Thursday, March 15, 2012

Faith vs. Fury

Much like my "Through the Looking Glass" post served as a hindsight reflection on my MLK, Jr. Day sermon, I woke up this morning realizing that my immediate previous post, "Faith vs. Fear," similarly needed a post-mortem epilogue, if for no other reason than purely selfish ones regarding my own peace of mind.

So, here I am at 7:00 am, clackety-clacking away on my laptop as I chug coffee like the addicted caffeine fiend that I am.

I cannot bear begrudging people their fears, if for no other reason than I am so very capable of fear myself. I think what I worry most about is when that fear intersects with anger, and how those two immensely primal, immensely powerful emotions combine to create a volatile psychic mix.

Because while there is plenty about the health and vitality of the 21st century American Church that worries me, and causes me to be fearful for it, there is even more that it does that hurts me, that makes me feel like I should be angry.

It hurts me that some Christian pastors and leaders are perfectly comfortable getting on television and saying that a Mormon is unfit to be president because he is not a Christian. (Side note--I am currently working on a post about how many churches, at least in practice, if not necessarily on paper, seem to proffer different definitions and qualifications for what makes one a Christian. I may not buy what the Book of Mormon says for a nanosecond, but if Mormons believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then in my book, they're Christians.)

It hurts me that some of the same Christians harbor beliefs that our President is a closet Muslim--but even if he were a Muslim, really, how is that any my business?

It hurts me that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, a church I have grown to love immensely from my time at Lewis & Clark College under the spiritual leadership of a Franciscan sister, and from my time at the Graduate Theological Union with the academic guidance and emotional support of a Dominican priest (as well as a number of Dominican, Franciscan, and Jesuit classmates), dragged its feet for years upon years regarding a plethora of child abuse scandals, using all manner of cover-ups and justifications for not taking action.

It hurts me that a myriad of televangelist and megachurch pastors contributed immensely to the current deficit of trust many Americans have with the church through their various financial improprieties.

It hurts me when I see a church care more about right doctrine than right action. Because honestly, I think teaching doctrine is easier. I have so many platforms with which to do it--I preach every Sunday, I teach Sunday School, two Bible studies and two preschool chapel services, and I have this blog. Demonstrating right action, that's a taller order, but as James writes, it is the measure of true religion (Jas. 1:27).

It hurts me that American Christianity, wide swaths of which were integral to the abolitionist movements of the 19th century and the civil rights movement of the 20th century, is instead associated not with the preaching of equality before God, but the preaching of the prosperity gospel.

And you don't need to get me started on my disappointment with the decreasing potency of my mainline brethren--mostly because I already did.

And I have to admit--to you, to God, to everybody--that this hurt does lead me towards anger, which in turn saddens me even more, because I desperately do not want my anger to turn into fear. I worry about expressing my hurt and anger because I still do not really see it as pastoral.

But it is there. And I have to recognize that anger and fear often go hand in hand. And that I am susceptible to it to, and need you, and others in my life, to help keep me from falling too far into what Jonah calls "the pit." My prayer is that my acceptance and acknowledgement of my own fear and fury will actually make me a better pastor, and a better Christian.

And in turn, I would simply ask that if you do see someone feeling burned by how religion has treated them, or how religion has acted in the public sphere (as there are sadly no shortage of such folks), do a brother or sister a favor and try to lift them up. My faith has made me a far better person than I ever could have been without it, and I know that every time someone reminds me, in their own way, of God's love and grace rather than of humanity's failings, I invariably end up feeling closer to God. I have to think it is the same for a great many others as well, who could benefit immensely from a Christian in their lives offering love and grace and willing to meet them where they are emotionally and spiritually at.

As Jesus says in Luke's Gospel...go, and do likewise.

As for me--help me to do likewise.

Yours in Christ,

No comments:

Post a Comment