The Church and Loneliness

"I'm So Lonely" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“I’m So Lonely” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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The CruciFiction:

Martin Luther King Jr. said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning was the most segregated hour of the week.

It’s also the loneliest.

How is it possible to be in a crowded room and feel so lonely? The very reason I decided to go to church again was so that I could meet people. I don’t just mean to get introduced but to actually meet them and get to know them and even form friendships.

I’ve been attending here for years and it still hasn’t happened yet.

So why do I keep doing it? It’s like playing the lottery. I’ve bought hundreds of tickets and maybe won a hundred bucks total. But I keep buying the stupid things. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. I keep betting that maybe one day I’ll cash in and make friends.

No such luck.

This church just isn’t interested in community. It says it is (because they know that’s what people want) but it’s not. It’s too bad because I think fellowship is its greatest asset. I suspect that’s why most people come. If you asked everybody here why they come and they were honest I bet they would say it’s for the fellowship. Instead, it focuses on beliefs and behaviors. I’m positive almost everybody here is here for the fellowship rather than to be told how to think and act.

But there really isn’t any real fellowship. Just being next to each other doesn’t cut it. If you’ve been in a bad marriage you’d know that you could sleep in the same bed but be complete strangers. Same here. We sit in the same row and are miles apart. We might smile to each other, say hi, shake hands, talk small talk over a coffee in the lobby, share communion. But it all makes me feel even more lonely.

I just want to connect. That’s all. I just want to love and be loved. Is that too much to ask? I just want to be heard, understood, and accepted. I just want warmth in my life. And here they have every opportunity for that to happen and they squander it every single time.

You might ask me why I don’t take the initiative and try to form friendships myself instead of depending on the institution to do it for me. I’ll tell you why. They keep us so focused and busy that we don’t have time for it. Community’s just not a part of this culture while being collected is. I bet even the pastor’s lonely but it’s so built into the system he’s just as trapped as we are.

Maybe the reason why we all just keep coming is because it’s a promise, since, as painful as it is, being with people is the next best thing to being loved by them.

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4 Replies to “The Church and Loneliness”

  1. I think that the Internet has radically changed the ‘loneliness factor’. The private groups on FB have truly helped me.

    At a church, I was suppose to pay, and then shut up and listen. The general spoke on the stage to the soldiers, and encouraged them before they hit the beaches. Sometimes, we soldiers met over donuts. At a home study, we met over dinner… but the conversations were limited and structured.

    It is very hard to believe you have connected and been heard.

    In the FB groups, I can discuss the Bible, transsexualism, divorce, staying married with a same-sex spouse, my day lily collection, church culture, and even the craziness of new kittens. Every meeting can be as vulnerable as I wish it to be….

    And if one group fails me…. I lick my wounds, and carry on with my other groups.

    And yes, I still pay. My Internet and computers cost cash.

    But the return on investment is incredible. My life is rich and full. I have been heard. YES! 🙂

  2. I wouldn’t just pick on church. We spend crazy, long hours at our jobs, and because of that we have very little time to get to know people. Most of the time we live long distances away from family members, and because of that they can become virtual strangers. In a lot of cases, when we try to form social groups they are so short term that there’s no time to form real social bonds. We live in a culture that doesn’t emphasize friendships and relationships. That doesn’t disappear when you walk into a church. In order for that to change, it will have to take a conscious effort on the part of church leadership to encourage people to get to know each other and develop bonds of friendship. That will mean that the church will have to go against the tendancy of the greater culture. And isn’t that what a church is really supposed to be doing?

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