By some cruel twist of fate, I spent Friday night of Labor Day Weekend in a synagogue (the temple was in the Hamptons, so I guess that still counts as #killingit, right?). My grandmother had donated some money to the congregation, so my family was forced to attend an additional service beyond our usual two per year. And what a riveting ceremony it was: the detached Rabbi flatly praised the congregants who had dropped far more cash than Grandma. Then we all mumbled some hollow chants, judged what everyone else was wearing and thought about post-game dinner options. Despite my specifically Semitic tale, I know its foibles are familiar to just about every church, mosque and Forest of the Old Gods. I’m not here to rail against religion or engage you into some Maher-esque smugfest about why God doesn’t exist. I understand the purpose faith, but I also know that it’s failing, we all do (besides in Pakistani caves, they’re repping it pretty hard). So during the holiest days of my peoples’ year, I proudly present my Four Solutions to Fix Organized Religion.
4. Change the Conversation
In the Jewish prayer service, we recite hours of repetitive drivel in a language we don’t understand. Even though other faiths may have their hymns in English, the ambiguity and redundancy doesn’t falter, “Oh God, great redeemer and rock of the sacred covenant, whose eternal essence shone upon thy flock and…” Look, you’re bored already. And Muslims, I know you hate having to excuse yourself to face Mecca. Cut the prayers down, update them to modern parlance, and maybe you’ll find out that more people are willing to worship. Those black Baptist churches have it right; people will be passionate when they know what they’re actually praying for and it’s done in a fun way.
3. It’s Not a Business
So stop running it like one. Remember that episode of the Wire where Valchek and Frank Sobotka nearly come to blows over who donated more stained glass? That’s the unfortunate result of faith-based patronage. Yes, your local church needs money to keep the lights on, but the chintzy robes and capes and gold-trimmed everything can go. I know more than a handful of people who have been turned off by temple due to costly membership fees and transparent clergy. Every time my Mother gets invited to dinner with my Rabbi, my father groans because he knows it’s another grab for cash. While I don’t know how to balance the need for funds with the fight against unjust enrichment, I do know there has to be a better one.
2. Cut the Bullshit
It didn’t rain frogs, there were no burning bushes, and Jesus didn’t walk on water. Sorry, didn’t happen. I get that religious texts were written metaphorically to inculcate the feeble-minded with stories that they would easily remember, but that was 2,000 years ago. People are smarter. And while tales of Adam and Eve works for indoctrinating young children, it simply doesn’t hold water in our logic-based populace. Give it to us straight. We don’t need absurd allegories. And honestly, it’s time to update the books. If the world’s constitutions are elastic enough to correspond with modern times, can’t we get rid of ridiculous rules about cutting kids’ dicks or eating some fucking bacon? The original Quran wasn’t written by Allah, it was written by people. Why can’t there be a second edition?
1.Get with the Times
School, Government, Healthcare, even ordering Chinese- all these facets of life have adapted with modern technology. Why can’t religion? Enough with the sermons! Throw a flat screen up there! Some PowerPoints, a YouTube video! Why is it blasphemous to make something prayer less boring? We live in a time of interactivity and multimedia, yet Religion is the one area that refuses to adapt beyond an electric organ. Tell me you wouldn’t learn more from a well-made interactive video than some blathering cantor? There’s plenty of shitty Christian rock out there, imagine if we had some credible artists produce material made specifically for the service setting?. I’m not talking about complete commercialization with sponsored services by Gillette Fusion, but something that says, “We’re trying”, which organized religion has failed to do for a long time.
Do you feel me on these? Think I’m going straight to hell? Have any counter-arguments? I’d love to hear ‘em. Leave your thoughts in the comments section and L’shanah Tovah!
[Nun image via ShutterStock]