Recently, a friend referred to me an article describing a study that has found the number of American women attending church is decreasing. The stats were sad, but not surprising. What really punched me in the gut were the discussion comments, which included:
My religious upbringing was good for 2 things.
1) helping me understand Biblical allusions in literature
2) cultivating a love for covered-dish dinners
That’s about it.
Yes! My lifelong atheist husband almost never gets biblical allusions whether it be in literature, tv shows, etc. And casseroles rule. But those are pretty much the only good things that can come out of a religious upbringing. And even then, I think I’d rather be ignorant of biblical allusions and so-so on casseroles if it meant I could have slept in every Sunday until I was 18.
In moments of weakness I would want to rejoin to access to the potlucks. Oh the pies were delicious.
It’s not that I’m unaware there are people (many people) who feel this way. It’s just that seeing it in black and white was heartbreaking. From my perspective, anyone who honestly feels this way has encountered hollow
religion and something/someplace/someones who assumed the moniker of “church”, but has not experienced church as it should be or a relationship with God as it can and is meant to be. And my heart breaks for them.
Equally heartbreaking was another article sent to me by another friend describing the effects of the Kenyan drought on Nairobi’s slums, specifically Korogocho. Having just returned earlier this year from the Mathare Valley slum, I can easily picture the scenes the author portrayed. In the article I was introduced to a man named Dominic…
Dominic Meteka…earns about 170 shillings a day sewing small containers made of old flour and rice sacks. He has three children and a wife, and can’t afford to feed them anymore. From the 170 shillings he earned today, he had to pay 100 to his landlord because he is three months behind on his rent. With the remaining 70 shillings, he can only buy ¾ of a kilogram of maize flour. Before the drought and the spikes in food prices, he and his family used to eat three times a day. Now, they only have tea in the morning, and one small bowl of cornmeal porridge or rice in the evening.
Dominic says that this has been going on for a few months. At first, his children would come to him asking for more food, especially his five-year-old son. “They would look in the house for food, and they would cry when they could not find it,” Dominic remembers. “But now they are used to it. When we eat, there isn’t enough to get full. I tell my children to persevere, and that there will be another meal tomorrow.”
I don’t have to explain why this is heartbreaking. It was especially poignant to me as our family sponsors a boy in the Mathare slum named Dominic.
But what wrecked me for the rest of the day was, as I read both articles in the same sitting, the juxtaposition of different poverties, different hungers, empty souls and empty stomachs. First I read the words of spiritually starving people who were fed, as far as they are concerned, only casseroles and pies by the church. Then I hear from a spiritually courageous person who doesn’t know how his family will get fed much at all.
God, how I want to be part of a Church that feeds them both well.