TWO CEREMONIES

I want you to pretend with me. We’re going back to our childhood days and we are going to pretend. Let’s pretend that we are aliens from a totally different galaxy and we are visiting earth for the first time.

It’s sunday morning and we watch as many humans, maybe most, groggily arise out of bed and start their way to a building they call “church”. There’s some kind of ceremony that goes on there but it’s apparent that the beginning of the ceremony is not very important because many arrive after the ceremony is already started. They gather together to sing songs semi-enthusiastically, if they have any emotion at all. It appears that the words roll off their lips as if they are not paying much attention to what those words actually say. Then they sit there and listen to a man speak for a time. As this ceremony was reaching it’s conclusion, the people started to get fidgety, and checked their watches often. Once the ceremony was complete the people would gather in small groups to talk and laugh, barely paying attention to others that were in the assembly. The conversation is not about the ceremony that just concluded but apparently they are talking and laughing about a different ceremony that happened the day before; and its evident that ceremony was much more interesting than the one they just finished.

As you watched these humans through the week, you notice that they talk often about this ceremony that happens, most often, on saturday. Even those who attended the sunday ceremony are virtually silent about the sunday ceremony but have great excitement in talking about the saturday ceremony. They joke with each other and laugh as they anticipate the coming ceremony. This has peaked your interest as well now; and now you can’t wait to see what this ceremony is.

Saturday morning arrives and these humans leave the house wearing an outfit that seems to be a traditional outfit for these types of ceremonies. They get in their cars and some of them travel for an hour or longer to gather at this shrine that many call “hallowed ground”. They don’t get there late. In fact, they get there a few hours early and eat, drink, play, and laugh; and not only with their friends and family but with people they have never even seen before. There is no kind of community like this one. As the time approaches thousands of humans gather into the ceremonial field with great enthusiasm and excitement over the coming ceremony They raise their voices with passion to applaud an assembly of people they don’t know to play a game on a field. As that game begins, they shout, chant, and cheer until they virtually lose their voices. They have far more passion than the previous sunday ceremony. No one’s looking at their watches at this ceremony. In fact, the people are overjoyed when this ceremony goes into what they call “overtime”. Even when the ceremony is over, the rejoicing does not stop. And, the excitement is not just with the humans who gathered at the ceremony. Thousands upon thousands of people who could not make it to that ceremony have gathered together in their homes to watch the events on what they call a “TV”; some as large as a small movies screen specifically marketed to increase the pleasure of watching these ceremonies. And when the boys have won, there’s jumping, shouting, and high fives happening all over the country. Then, when it’s all over, almost as if there is nothing to prepare for the next day, they go to bed.

So, if you were that alien who observed these two ceremonies, be honest with yourself, which would you identify as the religion that is most important to those people? Which is the religion that most excites these people? Which is the religion that most consumes these people?