CHURCH REVIEWS??

I was listening to public radio in the car the other day when an essay came on about a new trend on the internet. When people who are church goers are moving from time to time or town to town they can look up the local churches on these web sites. Now these are not the web sites of the actual churches, these are “comment” web sites where anyone can leave a review. This is a weird concept, to say the least. It is weird on a lot of levels. My first and most visceral response to this is the idea that you would choose a house of worship by going on line. I mentioned this to an acquaintance who said that it might eliminate some and make the search easier. I even think that is weird. In some fundamental way, a house of worship is not just a spiritual home but also a family of a sort. To me, it is the sort of thing that you have to experience; first hand. Your immediate actual family you don’t get to choose, the other families you create throughout your life, you do. How do you choose a family without meeting them, hugging them, laughing and crying with them? At least you might want to have a sense of them, a real sense, not a virtual sense. How do you find a spiritual home without praying in it, listening to its leaders, its clergy? But ok, let’s assume you don’t mind finding your spiritual house on the net. On the show I listened to (at least one side of the story) they talked about what a great service this could be, making transitions for folks moving, with an emphasis on military families. What credibility do these “reviews” have? Who are the reviewers? What if the writer is someone with a personal ax to grind against a particular clergy person, or institution? Or its lay leaders? What if the writer is a hater of a particular religion? And regularly spews hate on the local representatives of it? How do you choose a religious home, or a spiritual family based on the opinion of strangers? The show likens the choice to that of choosing a hairdresser, grocery, family doctor, mechanic, etc. While I am certainly not likely to denigrate the importance of the right hairdresser, I’m thinking that the choice of a religious institution might be slightly more important, especially if you are a parent (keeping in mind that your kids really don’t care about your hair). If you are religious in the sense that you look to your house of worship to reinforce your core values and help you teach them to your kids; to create that “family” that acts as extended rold models for your kids, then its influence may extend beyond even that of the family doc in the long view of things. Do you really think it makes sense to allow anonymous (ok they might put their names) folks with their own agendas to drive this decision? Maybe you should choose your dentist on facebook.

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