No, I will not go to your crummy church

Someone asked me the other day what my biggest pet peeve is. I didn’t have an answer at the time, because that’s the sort of question that requires some serious thought. But I have an answer now. I’m most irritated when people invite me to their church.

Let me be incredibly clear about one thing: I spent many years very attached to my church in Washington County. I was active in the congregation, I volunteered, I studied my Bible daily. But my relationship with my church, and the medley of other churches I’ve been to in my life are all the same. I tire quickly of people’s seemingly ridiculous prayers, the constant berating of entire groups of people (i.e., other religions), and the disjointed sensation I feel inside my somewhat atypically realistic and overly logical mind.

When someone invites me to their church, all I hear is “I think my way of life is better than yours, so come do mine because I’m right.”

When someone invites me to their church, I can’t help but think, ”If you really knew me like your God instructs you to do, you’d realize that just inviting me, me of all people, is not what I need at all in my life.” I would argue I could use a lot of things in my life, but sitting in a pew is not one of them.

When someone invites me to their church, I remember all those times sitting in church a few years ago (and sometimes in public now) where I hear the most ridiculous prayers. I can’t help but feel that when most people pray, they’re just ”wishing for things to be so”. For example, I distinctly remember hearing people openly pray, in a church, for weight loss. Moments before walking into a church pitch-in and eating a piece of cake. You can’t pray your way thin. You know what works? Eating a carrot and riding a bicycle. You don’t need to pray to do that.

I’ve heard people pray for a recovery from their lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking cigarettes and cigars. I’ve heard people proclaim their love for God because they survived a tornado, but don’t seem to make the connection that presumably that same God sent the tornado that tried to kill them. At least you could claim that tornados are the work of Satan, but that’d mean God has no control over the wind blowing over his own creation.

I’ve heard people pray for a quick commute, a raise, lower food prices and just last week I heard a group of young adults pray for ”protection from drama”. Also, everyone wants to win the lottery, a new car, and a pony. You’re praying to God, not Santa.

And my relationship with the Bible is that of a book of fairy tales. I can’t get behind the notion of a talking snake, virgin birth, or that the entire global population comes from two people. The Mormons believe the world started in Missouri of all places. Not to mention that if half the world believes in Allah and the other half in Jesus, then someone’s going to be gravely disappointed when they die. I feel like common sense dictates that everyone’s wrong about everything.

Going to your church will not change my mind. I’ve been there, I’ve done that in a deeply personal way. No, I will not go to your crummy church so I can listen to fairy tales, people’s incredibly selfish and materialistic wishes and to be told I’m a terrible person, or that some other group of people is the reason why the world is such a terrible place.

No, the world is a terrible place because of selfish self-centered people incapable of understanding that not everyone is like them and not everyone is capable of just throwing everything into the wind and saying, ”I don’t know why anything is anything — it must be because God!”

Please, stop asking me to go to your church. The answer is no. The answer will always be no.

The Republican argument for bicycles

Friday being Bike to Work day here in the US, I noticed a great many more bicyclists out on the roads here in Indy. More than usual, for sure. It was a nice day, too, with highs in the low 80s, little wind, and low humidity.

For some people this was something they were pressured into doing by their employer, particularly larger ones like IUPUI, Lilly, and Rolls Royce. For some it was just another day in the saddle. And for a few it may have been a refreshing alternative.

For an even greater many, Friday was a day spent wondering, ”why the heck are there so many of these danged cyclists in my way?” This attitude is most certainly from one demographic: conservative Republicans.

Liberals, progressives and Democrats rarely criticize bicycles, cyclists, or bike infrastructure like bike lanes and trails. And for good reason, as bikes do lots of nice liberal things: no pollution, little to no consumption of fossil fuels, and it’s part of a small counter culture.

But as I was pedaling back from BDU on Friday evening I thought, ”It’s Republicans and conservatives that ought to love the idea of bicycling, a lot more so than Liberals.

Indeed, conservatives like a key set of things: freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and self reliance.

The bicycle is emblematic of all those things more so than a car ever hopes to be.

On a bicycle, you are the machine. Their affordability permits virtually everyone to be able to afford one and that ability permits people to achieve a new level of self reliance. If someone is too low income for a car, the fact they can ride a bike to get to work or school to support themselves and better their lives is an incredibly conservative idea. ”I’m powering myself and working harder than anyone else in a car to further my life.

The bicycle is a key machine to enable the freedom of people to choose how they travel, how they go about their work, how they live their lives. Take the example of a young person, say 17 years old. They want a job, but they can’t get to that job because they don’t have a car and their parents for whatever reason can’t get them there regularly. Enter the bicycle, where a healthy young person who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enter the job market now can by way of their bike. Now, this 17 year old student can work part time and pay into the tax base earlier, learn the art of saving and spending, and it keeps them off the streets and away from boredom. It promotes freedom, responsibility, and a healthy work ethic. It might even alter their life early enough to keep them off welfare or other social aid later. And, it’s not illogical to think that a teen who goes to work after school is spending their time working and not spending time in a complicated situation that might result in a teenage pregnancy.

And if there’s one thing that bikes assuredly do, it’s create a healthier rider. A few months in the saddle can take an overweight individual to a healthy weight. It enables people to take charge of their life, to get healthy and subsequently reduce the health expenditures this nation is already struggling to grapple with. The Bush administration tried encouraging more Americans to exercise. George W. Bush himself was an avid cyclist. Enabling people to take control of their own body and mind is as conservative as lowering taxes. The bicycle does just that better than any machine on the market or any gym membership ever could, all while allowing people to be productive.

In addition, bicycle infrastructure is cheap, something even the most frugal of Republicans could agree to. Painting some extra lines on the road is almost inconsequential in cost to the whole road itself. It’s not like bicyclists are demanding separate bike highways all to ourselves.

Biking gets kids and adults exercising, it allows people to flex their wallets in a uniquely free way, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil, it lowers our health costs on the front end so we don’t pay as much on the back end, it enables people to get on their way on their own power and it encourages tighter communities and gives families an activity they can do together all while running their errands. It’s a uniquely American and conservative thing.

Otherwise, in a car or truck, people are forced into a less healthy activity, they are likely in debt to a loan that’s sucking their ability to support other local businesses, and cars force us to spend more and more money on roads and highways just for cars designed to transport 4 or more people, when they often just have one person in them.

So the next time you see a cyclist on the road as some liberal hippie there to somehow attack your sensibilities, remember, they’re doing a much more conservative thing and saving us all more money than you are in your car or truck.