Why I go to church…

collapse-michael-ceraWorking at a peace and justice non-profit is an emotional double-edged sword plowshare. It is emotionally fulfilling to have a small part in making the world a better place. It is emotionally crippling because every day I am confronted with the injustice and inhumanity of human trafficking, war, ecological destruction, greed and corrupt power. Compassion fatigue is real; I can only watch/read/research so much before the pictures/videos/stories become numbers/statistics/calculations instead of real people.

My symptoms include bypassing petitions instead of filling them out; deleting email action-alerts instead of reading them; turning the radio station from KUOW to KEXP when a challenging story comes on; binging on Netflix instead of keeping up with current events. If I let the fatigue persist it would be easy to just give up. Heck, sometimes giving up looks pretty damn attractive. It would be much easier to just give in and become just another consumer who doesn’t give a f*#k about anybody but myself. But I don’t want to be this person. I choose to fight the good fight. Therefore, I go to church.

giphyWhen I announced I was becoming a Unitarian Universalist, some of my atheist friends questioned why I just didn’t give up on religion all together. They all have very good reasons; as an institution religion has been as much a problem of the world as a solution to the world’s problems. Why would an atheist or agnostic attend a church service? Those are places for believers. My answer is simple: To stay a sane, healthy man of peace, I need religion.

Religion provides me with a community, sanctuary and covenant that is focused on peacemaking. It reminds me that I am not alone in working to build a more just world. It cures my compassion fatigue because it restores my faith in people. When peace and justice work becomes too heavy, it is my church that lightens the load. In a space filled with atheists, believers, agnostics, questioners and religious refugees, our attendance shouts to the universe: “We will continue the work! We will not give up! We crave peace!”

rocky-training-oIn order to do the work I do, to continue to read the stories, watch the videos, and look at the pictures; to keep on filling out the petitions, contacting the representatives, and raising awareness; I have to feel like I’m not alone. And every Sunday, along with other justice-seekers, it is in singing our doxology that I am spiritually renewed to keep on fighting the good fight:

“From all that dwell below the skies,
let songs of hope and faith arise!
Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
through every land, by every tongue.”

May it be so. Amen.

9 thoughts on “Why I go to church…

  1. johnarkansawyer

    I noticed that when I worked a manual labor job, I liked loud pop music on the way to work. Let me make a suggestion, for what it’s worth: You don’t have to listen to every challenging story on the radio or respond to every email alert. You can’t. It sounds like you’re running at pretty close to your full capacity. You may be happier and get more done if you listen to a little more KEXP.


  2. Nicely put! So how would you define religion? What makes a religion? I’m at church for a host of reasons that I’ve recently listed on my own blog, but I still struggle with the question of what religion is. Ideas?


    1. To me, religion is what happens when faith, spirituality, community and responsibility come together in love and justice. Spirituality is individual and personal; religion is communal. 🙂 I could be wrong…


      1. Hmm. I’m fuzzy on what faith is, too, but I do tend toward semantic dissection as sport. I’d agree that spirituality is an inner experience and personal. Religion may be the communal expression of belief/values, although I think one can be religious all on one’s own. I enjoy reading other people’s takes on these subjects.


  3. This is great, thank you. I especially enjoyed the visuals (GIF’s?).

    “Because it restores my faith in people” is one of the reasons I go to church, too. Interesting to see the words of the doxology printed out–we sing the same version at my church, and I’ve known it by heart for so long that I had forgotten what it said.


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