Where do you sit in Church?

Today’s post was inspired by an overheard coffee shop conversation:  A young woman was telling her girlfriends about her long-standing argument with her husband as to where they should sit in church. She explained that as in her childhood her Dad sung in their choir and her family always sat in the front of church to show their commitment to the service. But her husband felt that sitting in the front of church is merely trying to brag about your love of God.

I don’t think these are their real reasons at all, but instead these are examples of “fart logic” (see definition here). And I am not attacking church or belief in a god — instead, my point in this post is actually broader and more important than that.

We all have reasons (or should I say “rationalizations”) for what we do but we are rarely aware of why we actually do things. To explore this issue, please record your sitting habit in the poll below and then, if you wish, please write a comment telling us the rationales you have used for your habit — be honest!  And if you have ever doubted your rationales tell us what you now think the “real” reason for your preferences may be. In a comments I discuss my ideas and the results of this pool.  Please submit your thoughts for your evaluation.  Thanks.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

21 responses to “Where do you sit in Church?

  1. Jesus command his followers to pray in private. He also commanded follower never pray for “wants” and/or “needs” as God already knows what you want and/or need. Jesus command you say the “Lord’s Prayer” (in private). Which is why prayer in secular public school or any other public displays of prayer is not only wrong but a sin Christians must avoid. 😉

  2. Ah, come on PlasmaBorne, play the game. Don’t let your favorite button-words stop you from seeing the point of the post. Where would you sit in a theater and why? Seeing behind our reflexes is part of the point of my post. 🙂

  3. tedkeys

    Coming from a non-instrumental-music church, where I always enjoy singing and harmonizing, I sit near the front. The music sounds better up there.

  4. When I was a Christian I would usually choose the middle or back, normally not up front. This usually due to me arriving very close to the start of the service and sometimes even late. 😉

    Recently we started attending an open and affirming UCC church that is right down the street from us. My fiance is still a theist and has been struggling with a few things since her mother passed away unexpectedly this past December and she had expressed a desire to return to church. I hadn’t attended since becoming an atheist, but she had gone with my mother. I heard about this local church on Facebook and decided to check it out. So far we like it, the pastor knows I’m an atheist and is totally fine with it, making no attempt whatsoever to convert me. In fact, the sermon the first day we were there was inspired by one of those de-baptism certificates. He expressed that many days he felt closer to going that way than to remaining a part of the church. Anyway, my answer is that now we sit in the front. It’s a small church and it’s easier to hear in the front. I’m certainly not showing off my love for God. 😉

  5. I sit about 3/4ths of the way back on an aisle so that I can quickly get in and out, and still have some elbow room so I don’t have to rub too closely with the tightly-packed sardines at the front. I enjoy a latte and pastry while the speaking is going on, and I take notes about what I think of various points raised in the sermon. Comfort and convenience are my primary motivations. Some aisles and routes are better than others; and I know all of the best places and the estimated level of difficulty getting seating or getting out after the sermon. Sometimes we will pick a different spot based on tactical considerations — stretching out a leg, being able to stow crutches or a bag, having a good view of the sign language interpreter out of curiosity, etc. I am also expert at getting the optimum parking spots without having to come too early.

  6. @ tedkeys, JS Allen and Mike
    Love the pragmatic reasons.

    @ Mike
    Best wishes with the neither-nor world

    @ JS Allen,
    The efficiency expert in you shines through

  7. DaCheese

    In classes, large group meetings, etc., I tend towards the back, but I make a point not to be in the very back since I know that’s recognized as the “slacker” area. In movie theaters I’m more toward the front, but not past the first set of side speakers (or the walkway in “stadium” designs).

    In church I just sit wherever my parents sit, since that’s the only reason I’m there 🙂

  8. DaCheese

    …oh yeah, rationales… Class/meetings: don’t want to draw attention to myself, sometimes want to be able to slip out early. Theater: close to screen so it fills my vision, but not too close, and still in the intended zone for surround sound.

  9. I sit in the back because that is where I sat the first time I attended. Most of the others seats were taken and I would have had to sit next to people I didn’t know. The back row was unoccupied and that’s where I planted.

    I am also uncomfortable when people sit behind me, I feel like they are looking at the back of my head.

  10. In church it was always the mid-back, in meetings it is always the mid-front or back, in classes go for the middle. Church seating was inherited from parents, meeting placement is based on agreement with the premise, in classes back lowers your grades, front makes you socially unsuccessful, so it’s a balancing act.

  11. I sit in the back so I can people watch. And so I can readily escape if need be.

  12. Earnest

    I sit next to my wife. It would be bad form to sit anywhere else. She sits wherever her sisters sit so they can talk during the service.
    If I’m alone I sit in the middle on the side. I like the back but my vision gets bad after a nightshift so I sit up enough to see what’s happening.

  13. Adam

    I was always taught that we left the aisle seats and front seats to the elderly and disabled. We usually sat in the middle.

  14. Most people avoid the front (92% so far). This is the curse of professors at universities where students can choose their seats in big class rooms with few students.

    @ DaCheese, John Barron, William, Zachary, Earnest and Adam:
    Love all the practical reasons again!

    No one has confessed to having rationalized their choices and tried to push them on others.

  15. DaCheese

    @Sabio: Interesting statistic, but then this group might not be representative. One thing I noticed about Philosophy class was that unlike other classes, it was the people who came in late and sat in the back (like me) who tended contribute the most to the discussion. Coincidence? 🙂

  16. Ian

    I prefer to sit at the front, in all those contexts.

    I like to feel like I’m in the thick of it.

    When visiting a brand new church, I tend to sit in the middle, because I assume I won’t know when to stand, sit, kneel, wave my hands, and it would be useful to have a few folks in front of me to copy.

  17. @ DaCheese
    Ever notice that people who would not normally flip off someone else with the bird, will do it when they feel more anonymous when driving.
    Maybe the people in the back of Philosophy classes feel safer and thus more willing to take a chance. 🙂

    @ Ian
    Once again I am startled at our similarities – my reply to my own question would have been the same as yours !

  18. crl

    When I went to church, I sat with the choir. We got out of kneeling, it was easier to surreptitiously avoid taking communion, and singing gave me something to do.

    In classes, I prefer the middle to back, to lessen my chances of being caught reading unrelated material during class, however, circumstances such as lab group selection generally get me stuck in the front.

  19. @ crl
    Wow, your comment like others have shown me how asking something as apparently benign as “What are your Seat Choice habits” can be a wonderful window into a person’s soul !

  20. Atimetorend

    I’m with the pragmatic crowd. I started sitting in the front of classes first to help me stay awake, and because I learn more effectively if I can interact with the instructor. And it is much more likely an instructor will take visual cues from those in the front.

    Church seating files the same priorities; stay awake, stay engaged.

    Earnest’s comment made me smile.

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