The Question: How deep is your faith?
I have a strong faith. Right now I'm not all the thrilled with organized religion. To me a belief system should be intensely personal, not public. If you don't cram your system of faith down my throat I won't cram mine down yours. The blessings of living under the First Amendment's freedom of religion, and following the Golden Rule.
I grew up in Southern Baptist Churches, was Saved, Baptized and surrendered to full time service, graduated from a Southern Baptist University, and attended one year of Seminary. I've preached, led music, taught Sunday School, and been a royal pain in the ass to all my Sunday School teachers. Grinnygranny has worked for the state convention longer than I've been teaching. You would think that I would be more attuned to organized religion than my opening statement indicates, but starting with my divorce and being relegated to second class citizen status in the SBC I've noticed a huge disconnect between what the Bible teaches and the doctrines and dictates of those who speak in God's name particularly at the national level.
The reason I still attend church is that in order to maintain and keep a personal faith there also has to be a communal sharing, caring and reinforcement of faith. I can't stand the music services since they have become mind numbing brainwashing on the Divine Right of Kings (it seems only Republican Presidents merit this allegorical distinction ), and I've had to bite my tongue most of the time the teacher or other members of the class bring up THE SECOND COMING. Only once in the last few years have I had a belly full of this clap trap and gave the poor teacher both barrels. He didn't know what hit him and it wasn't long before there was a new teacher. I've taken it much easier on the new guy, but he hasn't tried to bring up the Rapture and Tribulation while covering Christ's birth. There's not too many amillennialists left in the SBC. The Chosen Frozen Fundamentalists that have raped and pillaged the Seminaries and National Institutions the past thirty years have seen to that.
So I endure the music, overlook the childishness of interpreting literally books purposefully written symbolically (Daniel and Revelations), because Church is more than splitting theological hairs and listening to the preacher's sermon. It is the sharing and caring and support of those who meet together. When we go I lay aside the fact I'm a Democrat, gap theorist, and amillennialist, and meet as just a fellow believer who empathizes with those who are facing family illness and other problems and rejoice with those who are experiencing a time of God's blessing; just as they do the same for us.
It was a loving and wise pastor who helped put the pieces of my broken life together after my divorce, and such a pleasure when he performed the ceremony that united Grinnygranny and I together nearly thirty years ago. It was the church that helped reinforce the concept of right and wrong in our children as they were growing up. It was the empathy and prayers of our Sunday School class that have helped the last few years as Grinnygranny lost her father and I lost mine, as Penni has been fighting with her illness, and Mom would have had a much rougher time out there in Texas if it weren't for a Methodist Church helping her get to doctor's appointments, doing an estate sale next month so she can move back here, and a million other acts of kindness they have showered on her. Lest you get the impression we only go to church for what it can give, there is also the pleasure of doing acts of kindness for others over the years too. Praying with fellow classmates, taking food to those who lost loved ones, and other things we have done. It's a give/receive relationship that makes for a strong bond.
I'm reminded of a remark made by the teacher/professor who had the greatest impact on my life. The late Dr. J Iviloy Bishop in my Old Testament history class. "Belief in God gets you to Heaven, but you can only serve God by serving others." When the church serves the needs of its members it does God's work, when it acts as a police department enforcing moral or political conformity people tune it out and start thinking it has become obsolete.