Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the Gospel according to Homer

At a social-cum-fundraising event in the parish, someone came up to me to talk. This person wasn't a parishioner; they'd come along  as a bit of a social outing, to browse the cake stall, rummage through the books, and have a cup of tea and a cake. After a few minutes chat, they began to explain to me that they weren't church-going themselves ... and then they explained why they didn't need to come to church.

'I do my worship my own way, in the garden,' they said. I raised an eyebrow.
'So, you pray in the garden?'
'Well, no. I don't pray exactly. But I find gardening a very spiritual experience.'
'In what way?'
'Well, you know ... I'm out there enjoying nature.'
'I'm glad you enjoy it. But it sounds a bit like the Gospel according to Homer Simpson!' The person frowned.
'I don't understand.'
'Oh, at the start of the Simpsons Movie, Marge is dragging Homer to church with the kids. And Homer is loudly complaining and asking why can't he worship the Lord in his own way. Lying down in his bed with his eyes closed! You don't have a hammock in your garden do you?'
'No, no! I'm not sleeping! I'm gardening!'

There is a lot of that kind of spirituality in the world. The idea that they get to make Christianity up as they go along. And conveniently what they make up seems to involve living their life just as they please. No sacrifice. An eat, drink, & be merry lifestyle with an occasional vague nod towards spirituality. Spirituality in the sense of sticking a label marked 'spirituality' on something they already do, or claiming a spiritual dimension for a favourite activity.

I'm sure you know what I mean. You probably have heard people say things like 'I feel very close to God on the golf course.' And maybe they do. But it is interesting how statements like that only seem to come out when they are explaining why they have no other spiritual practices evident in their lives.

For my own part, I have my doubts about this kind of life-style spirituality. It doesn't seem to tie in with what we hear in the Gospel today: narrow is the gate that leads to eternal life. Whereas it does seem to fit the other thing that Jesus says: the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction.

People make their own choices. But all I can think is that the kind of choices that would fit in with Homer's 'why can't I stay in bed' kind of spirituality is not really spirituality at all.

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