Why I Left the Church

Copyright © 2007 Jordan White



            It all began when I first became involved in the plight of the Palestinians: their dispossession, the brutal occupation of their lands by Israel, and so on.  I began writing about the situation, and, in due course, I had the opportunity to meet with and spend time with Palestinian-Americans, and, by association, others to whom Islam was an important part of their life and culture.


            I had the beautiful and wonderful opportunity to observe these people at prayer.  Though they, for the most part, were vibrant and vivacious young men and women, they eagerly took part in a five-times-a-day prayer observance.  This was not just a matter of falling on one’s knees murmuring “Our Father which art in heaven”, or “Holy Mary Mother of God”.  (Incidentally, if that’s your thing, I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing.) 


            The young Muslims began by using a  quibla compass to determine the direction toward Mecca, so as to orient oneself.  That sounds easy, but it didn’t appear to always be that simple, since several readings were taken by different people (usually the guys).  Then, prayer rugs were carefully laid out.  These were colorful, hand-woven rugs, and many were quite worn from much use, but still very beautiful.


            Next, the young people would bow down, first on their knees, and then with the forehead touching the rug.  I watched them speaking their Arabic prayers, eyes clenched shut, totally absorbed and undistracted amid the bustle and noise of the big city of San Francisco.  Neither the clanging of the cable cars nor the cacophany of traffic deterred them. 


            When the prayer ended, they got up and their faces shone as if, from within, came a deep sense of peace and harmony with the eternal.  It was an amazing thing to behold.


            Let me switch gears for a moment.  A few years ago, I purchased a small house in the foothill country of Northern California.  Nearby is a state park devoted to the Miwuk American Indian culture.  On its grounds are a re-created village, including a roundhouse.  Indians come from all over to pray inside.  It is often kept locked, but, if anyone, Indian or not, wishes to pray inside, the ranger will gladly unlock it.  One day I was out for a hike in the park and passed the roundhouse just as the ranger was admitting an elderly Indian woman  who had come to pray.  As I passed the roundhouse about 45 minutes later, she was still there, deep in prayer and meditation.


            Oh, my dear Christian reader, how discouraged I am by our churches!  I have attended, for extended periods of time, four or five in this area alone.  None of them begins to match any part of this commitment and devotion.  In the name of “freedom” and the avoidance of “legalism”, I see services that are more appropriate to Disneyland.  At one service, adults dressed up as cartoon characters and paraded up and down the aisles to publicize a coming church-wide bowling tournament.  At a different church, the cheerleaders of the winning local high school league were invited on stage to display their cheers, dressed (?) in their crotch-length skirts, while the audience (congregation?) loudly applauded.


            The thing that broke my heart was, when I looked around in disbelief, I saw a handicapped young woman, awkwardly clapping with her crippled, bent hands.  Her plain face was smiling with enthusiasm for an activity she would never participate in.

No effort was made to include this special gal, who I had talked to before and found intelligent and charming.  What she had gone through in physical and emotional suffering had made her a sensitive and loving person, though painfully shy.


            When we leave things on a spiritual level, people can participate as their level of spirituality dictates.  Loving and worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) unites people of disparate backgroungs as nothing else can.


            Christians, I think we have abandoned the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25).  It is not “freedom” or “lack of legalism” to abandon devotion to God and the care and nurture of the most delicate of souls! ( See James 2:1-9.   I myself have been publicly attacked and berated by a church-going matron (in a church foyer, no less) for my open and shameless love for and defense of the rights of the Palestinian people.


            Christians, it’s time to reorganize your priorities.  A good place to start is to study thoroughly the book of James, after first humbly asking the Lord to enlighten your heart to its true meaning, not any interpretation that Cyrus Scofield might have come up with.  Quit listening to hate-mongers like Rush Limbaugh, John Hagee, Cal Thomas, and so on.  The Holy Spirit stands by, waiting for you to ask Him what He would have you do.


               Then listen. 

               Then act.