Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday is Existential Dilemma Day

It seems like all the weighty posts seem to come to me on days when I'm on timed sessions in the library. What I want to write about now is Christianity and its political connotations. I was raised Episcopalian, but I have drifted fairly far from my conservative religious upbringing. (Well, "fairly far" in the sense that Africa has drifted "fairly far" from South America.) Thus, I hadn't heard about the formal separation of the conservative Anglican Church of North America from the denomination, even though the process had been going on for a year and the new group's canons were officially ratified in July.

The split is the result of controversy in the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Church of England) over issues such as the ordination of women and gay men as bishops and the flexibility of scriptural interpretation. Its constitution states that its members are “grieved by the current state of brokenness within the Anglican Communion (Anglicans’ worldwide church) prompted by those who have embraced erroneous teaching and who have rejected a repeated call to repentance.” (from the ACNA website.) It is expected to prohibit women and gay men from becoming bishops-- they are apparently acceptable as priests, but not as leaders in the wider communion.

Now, one of the reasons I hung on to Episcopal practice for so long (besides the gorgeous service music) is precisely its openness to women and homosexuals in its worship and its leadership. This split underscores the issue which, I am coming to realize, has almost completely driven me out of the Christian faith: In today's society, Christianity connotes foremost not a spiritual but a political mindset, and that mindset is one with which I cannot agree. Yes, I'm talking about the "Christian Right" and its radical fundamentalist agenda, but I'm also talking about the social expectations that accompany church membership. Even in my fairly liberal church, stratification by social class and political affiliation create a culture that is wildly out of line with the loving, inclusive message Jesus Christ is supposed to have died to bring us.

Most of the people I see wearing WWJD bracelets are likely to be doing the opposite of what Jesus would do. Would Jesus picket an abortion clinic and scream accusations at the women who enter? Would Jesus send a letter to my mother expressing his disapproval of my gay sister's participation in their events? Would Jesus  campaign to deny  two people who have been loving partners their whole lives the right to visit each other in intensive care? Would he require parents to face prison time for failing to turn their gay children over to the authorities for life imprisonment or death? (This is a provision in the Anti-Homosexuality bill introduced in Uganda in 2009, a bill championed by evangelical Christian groups.) Would Jesus focus so much on church initiatives and social events that the spiritual needs of a congregation fall by the wayside? I think not. If this is, in fact, what Jesus would do, then I don't want any part of it.

This is what I believe: I believe that all people deserve love and respect, and that the responsibility to treat others the same way is a joy, not a burden.  I believe that which symbol you respect or which holy dead guy you believe in is completely immaterial-- what's important is the way you live your life, and whatever you think of the afterlife is no justification for treating people poorly now. I believe that forests, ancient ruins, institutions of learning, or small circles of people listening to each other are more sacred than megachurches with their own gift shops and fast food courts. I believe in wonder, in amazement and reverence for the extravagant abundance and mysteries of the universe, and I believe we each are bound to protect it in all its forms.

And yet, I still believe in really good service music.  I guess that makes me... what? Episco-pagan? It may not look snappy on a bracelet, but it works for me.

I believe that Scott Adams is an atheist. That's fine, too.

Posted by Silent Five @ 1:40 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Brilliantly-written, and well-said. You're not the only one going through that spiritual crisis. I've come to the conclusion that organized religion simply cannot live up to the lofty standards put to it by its founders. This is simply because all these denominations got way too powerful for their own good, and power corrupts--especially when you answer to someone who doesn't answer back in writing.

I can't believe Christ would be happy with Christianity as it is today, which is why I've decided to follow His philosophy, as stated in the Gospels, to the best of my ability, and pretty much ignore the rest. Don't know what a suitable word for that would be (Christism? Christology?), but I call it "Christ Christianity".

Posted by Blogger als4bsds @ 3:45 PM #
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Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

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