An Annie Dillard Sunday

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” -Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk

I don’t usually mark in my books, but I marked that. I can’t tell you why, exactly, except that the idea that we have no idea what power we so blithely invoke resonates very deeply with me. We sit and stand and sing our songs and give our offerings and listen to the sermon. We come away with a few things to ponder during the week. But since we do it every single week, it can be easy to miss the greatness of it all. That when we pray, things change (although it has been brought to my attention quite a lot lately that what really changes when I pray is me). And that we can invoke that power at any time of day or night. Suddenly TNT doesn’t sound so far off.

The other reason I marked it is that I think I am more afraid of being drawn out to where I can never return than I am willing to admit. I have problems, yes, but they are familiar. I’m used to them. We live together comfortably. If you take them away from me, if I grow beyond them, I might not be so comfortable. It sounds ridiculous, right? But it’s true. I might not be happy with how things are, but neither do I really want them to change.

So I continue on in my blithe way, standing and sitting and passing the plate, because admitting to myself what it all means might mean I’d have to actually face what’s wrong and do something about it. And letting TNT loose in my life? TNT that I can’t control? That sounds a little too scary.

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