Dear Christopher,

I attended your church today and wanted to share my impression.

The people who attend your church seem lovely. They struck me as sweet, gentle and genuine. They appear sincere in their beliefs and obviously are comfortable as part of their church community. They helped me feel welcome and accepted in their midst. I did not feel forced to buy into anything I did not believe.

That is the good news. The rest of my response is not so positive.

Even if your church had been trying to get me to buy into something I did not believe, it would not have worked because I would have not understood what it was to which you were trying to get me to assent. I simply had no idea what was going on.

I came away with the curious sense that, while you wanted very much to make me feel welcome and hoped I might return, you did everything in your power to create insurmountable barriers to me finding my way among you.

Nothing made the slightest sense to me.

I have no background in Christian faith. It was not part of my upbringing at all. I have not attended any kind of Christian gathering in the past. I have never felt the slightest need for church. I was only with you on this occasion because you were hosting a service I was obliged to attend for family reasons.

I do not know much about Jesus; the stories from the Bible are foreign territory. Words like redemption, resurrection, eternal life, salvation, even forgiveness, mean almost nothing to me. I just do not know what you are talking about. Your language seemed to be some kind of code for those who belong to the religious club you call “church”.

I do not understand why you kept talking about Jesus as if he was somehow available to me today. What little I know about him suggests he was an historical figure who died over two thousand years ago and left a few followers behind who somehow convinced people Jesus had founded a new religion called “Christianity”.

I sensed that you aim to instill positive values in the people in your church. I am happy about that; I believe the values you are promoting are, for the most part, good values. But, I am familiar with many organizations that are committed to positive community values who do an equally good job of promoting social awareness, kindness, and consideration of others. But they accomplish their task without demanding that I buy into the mumb-jumbo of your religious scheme.

Your rituals seemed strange and old-fashioned to me. I do not understand why you were wearing the peculiar garments in which you were attired. I do not understand why people stood at certain points in the service, kneeled at other times, and sometimes were instructed to sit. I was confused when everyone suddenly started going to the front and did not feel comfortable going forward or staying behind. It seemed to me a tremendously awkward moment.

I know you cannot be expected to stop and explain everything to every newcomer who comes along. But, you might want to at least consider what a barrier your words and symbols are to someone who stumbles in off the street with no experience of your religious world. Where are the bridges that would help me find my way into your community if I felt inclined to join you? What do you have to offer that would help me to navigate in this foreign land?

I do not mean my questions to be offensive. But, I am left wondering what there is that might ever cause me to choose to return to your church.


An Un-member