Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A hint of piety?

Recently I received emails from separate people informing me about their church going habits. And it got me thinking, because my immediate emotional response was anger. I couldn't help smelling an evil whiff of piety.

Let me explain.

I'm involved in a number of volunteer activities locally. One is as convenor of the Geraldton Oxfam Fundraising Group and for the last few years we have been hosting an annual Walk Against Want. A small group of us put up promotional posters, send out press releases, arrange some donated food, then on the day cook up a sausage sizzle and hand out some fruit whilst a hundred or more people go for a 5-10km walk/run along the foreshore and donate money to a really worthwhile cause. We run the event on a Sunday, in collaboration with the Geraldton Harriers. This year's event will be the 14th April.

Another group I am involved in is our local Progress Association. Although I have held executive positions in the past, my current involvement is mostly environmental. Right now I'm concluding a $20,000 Coastcare project (for which we won an environment protection award) and managing a site at the upcoming Clean Up Australia event scheduled for this Sunday.

Both events occur on a Sunday morning. Sundays work for alot of people because there are usually less competing priorities, like work, shopping, kids' sporting activities. Less I said, but not no competing priorities. You got any idea how many people spend their Sundays fishing?

Now in the course of organising or advertising for these events I received some emails from people that informed me that church attendance was a competing priority on a Sunday morning. And I thought to myself: Well who would have known that? What a wacky idea! Going to church on a Sunday!!

Australia is a secular society. The predominant religion practised in this country, after consumerism, is Christianity, but there's alot of Australians who worship other religions, on other days of the week besides Sundays. I guess running an event on a Sunday morning discriminates against the devout Christians, but hey, they already get favoured with state sanctioned public holidays for their major religious festivals, where the other guys don't. Not that I'm knocking a day off work!

One helpful church worshipper suggested I change the time of the event to the middle of the day so it wouldn't clash with his prior commitments. Please refer back to my last post, where I rather unhumorously referred to our climate as Dante's inferno. The temperature usually hits 40 degrees by 10 am and stays there most of the day. Mad dogs and Englishmen indeed. I think not, my christian friend.

Which gets me back to why these people feel compelled to tell me that Christian worship is something that happens on a Sunday morning. And for one of our Christian schools to feel compelled not to promote a fundraising activity for a well respected charity if it occurs on a Sunday.

I mean it's not a new concept is it? Christians have been worshipping on Sundays for quite a while I believe. In fact I've even known Christians to worship on other days of the week as well! And is it really unchristian to fundraise on a Sunday?

What it smacks of is self righteous piety. Just because church worship is one group of people's priority doesn't make it any more, or less important. And it certainly doesn't make my activities unchristian. Or unworthy of promotion.

I don't believe in God. There's no place in my life for a man-made manufactured religion that uses human iconography to reflect meaning and spirituality. I find their ideas restrictive, I see no room in them for the wider inspiration to be gained from the wonders within our environment. The interconnectedness between us and other creatures and the spectacular physical landscapes of our world. And I find the exclusivity of the different beliefs hypocritical. When one looks at their underlying core values I fail to see where their differences lie.

But I do believe in human kindness to others, in connectedness, in looking after those less able, including the environment and all the creatures who don't have a voice. And respect, always respect.

So I respect that some people worship on Sundays, like I respect some people worship on Fridays and Saturdays too, and that their priority is to worship on those days and not come to my event. But I can't please everybody, and I don't see why religious worship is higher up the queue than fishing, or a kid's soccer game, or any other reason why someone can't attend my event. It's just one other competing priority.

Then I thought to myself, is this something new? Is there emerging a new generation of religious fervour in little old Geraldton? Is there a shift towards a more fundamentalist belief structure rather than mutual respect?

I dunno, but if you can't make it to my events because you have other priorities I'll understand. Just cut the piety OK?

(and if you didn't notice the shameless plugs for my events by clicking on the links above, then scroll on back up there and check em out! Only if you're in the neighbourhood like..)

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