Thursday, December 29, 2011


The pastor at the church I attended as a teen once made a point I've always remembered: religion is theater.

It was in the course of a discussion on the layout of our new more-or-less circular church structure when he said it, but I could see its further validity. Going to church is entertainment. It's a play that attempts to slip in its lessons along with the music and the rest of the experience.

Recognizing this fact, as much as anything else, has kept me from dismissing organized religion. What another might call hypocrisy, I see as art.

And art, of course, can be a 'religious experience.' So why separate them?

Some have tried to strip church-going of all this. It's the quintessential Protestant approach, reaching its ultimate expression in a Quaker meeting. Quiet spiritualism certainly has its place but that's not why I attend church.

I want the candles and the stained glass and the high-vaulted ceiling. I want the choir and the pipe organ, the bigger the better for both of them.

Or something else in the same spirit. I loved it when my current church (which is, alas, a windowless dungeon) had a mariachi band in for the Lady of Guadalupe feast day. Their flashy costumes come from the same school of thought as the priest's vestments. I approve of both.

This does not mean I want a performance of 'Cats' next to the altar. But I wouldn't mind one bit if Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Requiem' were played at my funeral. I'd like to think that my final appearance might be theater too. Even if I'm buried in a simple shroud and return quietly to the earth.


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