Thursday, March 08, 2012

Alpha Course: Week 11, Church and a Dog

Sit, Ubu, sit: How great is this dog?
This is the eleventh official installment in the Alpha course series, in which I recall my experiences as a Jewish-raised dude and now a Gnu Atheist who took the Alpha course with his Christian wife. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

The course is nearly finished. Next week, we have a special session for Christmas. My notes below are, as always, fresh from the session, but I write now months afterward. My recollection is that everything was low-key that night. People generally were pretty positive on Alpha. They surely felt that they learned about Christianity and got "deeper into it" than before. I was glad I attended, and I did learn about Christianity, but I felt it wasn't a particularly deep class.

Of course, I am an academic by inclination. I get excited by problems and inconsistencies. I look for them, ponder over them, and treasure them. Heck, I may even create them sometimes. Nevertheless, this is probably why I am rarely seduced by appeals to community: scholars tend to be comfortable as loners. This last session is about community and continuity--that is, "stay here in this church and be with your neighbors." It's the church organism trying to feed and sustain itself.

Everyone in my group knew for many weeks that I had already said "Thanks, but no thanks."

Tonight's notes:
  • This is the last official session. 
    • There is a session next week that’s supposed to be a Christmas party. We’re encouraged to bring someone. 
    • The recruiting part of this grates on me.
    • I'll bring no one.
  • At the table is an evaluation sheet.
    • We are supposed to provide comments about the course and our changes as Christians. 
    • The comment form asks about my relationship to Christianity at the beginning of the course. I write that I thought Christianity was irrational. 
    • The form asks how I felt about Christianity at the end, and I say that I now really think Christianity is irrational. 
    • I add a smiley face at the end of this because I don't want to be a total asshole.
  • Dinner was awesome! Meat loaf, gravy, steak fries, carrots and broccoli, and cupcakes brownies. Best meal of the course.
  • Two songs, "Spirit of the Living God" and "How Great Is our God."
    • I always hear the second song as "How Great Is Our Dog," which I like better.
  • DVD lecture on “What About the Church?” 
    • Basically, Gumbel thinks people should go to church and be active in it. 
    • He says the church is not a place but people, Christians are the church, and Jesus loves the church. 
    • He stresses the importance of baptism. 
    • He acknowledges the disunity of the church but says that the differences are ultimately inconsequential because all Christians agree on the essential bits.
      • But why stop there, I say? Why not say “Well, Jews and Muslims believe in the same God as we Christians, isn’t that similarity more important than our differences?” Why not then say, “Pagans and Deists acknowledge a higher power, isn’t that essential similarity with us more important than our differences?” Why not say, “Atheists believe, like we Christians, that people can accomplish great things by working together. Shouldn’t this essential similarity override our differences?” 
      • Of course, Gumbel’s approach is that the only way to God is through Jesus and that’s in the Bible.
    • There’s all this stuff about the church as the bride of Christ. 
      • Judaism has something like this with the Sabbath. 
      • Ultimately, it’s just poetry: say majestic things about yourself while simultaneously asserting humility.
    • In the end, Gumbel’s just standing around saying he loves the church.
  • Small group was negligible. 
    • We talked a little about the DVD. 
    • People thought parts were pretty good and uplifting. 
    • Otherwise we talked about the Christmas party and the possibility of continuing to study as a group.

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