“This is the church Jesus would have established,” the woman tells me. She is sitting next to me along with about 30 other people in the living room of an old house converted into a church. Four rows of chairs face a wall that is adorned by a single map of the Middle East with lines that don’t appear to demarcate modern-day countries. Is it from Jesus’ time? The woman is in her early 60s, but her big upside down glasses and floral print dress put her worlds away from my own mom whose usual Sunday attire is yoga pants. She elaborates, “Say, you came to earth and you didn’t know anything and you found a Bible and you read the New Testament, this is the church you would create based on what it says in there.”
I’ve entered what some people might call the “fundamental” phase of this experience. This is comprised of churches whose congregants insist that the Bible is the “inerrant” world of God and, from what I can tell, that means they think every word is absolutely true including the part about how the earth was made in seven days. Some of these folks call theories of evolution “false science.” I was hoping they were mythical creatures I would never encounter. But here they are in surprising abundance within a stone’s throw of two major universities world-renowned for the research that takes place in their abundant laboratories.
I started on this path the previous Sunday when I attended services in a one-room Baptist church. It was an adorable building, all whitewashed wood with a perfect little steeple. The sort of church you might find in miniature at a hobby shop. But when I walked in the front door, I was automatically standing in the chapel. The congregation of about 20 adults was assembled early for a bit of bible study so I had entered in the middle of this activity and everyone in attendance turned at once to see who had come in. They were all in couples and suddenly I felt like the Jezebel come to snatch husbands. I have never been more thankful for my default angel status. The Bible says, “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels.” I forced my friendliest smile, and they had to smile back because it says so in Hebrews (13:2). When I walked in this week, I was relieved when everyone was a little more subtle about checking me out.
“Oh, good,” I say to the lady who tells me her church is what Jesus himself would have set up. I nod as if this makes perfect sense. I am sitting in what is called a “church of Christ.” The “c” is purposely not capitalized. A man gets up and makes a few announcements and then all the men sitting in the congregation chime in. They chat as the women sit quietly. Just like the week before, the ladies utter not one word. It says in 1 Corinthians (14:34), “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.” It seems they are holding tight to this recommendation.