1. Losing an entire day of the weekend.
From the 7:30 wakeup, 9:00am Sunday school, and the 11:00am Sermon to the 4:00pm Choir practice and 6:00pm Evening Service, Sunday is nothing-but-church day in the Southern Baptist world. It maybe wouldn’t be so bad if you could take the occasional break, but as soon as you’re absent, questions arise regarding your whereabouts (see #10 below) and the next week it’s the only thing people want to talk to you about: “Missed you last Sunday. Were you sick? Did you go out of town? Do I need to pray for you?”
How many times can you hear Amazing Grace before it just isn’t so amazing anymore? That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is about 780 (that’s once every Sunday for fifteen years).
3. Picking and choosing from the Bible.
I’ve heard many a sermon about Leviticus 18:22 (you know what it is, if not, look it up). But we never talked about anything else in Leviticus, like about how we aren’t supposed to eat shellfish (11:10-12) or how linen and wool can’t be worn together (19:19) or how we’re supposed to stand up in the presence of the elderly (19:32). I’m completely baffled at how the church can focus on one law (out of a chapter that has hundreds) for us to follow today.
4. Not feeling spiritual enough.
Remember all those times when a hymn was playing and people closed their eyes and raised their hands and you just weren’t feeling it? Or those sermons where the pastor gets really animated and yells a little and everyone starts openly weeping and saying ‘amen’? And you’re just sitting there awkwardly praying, “God, I care, I promise. I just don’t like crying in public…”
5. When the pastor’s all phlegmy and keeps snorting right into the mic.
My pastor was perpetually snotty. Maybe he had chronic sinus issues? I don’t know. Either way, nothing really solidifies a sermon about following God’s commandments like the sound of your pastor’s loogie right in the middle of it.
6. Money. It’s always about money.
My church wasn’t shy about asking for money. When the coffers were low, our whole sermon would focus on giving the required 10% and doing your rightful Christian duty. Every Sunday, I watched my struggling single mother give a portion of her hard earned money and it never seemed fair to me. Even the US has tax brackets. Shouldn’t there be some kind of sliding scale based on income? Or maybe just less guilt about tithing in general would be good.
7. Churchified holidays.
I really don’t miss having to celebrate every holiday at church. Holidays like Easter and Christmas – yeah, I understand the church significance. But it’s not just Easter Sunrise Service or Candlelight Christmas Eve service. It’s also Fall Festival (or Jesusween in some places), Thanksgiving Fellowship service, Midnight New Year’s Eve Service, Keep God in “God Bless America” Fourth of July Extravaganza. It’s a lot, and unless there’s food involved, it isn’t that fun.
8. Not being allowed to ask questions.
You could ask questions, but 9 times out of 10, you received this standard response: Have faith. The other times, you were told that Satan wanted us to question because it “sowed the seeds of doubt.” Ideally, asking questions would lead to riveting discussions and differing opinions. Unfortunately, in some churches, you’re expected to follow blindly.
9. Children’s Church.
Or more specifically, that Children’s Church ends when you turn 12. Because Children’s Church is a magical place where you get to play Godball (aka ‘Christian appropriate’ dodgeball), eat animal crackers, and watch reruns of Veggie Tales until adult church is finished. It’s the best. I’d like to suggest that all future church sermons be modeled after Southern Baptist Children’s Church and when that happens, I will happily go back.
Everyone is always talking about someone. And it’s okay as long as you say you’ll pray for them after you’re done. “Did you see how short Miss Catherine’s dress was? It was barely knee length! Let’s pray for her” or “I heard Miss Abigail’s macaroni and cheese isn’t actually homemade. The Lord forbids even the smallest white lies. We should pray for her.”
So what do I miss?
The food. That’s a joke. Okay, it’s a half-joke. Southern Baptist potlucks have some of the best food in the world, even if Miss Abigail’s mac and cheese isn’t homemade.
The truth is that I miss the community. Sure, there are other places where you can find it, but there’s nothing quite like having a church family to celebrate with, mourn with, pray with. Since leaving the church, I haven’t found a place that even comes near that level of closeness. If I ever do decide to start attending church again, this will be the reason why.