Smile Politely

The Church Hopper #5: Downtown Champaign

I’ve been told that I have an “addictive personality” because if there is even a remote possibility of getting addicted to something, then I will do it. My latest addiction is Facebook. I have been able to reconnect with dozens of old friends from high school and college. But if the number of friends one has on Facebook is any indication of one’s level of addiction, then I am not the only person with this problem. Currently I have 90 Facebook friends, but when I look at other people’s profiles, I see folks with hundreds, even thousands of friends.

I believe having a sense of community is a powerful, spiritual force in our lives. The central act of Christian worship is (or should be) Communion which isn’t just about drinking wine and eating bread, but about doing those things with a community of believers to symbolize our unity, love and acceptance of one another.

Unfortunately, many churches fail miserably in the community department by focusing on what separates us instead of what unites us. There are churches that refuse to ordain women or even to allow women to serve in leadership roles. There are churches that will not ordain members of the LGBT community or allow them to marry. For these churches, it is not love and acceptance that rules, but intolerance and hatred.

So it really doesn’t surprise me that so many people have turned to Facebook in order to find friends and a sense of belonging. Facebook fills a need in people’s lives that they simply do not get from most churches.

I see a similar phenomenon going on in downtown Champaign. On any night of the week, you can find people gathered downtown, sitting outside, eating, drinking and talking together. Many folks do this regularly, one might even say, religiously. I know a group of girls who gather every Monday night at Jim Gould for what they call “Bachelor and Wine” where they watch the TV show The Bachelor and enjoy a few nice glasses of vino. But their gatherings are about more than just television and drinking. It’s a chance for them to sit down and share what is going on in their lives. It is about communion.

Jesus knew where real communion was. He was always hanging out with people, eating and drinking—so much that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard by the religious leaders of his day. But again, it wasn’t just about the food and wine, it was about being with people and offering them love, friendship and acceptance.

Downtown Champaign is a hopping, bustling place these days. Maybe if churches would start offering people some real love and acceptance, they wouldn’t have to spend so much time downtown and on Facebook.

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