My knee-jerk reaction was to be offended by the statement and I dashed off a reply to the effect that I agree that going to church does not necessarily make you a Christian, but it "sure as hell helps remind us of how to be one." My point being that in striving to live decent lives, we all need the positive reinforcement and motivation that church attendance can/should give us.
My Facebook friend was unable to immediately lay his hands on the source for the controversial quote and I was quick to tell him to not go to any trouble in trying to find it.
In the past couple of days, however, I have continued to be haunted by the statement that initially seemed to me to be none other than a silly analogy. This evening I decided to do a little research in the hope that I might discover the authenticity of the words and better understand the context in which they were uttered.
To my complete surprise, a similar statement has been attributed to one of the great thinkers of the 20th Century -- the scholarly C. S. Lewis. The following is an extract from his Mere Christianity:
“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual. The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me [...] they are the animal self and the diabolical self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But of course it is better to be neither.”
Ah, that certainly casts light on a fellow blogster/poet/thinker Michael Andreyakovich of Scottsdale, Arizona, who I discover is responsible for the "...not anymore than going to a garage makes you a car" statement to give weight to his disdain for the "sheer number of Christians who fail to understand that hypocrisy is the greatest sin of all sins." He too refers to the Lewis quote to support his thesis.
Andreyakovich (that's a real mouthful) maintains that it is "hypocrisy" that has driven him from his church. Some of his respondents have suggested that perhaps he was going to the wrong church.
So there you have it. Things are not always as they seem on the surface. We do ourselves a favour at times when we dig a little deeper for true meaning in all things.
It was Tennyson who said: "I dreamed that stone by stone I reared a sacred fane, a temple, neither pagoda, mosque, nor church; but loftier, simpler, always open-doored to every breath from heaven, and Truth and Peace and Love and Justice came and dwelt therein."
Adequacy for everyday life here and now, must be the test of all true religion. We go to church because we are imperfect humans striving to be more Christlike in our everyday living. Our minds require regular maintenance in order for us to keep our spiritual motors running, in order to be adequate enough to be called Christians.
Bottom line: Don't go to church if you want to avoid associating with sinners...That's where we all congregate.