Spirituality and Shoes
The Rich Variety of Spiritual Experience
Picking out a place to develop a spiritual community is a lot more important than picking out a pair of shoes. I’m always surprised by the average non-church-goer’s perception of church. Among my many friends who can’t understand why anyone would spend their Sunday morning dressed up and sitting on a pew instead of getting a latte at Starbucks, none seem to be aware of the vast differences among churches.
Like shoe stores or restaurants, there is a rich spectrum of religious/spiritual experience both within and outside churches, ranging from the very conservative to the highly liberal and progressive. It’s a little bit like the difference between the Payless Shoe experience and Nordstorm’s or the wonderfully innovative Zappo Shoes — friendly customer service, open 24/7. Each of these corporate cultures results in very different merchandise, ambience, and customer service. Going to Payless yields shoes but Zappo’s offers a vastly different customer experience.
Many of my friends hate church. They think it’s stupid. This is especially true among the 30-something California crowd. Exposed as children to 2,000 year-old-stories and a harsh and rigid set of rules, they tuned out and never tuned back in. In many ways, religion has changed and there is a larger range of choices for those who seek spiritual community. Churches are now rated on Yelp. But beyond the quick hit of Internet ratings, there are ways to find a good match between inner desires and outer communities. Ask around. Check out the incredible range of possibilities. Recently in Seattle, I saw a church sign that said “Seekers, Doubters, and Believers.” Many churches now welcome and appreciate gays, posting signs that say, “Open and Affirming.”
People are discovering many new ways of relating to a bigger understanding of what God is. These are exciting times. Just remember, the variety of experiences within churches is at least as large as the variety of shoe shopping choices.