What it means to be human can be surprisingly difficult to define. But many aspects of being human are easy to spot. One of those is we like singing familiar songs, hearing traditional stories, maybe some special, secret ritual stuff thrown in, feasting or sacrificing, while celebrating our individual and collective successes and comforting those in pain, and we like to do this as a group, a tribe. It’s part of who we are.
Anthropologists theorize with good reason that this informal dynamic has been at work stretching back at least to the domestication of fire, or even the divvying up of the meal, or more accurately, the social circles we formed around those activities. Some think religion has a lock on it today, but one former pentecostal pastor disagrees in a big way, he now holds services for the godless:
The Advocate — There was singing, clapping, preaching, even an “Amen!” at Sunday afternoon’s church-like service — but no offering baskets, no prayers and, most importantly, no supernatural presence, according to Jerry DeWitt, the former Pentecostal pastor-turned-non-believer who led the event. A group of about 50 people gathered high above the Mississippi River on the 10th floor of the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center to attend the service, titled “Joie De Vivre,” which DeWitt dubbed the “first secular service in Louisiana.”
“We’re going to learn how to delight in being alive,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt, who served as an “old-line Pentecostal” preacher in DeRidder and DeQuincy for about 25 years, beginning when he was 17, said he slowly lost his faith over a period of about five years in the late 2000s and eventually left the church. He said he fully realized that he no longer believed in God and has been working in secular service ever since.
DeWitt, who dressed in all-black Sunday, sporting dark-rimmed glasses, a dark beard and dark, slicked and parted hair, encouraged audience members to spread his message of recognizing the joys in everyday life, even if it meant tweeting during his sermon.
DeWitt also announced Sunday that he’s forming a “secular community” in Lake Charles called the Community Mission Chapel.
I’m curious. Would you consider going to such a service, and if so what would you like to see? What would you want to get out of it?