Tuesday, November 27, 2007


My friend more cows has challenged me to think of 2008 as a year of finding Christian community.

I hope this doesn't sound utterly silly, but the idea fills me with a bit of trepidation. After having been raised Catholic, becoming excited about religion through my Catholic education in college, and then feeling a bit burned by the whole thing as I entered adulthood...I guess I'm a bit gun-shy of investing myself in a tradition, in a community once again.

Part of this experience of being "burned" comes from my work as a counselor, actually. In the past, there were aspects of Catholicism (e.g., the refusal to ordinate women, teachings on sexual morality, etc.) that I strongly disagreed with -- but it was something of an intellectual matter. When I actually started working as a counselor, I was put face to face with brave people whose lives were actually HARMED by some of these teachings (particularly some of my gay and lesbian clients). The issue was no longer one of intellectual disagreement -- it became one of whether I could support an institution whose teachings HARMED people I cared for.

Complicating matters further, the clients were not exclusively Catholic, but from a variety of Christian backgrounds.

So I am wary. And I find myself wondering what standard to use when considering these matters? Do I consider primarily the official church doctrine? The attitudes of the religious leaders? The extent to which there is a strong "opposition movement" (if the church's official doctrine still holds that homosexuality is sinful)? All of the above (and if so, which factors should weigh most heavily)?

On top of this is the matter of my natural introversion...and, well, a sense from the work I do of how pervasive unhealthiness is. I pray that this does not sound conceited, but after awhile of doing this job...

How to explain it? I think I am confronted so often by dysfunction, by the limitations of others and by my own, it is easy to forget that there is also healthiness. Perhaps that is because health tends to be quieter.

Part of me yearns to discover and trust in that health, to have the faith to invest myself in a community and see past the idiosyncrasies to the more foundational goodness. It is tempting to say that the goodness in such communities is God, but I know I need more than that. I need to feel that the community is fundamentally, albeit in ways limited and human and flawed, good -- about promoting love and charity and justice and compassion.

Hope those thoughts aren't too rambling. Thanks to you all again for your thoughts.


more cows than people said...

oh, dear steve... i'm so glad you're still thinking on this and contemplating whether this coming year might be a good year for such a search.

did you receive the books i sent you yet?

have you thought on what challenge you might give me for 2008?

keep naming what creates trepidation as you contemplate this, but... also what sparks hope.

have you seen the betty butterfield videos on youtube? they could be a funny companion to your quest. i just watched a few- lutherans and catholics.

i can't tell you how excited it makes me to think that you might engage this quest in 08. i'm already savoring the conversations we'll have!

the church, in our many manifestations, is far, far from being the witness to God's reign that we are called to be. but as i've said to you before, honest, searching, loving, thoughtful people like you, who want the church to be all that it can be (gag at the unintentional allusion to a certain branch of the US military), are NEEDED, so much, by the church.

We are not complete without you, Steve.

Much love, More Cows

Katherine E. said...

Gosh, I really hear you. I think it's a marvelous challenge, and it's wonderful that you are taking up the challenge, Steve. Reading your post, and being in the midst of a church in turmoil, I realize that I, too, want to "trust ... and feel that the community is fundamentally, albeit in ways limited and human and flawed, good -- about promoting love and charity and justice and compassion."

It's not easy. Not at all, and I've had my little world turned upside down recently. Still, my heart resonates most strongly with what more cows said about the church needing people like you: "honest, searching, loving, thoughtful ... who want the church to be all that it can be." I know that the church needs me, too. Despite the ugliness and meanness of what I've witness this week, I remain deeply committed to the church and its mission of love and compassion on the earth.

Anyway, I will be eagerly and prayerfully following your search this year...

Wyldth1ng said...

Good luck, my friend.

Earthbound Spirit said...

Love, charity, justice and compassion are all noble ideals - and just about any religious community will strive for them, and will sometimes fall short.

But I advocate for community: It's in the covenant with one another to acknowledge our weaknesses, and love each other anyway. It's knowing that today I support someone who struggles with homophobia - and tomorrow they might help me see and understand my own flaws. It's falling down, and getting back up to keep stumbling toward getting better at loving, doing justice, and being compassion. That's what my community is to me, now.

It took awhile - and a couple of different churches - to figure it out, and for me to have the guts to stick it out.

Blessings to you on your journey, whatever path you take. And, really, being solitarily spiritual for awhile is o.k., too.

Diane said...

I'm impressed that you will consider more cows challenge, and look forward to continuing to read your thoughts...