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Reform Magazine | October 18, 2017

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Commitment-Phobe: Looking for God

commitment_phobeA new column: Touring churches in search of God

I’m looking for God. I haven’t found him/her by reading the Bible, but maybe I will through hanging out with people who have. Or people who haven’t found him/her but are trying to, and think it is important work to do on a Sunday. So, for the next year, I am going to spend a lot of time in church, many churches, of many different denominations. Until I find the right fit, and/or God.

So why do I want to give up my late morning stroll to the shops to buy Sunday lunch? My only experience of church is attending blessings, weddings and funerals; and watching romantic comedies. I wasn’t brought up in the church, I’m a born and bred atheist. As a teenager, I wanted to prove to my parents that their view of the world was too narrow, that there must be something more. I tried reading a copy of The Watchtower magazine that was posted through the letterbox but it seemed to contradict most of the science I was learning at school. And the knowing smile of my mother, not judging but expecting this phase to end quickly, was pretty offputting. In my early 20s, I tried again. I thought I’d give a novelised version of the Bible a go. My memories of watching The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter TV were frankly, far more exciting. Later, reading a vintage edition of the King James Bible I reached a particularly unsettling passage about Lot’s daughters and just gave up. So why do I keep trying?

I haven’t had a calling or heard a voice. But I like Jesus from what I know of him. I know everyone seems to have a different idea of who or what Jesus was and stands for. I’ve just always seen him as a prototype socialist and someone who cared. I find his sacrifice unbelievably sad and painful, even as a metaphor. I don’t want someone to die for me. Even as a metaphor. I don’t believe in life after death. But I do believe we can make a heaven on earth if we just keep working and working at it. And that is the message that I got from Easter TV.

So I guess I believe in life – worshipping it and praising it. But I don’t really get a chance to do that. I tried Buddhism once. Well, saying I tried is pushing it a little too far – I read the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness. In my 20s, the idea of the patient path to enlightenment was beyond me, and perhaps it still is. I need something a little rougher round the edges. And Christianity, with its stories like Lot’s daughters seems to fit the bill.

So that’s me: confused, easily bored, commitment-phobic, possibly agnostic.

And what has changed, to set off this spiritual quest? Well, where I live. I have moved to a corner of London that is cramped with people. We are all in tiny flats. Some are expensive flats, for professional couples only. Some are cheap flats for as many people as are willing to pay to live in a cupboard, no questions asked. We run around getting to work, picking the kids up from school, speaking different languages – literally, aesthetically and religiously. There are temples and mosques and, on every street corner, a church. Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostal – a plethora of churches. And every Sunday, on every street corner, I see groups of people congregating outside these churches. I’d never noticed this when I lived on a gentrified street with too many coffee shops. But then, I don’t believe I have ever been in the proximity of quite so many churches.

And I realise I lied about not hearing a call. There is a call of sorts, but it sounds more like a playground taunt in my ears: “Look at you, you’re too lazy to be spiritual. You’re too scared to shake the hand of someone you don’t know. Too scared to commit to an idea!”

So I’ve decided to hear THAT call and go to every church I can – at least once a month. And I’m going to tell you about it, so I that I can’t pretend that it didn’t happen. I will try the Catholic, the Anglican, the Pentecostal Baptist, and the Methodist and, of course the United Reformed Church. And I may try many, many more. I might discover a community with whom to share my love of life, my hopes and my sorrows. I might decide that my God doesn’t live in church but in me. I may make no decision and stay perpetually confused. And after attending all the churches in my community and committing to none I may find a great desire to move. I expect to be terrified. I expect to be surprised and I expect to have some very interesting conversations. I hope you will join this commitment-phobe on her journey.

Commitment-Phobe is trying different churches in the search for God

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This article was published in the October 2013 edition of  Reform.

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