Yesterday, Hemant Mehta wrote a post about about meme where some pastor mocks excuses people use for not going to church by turning them into excuses people use for not attending sporting goods. He also posts a video response from someone that is absolutely wonderful. However, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the things that make this meme ridiculous right from the beginning.
The most obvious is that church attendance is often seen — at least by many Christians — as an absolute and even universal obligation. I’m not aware of anyone who views attending sporting events — either occasionally or regularly — as an obligation. Certainly not a universal obligation. No one has ever questioned my moral character for not attending sporting events. No one — not even exuberant sports fans — have treated me condescendingly for not attending sporting events. No one is trying to convince me that I will be condemned to eternal torment if I don’t attend the Amerks games and believe that their players are the best hockey players ever.
Instead, attending sporting events is entirely optional with little to no pressure on me to do so. I can simply choose not to attend any sporting events. The only “excuse” I need for not attending one is “I didn’t feel like going.” In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of even five instances in my forty-one years of life where anyone even inquired — let alone demanded to know — as to why I didn’t attend some sporting event.
I have had people ask why I don’t go to church. Several times. And each time, there was a clear implication that the person asking felt I needed a good reason — good enough as determined by them — why i didn’t go. This is why people make all kinds of excuses for not going to church, and seldom make any excuse for going to sporting events. No excuse is needed for the latter.
The excuses in themselves are equally problematic. For example, the first excuse makes no sense because there’s no expectation that a coach at sporting event will come visit me1. That’s not the case for a pastor of a church. There is an implicit — if not explicit — understanding that a pastor is there to provide spiritual care and guidance for the people in his church and even the rest of the community. When a person says that they quit coming to church because the pastor hasn’t come to see them, this means that the pastor and the church as a whole has failed to live up to their obligations. (John Pavlovitz put it perfectly on Tuesday when he wrote, “If you have no scalable system of pastoral care other than telling people to get into a small group, you have a lousy pastoral care system….
Pastor, if all you want to do is preach from the stage or the pulpit, stop calling yourself a pastor and admit that you’re a preacher or a religious celebrity.“) So it strikes me that it is perfectly reasonable for a person to leave a church that is failing to meet its obligations to that person.
There are similar issues with the meme-creator’s other “excuses” when you consider the fundamental differences between the nature of church attendance and going to sporting events. Sadly, this is just another case of a Christian leader thinking he’s being clever when he’s really just demonstrating that he hasn’t really thought any of these issues through. This also leads me to conclude that he’s not really trying to convince people who offer these excuses to come to church so much as he’s sharing a moment of smug self-righteousness with those who already agree with him. Frankly, I find that sort of thing ugly when displayed by an alleged spiritual leader.
1Naturally, I’m assuming that I’m a spectator rather than a player. If the latter were the case, then I see that this could be a legitimate reason for not only not attending those sporting events, but quitting that team.