Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Religion of the Heart

Human beings have a tendency towards being religious. I don’t mean just in our various worshipful expressions but also in other activities such as ball games, medical appointments, registering for classes, student-teacher nights and arrest procedures. You name it. Any process that gets repeated on a regular basis gets religious and often impersonal.

One intimidating thing for me in visiting the doctor is the fact that the receptionist, the nurse and the doctor are religious about the process: They know the drill, go through the routine, take the visit more or less lightly while I am nervous, uncertain and hard of hearing. I don’t mean deaf, though I am. I mean I can’t make out what people are talking about in a doctor’s office. Are people talking faster these days or am I just hearing more slowly?

(Midwestern accents are moving south, friends. How many people have you known from up north that change their accents when they move down here? Nada. What about people from down here who move north and come home six months later talking differently? What does that say about our feelings towards the way we talk?)

I know that previous paragraph was a bad digression, but I had to get it off my chest, y’all. My subject is our tendency to be religious, that is, rigidly routine in so many of our activities. Some colleges are similar to doctor’s offices in that the academic personnel assume too much knowledge about how to register on the part of new students. Administrators and faculty at these institutions don’t seem to understand how confusing the process can be to students fresh out of high school or the work force. Instead of putting themselves in the students’ shoes, they get religious and are comfortable there while the students are very uncomfortable.

We are often even religious about ball games. The PA announcer always says “first down (name of team)” in such a way as to elicit cheers from the crowd. And the word “Touchdown (name of home team)” is articulated with considerable coercive excitement. In the stands some kid is always eating a pickle and another is burning his esophagus with jalapeno nachos. Good old boys who see each other every day and talk with their pickups door to door visit at ball games as if they have not caught up in years, while cheerleaders go through their repertoire that has not varied except in energy (and lumbar leanings) in my lifetime.

What about church meetings? I know people who go to church every Sunday and go through the motions but have no relationship whatsoever with the God they claim to worship. It is as if they think that if there is a God they will fool him into believing they are on his side by attending church. It doesn’t work that way. The religious activities that take place in a church can be absolutely meaningless if hearts are not involved. These activities can also be the most wonderful experiences of this corporeal realm if hearts are involved. Wanted: a religion of the heart.

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