“Oh, my God, this woman is a Christian, and it drives me nuts,” a colleague once complained to me.

Then, remembering I am an active churchgoer, she backpedaled as delicately as she could. “I mean, she’s not a Christian like you, Linda. You are an actual Christian. This woman puts a lot of stuff out there and calls herself holy.”

I get it. Christians’ and churches’ bad reputations are partly deserved. Some use religion to exclude and to hate. And we all have more than enough exclusion and hatred around us: on the internet, in the office, in the neighborhood.

But churches can teach compassion, hospitality, listening skills and acceptance of different people. Isn’t that what we need more of online, at work and at home?

Exactly when this need is at it most urgent, church and religion are fading from sight. The world’s newest major religion is no religion. “Nones,” according to the National Geographic, say they meet their spiritual need in other ways. But they are missing out on everything that an accompanying social structure offers.

Calling a church a social body is usually meant to demean its focus on religion. “That church is a ladies-who-lunch club,” for example, is an insult. But I believe these two aspects do not have to be in competition. Social structures bring people together, into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. An important part of church is the possibility of connection to others.


Being with others who are trying to live peacefully, who are striving to contribute to their community, is a primary reason I go to church. I also go to make myself uncomfortable about the gap between what I am doing and what I could be doing to make a positive difference. I go to church to remember I am a small puzzle piece, and I am not holding the cover of the box.

Having this weekly (truth be told, sometimes less than weekly …) reminder keeps me honest. I am less likely to lash out at someone who is different from me, less likely to knee-jerk reject new ideas. I am more likely to focus on opportunities for bridges, more able to see common ground instead of differences. In short, it’s harder to bite someone’s head off when I’ve recently committed to being charitable and welcoming.

If more people had these reminders regularly, our communities might be less polarized.

Perhaps fewer people would fight affordable housing because they could see all people as part of the human community. Perhaps more people would take steps to ensure that all people who work can live with dignity. When we expand our focus beyond “numero uno,” we can see that we are connected to the people living in tents, the people who work at jobs that do not pay enough to live. Our well-being is everyone’s well-being.

So find or make a “church” for yourself. Many things connect people to a greater whole: a bowling league, knitting circle, pickup basketball team or neighborhood group. Spend one or two hours a month serving food or sorting clothes for people who need them. Taking one tiny step might change your whole perspective.

You could even consider an actual church. Churches remain an easy-to-use, readily available and underused resource for improving ourselves and our communities. Though some are haters’ clubs, many are welcoming, exploring and growing. God knows this world needs less division and more connection.

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