except my memories.
They’re almost all wrong.
At dinner, for instance, we watched a video Bryce’s dad took at our graduation ceremony.
There was prayer. The reading of scripture. Two sermons. A Christian pop song.
It was religious.
I’ve shared stories about what it was like. The awards. The people. The pranks. But the commencement on that video wasn’t much like the ceremony I remember.
I was sitting next to Rachel at the end of our row. I had a red plastic squirt gun I surreptitiously utilized every time anyone went up to or came down from the stage. Lots of wet spots on black robes.
So it was the real thing.
But it felt fake.
I just hadn’t remembered how Christian my class once was.
Then, as the video played, I did a mental survey of the room. Many of those who’d been active in church no longer are. I wondered why.
One said this: “If church were a place where I was allowed to ask questions, I’d probably still be there.”
Another wrote that he was disillusioned by the mismatch between what faith shouldn’t do but does and what it should do but doesn’t: “Religion, church, spirituality, whatever you want to call it often has a way of turning people into us and them. I would hope that something so great would turn us into we.”
Yet another, watching his younger self on film, just shook his head. I didn’t get to ask what he was thinking.
Since that night, I’ve wondered why I’m still at church (other than for the paycheck). I’ve come up with a few things so far:
I want to normalize doubt for those who might otherwise feel abandoned by God and by their community. I want to encourage serious questions that challenge our thinking and open up opportunities for growth. I want to be part of a community that uses faith as a tool for transformation (never as a weapon).
And I hope.
That 20 years from now.
Some former student.
Watching graduation reruns.
Might ask herself why she’s still at church.
And think of people who weren’t afraid of her questions, people who loved her because of (not in spite of), people who inspired and encouraged and modeled for and listened to and learned from …
That she would think of so many people.
And that one of them might be me.
I want to be part of a community that uses faith as a tool for transformation (never as a weapon).