Posted by: serrels | June 1, 2010

For the Record

There I was, sitting in Church. I had already walked down the aisle, and cracked my stupid ‘pew pew’ joke (every time I go to Church I point at the seats and make the laser sound ‘pew pew pew’ and, yes, I’m aware of how rubbish that joke is). I was roughly two seconds away from cold lampin’ my bloody iPhone for its lack of crucial church 3G coverage when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.

It was a friendly chap by the name of Pablo Lillo. Pastor Pablo Lillo.

We had a slight history, but I was meeting him for the first time. The concept for Stuck in Church actually came from an email I’d sent to Pablo a couple of months back. I had the idea of writing about my situation, and had emailed Pablo – the Editor of The Record (a Seventh Day Adventist magazine that’s given away free at Churches Australia-wide) – pitching a regular column.

After a couple of emails back and forth, the trail had gone slightly cold so I decided to just go ahead and start my own blog on the topic and, to keep him updated, I emailed him the link.

And it turned out that he had read Stuck in Church. I was kinda surprised (a common theme as you’ll soon see). I half expected him to give me a hearty slap on the back and say ‘thank God I dodged that bullet’, but it turns out that he actually really enjoyed it. So much so that he had forwarded it to other members of his editorial team.

I sense I may be losing you guys here, so I’ll cut to the chase; the end result of said conversation is that I’ll be writing some sort of feature for ‘The Record’, probably about ‘Stuck in Church’, my situation, and my opinion of church from an Atheist/Agnostic/Whatever perspective.

But what surprised me about the whole conversation was this: when we talked about what kind of feature I could write, Pablo was pretty explicit that he didn’t want a po-faced puff piece on how awesome my Church experience was, or how lovely everyone was. On the contrary he almost demanded criticism – a fresh, honest view of Church from my non-Christian perspective.

So yes, I was surprised – but you know what? I really shouldn’t have been. Church, and my relationship with Christianity, has been consistently surprising me and defying my expectations from the very second I laid eyes on my wife.

One by one I’ve had to readjust every one my own half-baked assumptions about Christians and Christian faith. When I first rocked up to Church, I thought I could swagger in like Marlon Brando in The Wild One – hit up all those Christian squares with my craaaaazy ideas and change the world maaaaaan. I thought that Christians clung to darkness like a security blanket, stuck their fingers in their ears and yelled ‘lalalalalalalalalalaaa’ in the face of reason and logic.

Marlon Brando: pre blubber

What a total wanker I was. The first time I tried to talk science with someone, I got totally smashed. Turns out they knew more about my point of view than I did.

It’s strange. I used to think belief in God was irrational – and maybe a smarter person could mount that argument – but in my experience most Christians have come to their beliefs through a rational process. They love to have their beliefs challenged – respectfully – and the hugely positive reaction my Christian friends have had towards this blog is proof of that.

When I started Stuck in Church I expected a bit of resistance – I have so many friends in the church. Almost all of my in-laws are practicing Christians, and I wondered if this was the right thing to do. Again, I should have known better. Once again my idiotic presumptions were gazumped.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that some Christian communities aren’t poisonous, and I’m not saying Church is perfect, I’m just saying that my experience, so far, has been a good one.

One of the (slightly pompous) goals I had for writing this blog was to bridge gaps, to write about what Christians and Atheists had in common, instead of what divides us. I think I’ve done that (although sometimes I’ve done the exact opposite) but no matter what I’ve written, what I’ve said, I’ve never been judged harshly by my friends in the Church.

Surprising? Yes. But you’d think I’d be used to it by now.

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  1. That’s awesome. Your articles will be great, you write really well, and you challenge us all to think about why we do what we do. I like where I’m at, but happy to be challenged also.
    I am a christian, I am an SDA, I believe in Jesus, the Bible, and I believe in creation. 🙂

  2. yes surprisingly i have a life outside of this blog. although i think i spend more time on on this blog than you do Mark. Always a pleasure reading. While I was reading this I was thinking, every Christian is going to be like ‘thats awesome’. and every atheist is going to be like ‘your going soft’. very broad and possibly untrue statements but thats what i was thinking. Neway none the less I enjoyed it cos the last post depressed me a little. This one was happier.

  3. Keep up the good work Mark.

  4. Have to agree with Caryn re time spent on this blog, especially as a professional writer you probably don’t take as long to write a coherent sentence as I do.

    I don’t think Devil’s advocate is a role played much in church, and you’re filling that somewhat.

    Personally I’m enthralled to be challenged on a semi-regular basis, will be cool to see the effect your column has.

    Though how will we reply? =P

  5. Man…you have just scored the opportunity of a life-time! The gig sounds great!

    There are soooo many people in the church at the moment who need need to catch a wake up call but don’t get one simply coz people are treading too lightly. I think this is a great chance for them to get a taste of the real hard truth on how a “non-Christian perspective” eye views the church world. I see the long term benefits in this for the church because from the get go, it raises the awareness of those Representing it and hopefully impacts their way on how they are leading by example for the better.

    My current lable in the church at the moment is:
    Participating Non-member
    So I delight in reading your posts because I can relate at times. I think it is awesome that you have been given permission to “Shake the Cage”
    Best of luck!

    And Remember – With great power, comes great responsibility lol.



  6. Mark,
    Am really loving this blog. I usually lose interest fairly rapidly with ppl’s blogs, but this one is certainly different.

    I look forward to reading your Record articles – irony suggests it will be printed write next to an advertisement for Sanitarium Tender Pieces or Nutmeat.


  7. Belief in God was irrational: – it still is ! ( does not mean it is therefore not true, but it is irrational) There is a dragon in my garage – carl sagan, same thing.

    They love to have their beliefs challenged: not on the facebook site “we can find 1 million SDAs, ok many do but the admin there dont like it.

    Bridge gaps: believer /non-believer marriage is perhaps one of the most amazing bridges out there. Doing a blog in itself is a bridge. ( great work BTW)

    Nutmeat – hi in niacin, thiamine and irony.

  8. Mark, I am happy for you that your experience with members of the Christian community has been so kind to you. My position on religion – because I consciously keep to myself – has been predominantly met with pity, sympathy and restrained tolerance; as though I am an autistic child.

    Perhaps your relationship with your wife is what gives your position credibility?

    As editorially appealing as this new opportunity may seem (if not indulgent. It is, after all, no different from what you are doing with this blog), I can’t help but wonder whether you’re simply being positioned more favourably as a prospective convert.

    • All very fair points Mr An Ewok – although my policy is always to try take the niceness at face value. I think that’s the only way I should be taking it!

      Something pretty drastic would have to happen to make me a convert. I just don’t see that ever happening.

      • wow…be careful what you wish for, or invite into your life. That’s a pretty big statement!

  9. Love reading your thoughts.

    As you write you column for the record, it would be great to see you write and reflect on what that does to you and your perceptions. How do the relationships, the being valued, the censoring yourself to fit the medium… feed into the cycle of your being/thinking/doing and change you?

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