It seems every time I turn around (well, at least on the net) I see somebody talking about how "I'm Catholic / Christian / Worshipper of the most divine Cowboy Neal, but I'm not practicing".
There seems to be an impression across the board, especially with regards to Christianity, that if you aren't going to church, and you aren't "following the required life syllabus", then you're not really "one of them" at the moment.
Not to mention nodes like Why I lost my faith in Christianity.
So, as a practicing (or perhaps, more to the point, struggling) Christian, I thought I'd try to regard that element.
So I'll state once again, quoting from the delightfully eloquent Bruno (http://www.brunostrip.com) "Religion is how you live your life".
So fine. You're not attending church. You're not wearing a suit when you take out the garbage. You aren't praising God when you hear about the death penalty. You're not walking little old ladies across the street. There's a small nation that would be perfect for your dreams of serial killing, so this summer you're going to be a heathen.
You've tried to raise your kids in correctly following "the rules", but they're rebellious little pricks who are going to embarass you in front of the rest of the congregation of the "most correct followers".
The heart of Christianity isn't, in fact, religion, or rules. Jesus poured a lot of vitirol into addressing the behaviour of various people which had nothing to do with what was in their hearts...whitened tombs and the like.
The principals of Christianity are fairly clear.
- Recognize the presence of sin in your life, and turn to Christ for forgiveness and renewall.
- Focus your life, your prayers, your attentions, on Christ, so that he can show you (through the changing of the leanings of your heart) Where To Go Tod...er, in life.
- Spread the word, the love, etc. to other folks.
Since following the direction and example of an individual who gave his all for other people would generally seem to lead one to act in somewhat the same way...personally sacrificing, humble, loving, etc...that's the general character of the practice. But faith is in Christ.
Not a list of rules. Not church attendance.
So you don't feel like going to church. Your heart isn't in it. You can't afford the wardrobe. It's just not where you are right now.
Then fine, drop out. Really, God would like for you to be able to hang out and jive with other Christians... but it's what's going on in your heart, where your faith rests, that he's really concerned about.
Don't sweat the rules. Don't worry about "practicing". If your focus isn't on Him, it's all meaningless anyway. If you're just doing it so that you'll be doing "what you're supposed to" or "what people expect of you here on earth"...then you're receiving your reward here. Have fun fitting in.
Many of the greatest recorded Christians, whether in the bible or elsewhere, found God in the most concentrated manner when they stopped practicing, stepped away from the "flock", and removed all distractions from their focus on God.
Oh, and if all you're teaching your kids (or yourself) is a list of rules and behaviours, then it's all empty anyway. If your heart isn't in it, whatever it is...it's dead.
Time to practice something else.