Monday, August 6, 2012

Trying to find a new church with my new wife

The following is something I wrote three weeks ago but never posted.  I'm posting it now.  At the end I'm posting a link to my latest thoughts on this issue over at my Aspierations on the Bible blog.

My wife and I have different tastes in a lot of areas.  We like different music, different art, different social theorists (yes we're nerds), etc.  Those are all relatively easy to navigate.  But the different tastes in churches--that's a problem.

The problem is compounded by the fact that I moved to her city.  She is already established here, has a network of friends, and most of her Christian friends go to her church.  The problem is that I really don't feel comfortable at her church.  It isn't a matter of the liturgy or the preaching at the church (although I am less than enthusiastic about either), I just don't like the people there. 

We live in a university town.  She is pursuing her Ph.D. here.  If you've never lived in a university town, you may not fully understand.  Except for the undergrads, most of the people in university towns go out of their way to try to sound intelligent.  Some are more successful than others, and a few are authentically intelligent.  But, there is this strong pretentiousness that really bothers me. 

What bothers me even more, though, is the group-think.  It is assumed that all intelligent people must think exactly the same way and have the same views on everything.  The conversations lack real communication because there is almost an artform to not really saying anything substantive while trying to sound like you are.  Then, if you say something that dares go against the group-think, (unless you are a member of a racial minority) you will be either ostracized or it is assumed that you are just not intelligent enough to understand the obvious realities.

I have to admit that there is some pride that gets in the way of my developing relationships with these people.  In at least certain respects, I am arguably more intelligent than 90% of these people (at least according to those iq tests I don't take that seriously).  But, if I actually tell people what I believe about things, then I am deemed as being dumb by people who are actually less intelligent than I am.  So, I either have to stay quiet or venture into discussion topics that no one could possibly have an opinion about.  In other words, I am basically unable to have a meaningful conversation with this group of people.

My wife's church is full of members of this group.  After-church conversations drive me nuts and I just shut down (which, of course, leads to my wife chewing me out for not talking when we get to the car...).  I can't see myself going to a church where I don't feel welcomed to be myself.

When it was decided that we would move to my wife's university town, she agreed that I would get to pick the church.  It seemed only fair that if I had to give up everything in my old life, I should get to find something of my own.  So, I did some dilligent searching for churches in the area where the people probably wouldn't fall into the stereotypes I just described.

After the service at the first church I found, my wife essentially treated the pastor like the people I described above.  She was basically a snob because she didn't think the pastor was very intelligent.  (By the way, I was taken aback...she isn't normally like that.)

The next week I decided to try a church she suggested.  No one spoke to us at all.  Before the service--after the service--nothing.  We just stood there like idiots for several minutes waiting for someone to talk to us.  So, that one got eliminated.

The following week we went to a church that was a lot like the one I came from where I used to live.  I thoroughly enjoyed the service and felt very welcomed by the congregation.  When we got out to the car, my wife started crying uncontrollably.  She talked about how it was the worst church experience she had ever had and how she felt so guilty because she knew this is where I would choose to go.

So, yeah, I have no idea what we are going to try now.  She is insisting that this church search is going too long and we just need to make a decision.  (She apparently has never really done this before.)  She also keeps asking why I can't give her church a "fair chance".  Never mind that I've been there at least a dozen times while visiting her and even her friends who go to that church confirm my view of the place.

So, in essense, I feel very stuck.  I don't see us finding a place where we are both happy--at least not in this city.  I find myself trying to make a decision about whether to insist on attending a church where I will at least feel comfortable or to make the sacrifice and go to her church where she has an established Christian community.  I'm leaning toward the latter and sucking it up for the three more years until she finishes her Ph.D. and we will move again anyway.  I'm just not sure how I'm going to last that long since the vast majority of my friends wherever I live are generally church friends.

So, that is what I wrote a few weeks ago.  Here's the link to my conclusion on the conundrum, sacrificing for my wife's well-being.

2 comments:

HesyCat said...

Thanks for the blog. I am in the market for a new church also. However, I get so hung up on picking the prefect one on the net, that I never actually go in person. My mind just wants all questions answered before I will even go. But, hey why don't I just try one a week and see where it takes me and have some fun with it. Possibly a new strategy for me. (It can't possibly be any less productive than my present strategy)

Step away from the computer!

Intellectual Christian Geek said...

Thanks for the comment, HesyCat. Ah, the joys of stepping blindly into a new church. My instinct is to spend too much time delving into the church's website to learn as much as I can before stepping foot inside the door. Admittedly, church's with more thorough websites are more likely to get my attention. But, yeah. Eventually we do need to step through the door and interact with the people. When we do find the right church, it is very rewarding. Now, to just find it...

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