where is the church?

where is the church cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“Where Is The Church?” by David Hayward (ink on paper, 8″x8″)

(*Several of my original cartoon drawings and prints are available, including this one! Email me if interested. Original drawings are $100 and prints are $25… plus shipping.)

Some people think I hate the church. They read superficially. They think through the narrow conservatism and their myopic understanding of what Christianity and the church are.

I love the church and argue that people should have the right to gather together for religious reasons and that everything should be done to assure that these gatherings are healthy. I may not be inside a local church. But I carry the church inside of me.

Lisa and I have recently talked about visiting churches. We’ve even been invited to meet with others in someone’s home. I didn’t say no.

I do insist that the church as an institution is a power that is extremely dangerous… as dangerous as government, the military, and Wall Street… and needs her prophets to continually challenge her to be compassionate, gracious and just.

But when the church compassionately serves all people, then it fulfills its mission.

(We have an online community that provides a safe space for you to process your spirituality. LOOK!)

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34 Responses

  1. Steve Martin says:

    The Church is made up of sinners who get a lot of things wrong. But wherever the gospel is proclaimed, in some fashion, God is there, at work in it.

    There’s no utopian church on earth.

    We ought strive to get those in church to see themselves as they really are, sinners in desperate need of a Savior…and to point to the One who is the Savior, Christ Jesus and Him alone. That’s the job of the church.

    The church is God’s idea of a good time. Not necessarily ours. But where else are going to hear the things of 1st importance?

  2. nakedpastor says:

    that’s soooooo myopic Steve. please consider the possibility that people can find meaning and even their god outside your lutheran walls! it is difficult for me to maintain patience with some of your comments.

  3. Ciera says:

    The church is not a building, nor a gathering…it’s ppl

  4. Carol says:

    “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” –Martin Luther

    “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”
    –Martin Luther

    “Where God builds a church the devil builds a chapel.” –Martin Luther

    “Ideas are mallable and unstable; they not only can be misused, they invite misuse—and the better the idea the more volatile it is. That’s because only the better ideas turn into dogma, and it is by this process whereby a fresh, stimulating, humanly helpful idea is changed into robot dogma that is deadly. The problem starts at the secondary level, not with the originator or developer of the idea, but with the people who are attracted to it, until the last nail breaks, and who invariably lack the overview, flexibility, imagination, and, most importantly, sense of humor to maintain it in the spirit in which it was hatched. Ideas are made by masters, dogmas by disciples, and the Buddha is always killed on the road.” ~Tom Robbins

    The Institutional Church (ecclesia) has killed only two kinds of people: Those who do not believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and those who do. — Will Durant

  5. Daniel Wheaton says:

    I think I’m on the same page with you on this one. I poke my head in the door of a church every few Sundays now, but the church used to be a very substantial part of my life. Now, I avoid at all costs the politics of the church and try to just go for my own fulfilment and enjoyment, to enjoy the company of others but not to go anywhere near the dialogues about how the church should operate, who it should serve and what it should believe. Those conversations are just to draining… and pointless.

  6. John Sennett says:

    Well said, brother. Your last sentence says it all.
    There’s an old saying that has been put in a new song by Jakob Dylan, ‘It’s a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.’

  7. A Different Michelle says:

    The churches I’ve been to that talk about the Gospel and try to “balance it out” (that’s an actual quote from one pastor, but the idea applies in a general sense as well) with reminding people of what sinners they are end up more focused on themselves and others as sinners than on the awesomeness (NOT using the ‘valley girl’ type of meaning, here, but actual awe) and beauty of God.

    The beauty of God was lost as they tried to figure out exactly how God worked out saving such sinners as them (but not sinners who weren’t “real Christians” or who weren’t Christian at all or who were gay or whatever). Navel-gazing while worshipping the Bible (God’s little life-manual, you know?), claiming to know and have the Gospel while preaching a small God.

    I’d hate to think God is limited to buildings that humans have created “for Him”.

  8. A Different Michelle says:

    Oh, and the above-described churches–one of them I attended regularly for years, and the continual focus on our sinfulness fed, I believe, depression in some of the members.

  9. Brian says:

    Thanks for this, David. I especially like the observation about how dangerous the church can be – inspires much humility in me.

    As a Lutheran, I need to say this: I’m sure that you and others are aware, but it bears noting, that although our friend Steve Martin is “a” Lutheran, he is not “the” Lutheran, and definitely does not represent all Lutheranism.

  10. PrayerPunk says:

    While I know what you are trying to say I do not agree with this picture. St. Paul tells us the Church is the body of Christ, that each of us are parts of that body. If we start to believe that we as individuals are Church, then we continue to divide the body of Christ. We are eachs temples, that is houses, of God. He dwells in each of us, in our hearts, in the core of our souls, and you need no one else to commune with Him. The Church is not a building, nor is it the clergy, it is the people. The Church is the community, and you can’t hqve community by yourself.

  11. Brigitte says:

    The church is the people, in the plural. We can have all kinds of wonderful and aesthetically inspiring experiences. But the church is inter-personal.

  12. Pat says:

    “…when the church compassionately serves all people, then it fulfills its mission.”

    Amen.

  13. Caryn LeMur says:

    Steve: I’m a bit curious now, given your thought that the job of the church is as follows, “to get those in church to see themselves as they really are, sinners in desperate need of a Savior…and to point to the One who is the Savior, Christ Jesus and Him alone.”

    This sounds like a good friend of mine, who cannot often celebrate the magnificent person that he is. He knows that he is a clay vessel; but he cannot always grasp that he has ‘treasure’ within… and that the clay is worthwhile. So, he keeps cycling through the same equation: sinner; confess and gain mercy; try again.

    When he worked with me among the homeless in the camps, he was magnificent! Fantastic! He laughed, enjoyed life, shared God’s listening ears and love with men and women…. but when we discussed his ‘church life’, the same negative cycle appeared in his words.

    It was as if, in church, he knew that he was a sinner; but outside of church, he radiated the joy of God.

    May I ask you what treasure you have in you? That is, beyond Christ being your ‘treasure’, what are your strengths and gifts? Where (outside of the Lutheran church) do you use those gifts? Who is this person ‘Steve Martin’ outside of the Lutheran church? I have the feeling that you are a treasure in Christ… really.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  14. Gary says:

    Caryn, I love what you have written here.

  15. Brigitte says:

    Caryn, I should get to bed. But you misunderstand Steve. The idea is not to drag yourself through the mud. The idea is to have a realistic assessment of things and also face daily what is wrong. We Lutherans almost rejoice in echoing Luther by saying we are that stinking sack of maggots. We can laugh and say it and mean it, because when we know it and say it, we realize so clearly the treasure we own. Then Christ becomes everything and that is just the greatest pleasure of all.

  16. Carol says:

    Brigitte, this is where I have some serious problems with Lutheranism.

    Luther’s teaching is a bit ambiguous here. On one hand he seems to be teaching Calvin’s doctrine of Total Depravity. On the other hand, Luther teaches that we are “saints and sinners simultaneously.”

    Most historians agree that Luther suffered from periodic bouts of clinical depression. A few even believe that he was bi-polar on the basis that some of his dramatic actions, like nailing his theses on the Church door, an action that conceivably gotten him burnt at the stake like Jan Hus, is indicative of a manic episode.

    Of course, the central issue of the Reformation concerned the relationship of nature to Grace. The Reformers claimed monergism or Grace Alone which was a radical departure from the Traditional synergistic teaching of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthdoxy.

    Catholic scholasticism uses the theological formula: “Grace builds on nature.” I prefer the Orthodox formula: “Grace transfigures nature” because it reminds me of the Transfiguration of Christ’s humanity revealed to the disciples on the Mountain.

    ISTM that the radical opposition of Grace to nature makes the healing of our wounded nature impossible this side of the fullness of Eternity and any hope of transformation becomes an eschatological hope rather than a present spiritual process that makes our faith experience one of sin, claim your forgiveness, sin, claim your forgiveness, etc. with no spiritual fruit this side of the grave other than a pathological obsession with one’s own sinfullness. Now obsessing over one’s total lack of self-worth may seem “humble”; but Luther also taught that sin was “man curved in on himself” or narcissistic self-centeredness. Whether we are focused on our own righteousness/worth or on our sinfulness/unworthiness, we are still focused on ourselves; so the two are merely polar opposites of the same narcissistic coin.

    As for Christ Alone, that seems to me to be a subtle form of pantheism. Contrast that to Mother Teresa’s relationship to Christ:

    “There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
    Jesus is my God,
    Jesus is my Spouse,
    Jesus is my Life,
    Jesus is my only Love,
    Jesus is my All in All;
    Jesus is my Everything.”
    ~ Mother Teresa

    Jesus is her “Everything”; but there has been no pantheistic reabsorption of Mother Teresa into Christ/God.

    Actually, the best description that I have come accross of what is referred to as the mystical union of the believer with God comes from a Hindu mystic:

    Out of Supreme love
    they swallow up each other
    But separate again
    for the joy of being two.

    They are not completely the same
    but neither are they different.
    No one can tell exactly what they are.

    -Jnaneshwar (also known as Jnanadeva)
    From Teachings of the Hindu Mystics, © 2001 by Andrew Harvey. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, http://www.shambhala.com.

    I especially appreciate the “no one can tell exactly what they are” part.

  17. Carol says:

    In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe , where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise. –Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate

    The theological emphasis in the NT seems to be on morals or the difference between morals (doing) inspired by love and justice and self-interested moralism driven by fear of the consequences of immoral behavior.

    The theological emphasis in scholasticism was on metaphysics (being).

    The theological emphasis with the advent of the Enlightenment became epistemology (knowing).

    There are three epistmological perspectives in current Western thought:

    Three views

    I think, therefore I am.
    - René Descartes

    I think, therefore I think I am.
    - Richard Feynman

    I Am – therefore I think.
    - SusanStrangeAngel

    Decartes is dead in secular society and dying in the ecclesiastical subculture with the exception of only the more conservative sects.

    I like a lot of what Feynman says; but I still have to go with SusanStrangeAngel

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you’re the easiest person to fool. ~Richard Feynman

    “To everyone is given the key to the gates of heaven. The same key opens the gates of hell.” — Richard Feynman

    I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.
    – Richard Feynman

    I think that the “key” we are all given is human freedom, which has been impaired by an amoral slavery to our predatory survivalist instincts and our own [often disordered] desires rather than motivated by infused Grace; but can be healed by Grace. After all, it is for [responsible] freedom that Christ has set us free; not for slavery to either our baser instincts which includes both the imperatives of culture and institutionalized religion that often preserve social stability at the expense of justice.

    I don’t agree with Feynman that there is no purpose to life in the Universe. On that one, I go with Anne Rice:
    “There is one purpose to life and one only: to bear witness to and understand as much as possible of the complexity of the world – its beauty, its mysteries, its riddles. The more you understand, the more you look, the greater is your enjoyment of life and your sense of peace. That’s all there is to it. If an activity is not grounded in ‘to love’ or ‘to learn,’ it does not have value.”

    What cradle Christians often fail to recognize is that there is an intuitive faith, a trust in the Ultimate Goodness of life and human existence inspite of all the cruelty and pain that life inflicts, which is often closer to the biblical perspective of faith than the theological faith many religious Traditions teach. Some people can simply accept life on its own terms as an essentially positive experience without speculating on the “why” of suffering or needing a defined purpose to justify it. They are by nature exceptionally altruistic and, for them, virtue is its own reward. They are rare birds; but so are those villains who fit Calvin’s concept of people as being totally depraved. Luther’s insight that we are “simultaneously saints and sinners” is more in line with my experience. By the Grace of God which first opens our eyes to the tragic reality of our wounded humanity and our own cooperative response, we can, over time, begin the process of becoming more saint than sinner and, finally, in the fullness of Eternity, perfect in Christ.

    I know that the Church teaches that *sin* is an “offense against God.” I believe that it is more of a betrayal of our own humanity that grieves more than offends God. “Sin” is definitely an aberration, not intrinsic, to our humanity or Jesus could not have been both truly human and without sin.

    Long before I read the biblical injunctions against revenge or to repay evil with good, my mother taught me that “two wrongs do not make a right.” What the Shoah should have taught us is that we cannot dehumanize another without dehumanizing ourselves. That is true no matter how deeply others may have violated our human dignity.

    “It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
    –Mahatma Gandhi

    Forming a new world religion is difficult and not particularly desirable. However, in that love is essential to all religions, one could speak of the universal religion of love. –His Holiness the Dalai Lama

    All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether. – Dalai Lama

    Christianity is NOT a religion; it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is a human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The Gospel, however – the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance. It is the bizarre proclamation that religion is over – period. –Robert F. Capon

    “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; : that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:16-19

    Christians have always tended to transform the Christian Revelation into a Christian religion. Christianity is said to be a religion like any other or, conversely, some Christians try to show that it is a better religion than the others. People attempt to take possession of God. Theology claims to explain everything, including the being of God. People tend to transform Christianity into a religion because the Christian faith obviously places people in an extremely uncomfortable position that of freedom guided only by love and all in the context of God’s radical demand that we be holy. –Jacques Ellul

  18. Brigitte says:

    Carol, there is a lot there. Would you like to distill it down to a paragraph of your own? What is it you are wanting to get across?

  19. Brigitte says:

    I just read this on James Swan’s blog (beggarsallreformation) from the brand new translations of Luther, Luther’s Works 59 from CPH. He has the link there. (Gary, sorry if Luther is going to be offending to you. But people are finding him cogent and feel they need to translated what has not been translated thus far.)

    Here’s an interesting Luther comment from his commending preface to a book by Johann Brenz:
    But the gift of God that I particularly love and revere in you [Brenz] above all the rest is that you emphasize the righteousness of faith so faithfully and purely in all your writings. For this article is the head and cornerstone that alone begets, nurtures, builds, preserves, and defends the Church of God. Without it, the Church cannot remain standing for a single hour, as you know and perceive. That is why you insist upon it as you do. For no one can teach correctly in the church or resist any adversary successfully, unless he has grasped this article or, as Paul calls it, “the sound doctrine” [Titus 2:11], one who, as the same Paul says, “holds fast to the doctrine” [cf. Titus 1:9 Vg]. For that reason, I wonder more and more, and almost with indignation, how it is that St. Jerome earned the title “doctor of the church” and Origen that of “teacher of the churches next after the apostles,”since you will not easily find three lines teaching the righteousness of faith in either author, nor could you make anyone a Christian from the collected writings of both —to such an extent do they wander about with their allegories of events or are captivated by the pomp of works. And St. Augustine would not have been any different, if the Pelagians had not finally engaged him and driven him to the righteousness of faith. From this struggle and engagement he emerged as a doctor of the church in truth — nearly the only one after the apostles and earliest fathers of the church. [LW 59:288]

    At the heart of it all, is the knowing that I am not ok the way I am and all kinds of good deeds are not going to make me ok the way that I am. Listening to the sermon on the mount illustrates this exactly. This throws us completely onto Christ and his righteousness. And once you have known this you have the key to proper understanding of yourself and the world. It is the new birth of faith. Trusting in Christ and his righteousness you can go forth boldly and joyfully. The Christian walk, however, is a narrow and lofty path and you can get off it quite easily, either going to sleep and not doing anything in the way of good, or going the way of pride in your accomplishments, fruits, gifts, works, etc. It requires a daily watching of ourselves. This is not unhealthy. It pushes you back onto the straight and narrow way of trusting, transparency, non-defensiveness, humanness, or other terms people may prefer, both knowing our shortcomings and our hope, at the same time, without despair, dejection, comparing.

    The church rejected Pelagianism. We need to remember this when we read the ancients.

  20. Caryn LeMur says:

    Brigette: thank you for stating “…The Christian walk, however, is a narrow and lofty path and you can get off it quite easily,…. It requires a daily watching of ourselves…”.

    I think those two statements have helped me to understand your view of the Lutheran mindset better.

    I lean towards the Christian walk being quite the opposite: it is a broad path, it is so filled with mercy that so long as you move in love, you will do well.

    I offer that some believers will profit from your mindset, especially the highly rebellious that need restriction and constraint so that they do not destroy other people. And also those people that are not highly rebellious, but that need a sense of history, roots, and anchor within this changing world.

    But, I offer that other believers need to see the openness and freedom that is within Christ, the abundance of opinions and understandings that are acceptable, and the ‘green light’ to charge forward. These people may read history, but seldom have an overriding need for the roots or the sense of anchor.

    On the negative side: I have observed that the first approach can lead to an inward facing denominational binding, that is self-perpetuating, and inhibiting; it can lead to a caste system that welcomes only the repentant that promise to ‘struggle’. And, the second approach can lead to charismatic leaders becomming minor gods, false doctrine and abandonment of balance.

    On the positive side: the first approach can perfom monolithic acts of giving and peace-making on a global scale. And, the second approach can lead to new ways of worship, music, evangelism, and opening the gates of fellowship to the outcasts that will change only over much time… or maybe never change, yet walk with Christ.

    In my opinion, both are valid approaches to walking with Christ.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  21. Caryn LeMur says:

    Steve: I want to be careful here.

    I wrote to you, asking for your response.

    However, Brigette wrote, “Caryn, I should get to bed. But you misunderstand Steve. The idea is not to drag yourself through the mud.”

    If you two are married, and Brigette is allowed to speak for you both as a couple, I will accept that I misunderstand you, and will withdraw my request for your input.

    If, on the other hand, if Brigette actually meant, “In my opinion, Caryn, you misunderstand Lutherism…” then, may I offer that you respond to my query?

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  22. Brigitte says:

    If I may speak for my brother Steve, once more, we love you, too, Caryn.

  23. Carol says:

    Brigitte, the response I posted on my problem with Lutheranism is the only post where I was trying to “make a point.”

    The other two posts were simply “stream of consciousness” posts that I dashed off while killing time before preparing the Thanksgiving meal, a sharing of random reflections. There was no desire to get anything across. If there was something there that aroused your curiosity, I’d be more than glad to reflect on it further; but I don’t even remember what I posted and, since it wasn’t intended to serve a purpose, I really don’t have any desire to revisit it unless there is something there that you question.

    I have been known to act randomly, as well as think randomly, just for the pleasure of it, with no purposeful agenda as motivation.

    That his often gotten me accused of being a “flake” in our agenda-driven secular society and American ecclesiastical sub-culture which is more like busy Martha than reflective Mary which, IMO, is a little bit too eager to work for Jesus without before spending the time listening to him to learn what he wants and how he wants us to get it done.

    Most local churches remind me of beehives. So busy and, like most secular organizations, they are much more interested in what people “bring to the table” in terms of “time, talent and treasure” than they are in who a person is. They are religious communities of priests and levites, totally absorbed in their own parish life with little interest in the wider community. I suppose there would be little point in preparing the laypeople for a ministry of reconciliation in the world; since, by the time you’ve done your “temple duty” there is not many resources left for service in the world.

    Thomas Merton’s reflection sums it up my experience of American church experience, with one exception, quite accurately:

    In a rare interview in 1967 with Thomas McDonnell, [Thomas] Merton pronounced that the great crisis in the church is a crisis of authority precipitated because the church, as institution and organization, has overshadowed the reality of the church as a community of persons united in love and in Christ. He now charged that obedience and conformity with the impersonal corporation-church are a fact in the life of Christians. “The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity.
    ~ George Kilcourse, ACE OF FREEDOMS: Thomas Merton’s Christ, Notre Dame Press, 1993

    Most local churches in middle class neighborhoods are just social clubs with an hour set aside for weekly worship which has no transfomational effect on how the rest of the week is lived. The Trinity is no longer Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is God, Church and Country. The civic virtues, especially the Protestant work ethic has replaced the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.

    Local Progressive/Liberal churches still do social ministry/corporal works of mercy in the secular community; but they are done in a spirit of “reaching down to”; not a “reaching out to” that does nothing to mend a broken spirit of the recipients of their charity, although it does make the donors feel good.

    Perhaps your church experience has been different from mine. I was a member of a church for 25 years where the pastoral care and theological/spiritual formation was provided by a contemplative religious Order. It was an experience of a spiritual community, not a religious collective. So, unlike many people who post to this blog, I do know that uniquely Christian faith communities do still exist.

    BTW I read the article on the distinction between justification and theosis. It confirmed my conviction that I am more of an Eastern Christian than a Western Christian. The problem with Protestantism is that it focuses too narrowly on “guilt”, minimizing, ignoring (or even denying!) the biblical Revelation on the potential for transformation:

    To be redeemed is not merely to be absolved of guilt before God, it is also to live in Christ, to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, to be in Him a new creature, to live in the Spirit.~Thomas Merton

    There are biblical texts that teach both concepts of the believer’s life in Christ and Christ’s life in the believer. The problem with seeking an only the experience of Christ in our lives without experiencing ourselves in Christ is that the “Old Adam” often triumphs over the “New Adam”–the home team always has the advantage.

    Here is a Christ-centered spirituality that is the biblical alternative to the Pharisaic Law-centered spirituality preached and taught in most Latin/Western Churches:

    Spiritual Development Program

    30. Living Paschal Mystery

    Central to understanding Christ is to understand the Paschal mystery. However, we tend to think of it only as Jesus’ passion and death. Actually, the Paschal mystery is Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and Pentecost. What were historical events became ongoing process and is at the heart of Incarnational spirituality.

    No longer limited by time or geography, the Risen Christ has created through His ongoing Incarnation in us real-time, on-line continuity with Jesus’ earthly Incarnation. Especially with His passion, death, resurrection and gifting us with His Spirit. When we enter deeply into this Paschal mystery, we experience Christ on two levels.

    First, we are connected more intensely with Jesus in His passion and death. When we prayerfully meditate on Jesus’ passion and death, not as something outside of us but as something inside of us, we are not just creating concepts and images of the suffering and dying Christ in our minds. We are unleashing a dynamic process. We are unleashing the indwelling of the Risen Christ, Who gifts us with His Spirit Who pours the love of God into our hearts. Through this process, we identify more closely with the sufferings of Jesus such as those in the Garden of Gethsemane and His death on the cross.

    Second, in encountering the Paschal mystery we are connected more intimately to the Risen Christ as we live our own lives with their many passions, deaths, resurrections and transformations by the Spirit. In his book, Intimacy with God, Cistercian Father Thomas Keating explains the connection in this way.

    As Christians, we believe that Jesus in His passion and death has taken upon Himself all of our pains, anxieties, fears, self-hatred, discouragement and all our accumulation of wounds that we bring from our child hood and our childish ways of trying to survive. That is our true cross. That is what Jesus asks us to accept and share with Him. When we enter deeply into our experiences of the Paschal mystery, we are entering into something that has already happened, namely our union with Jesus as He carried our crosses. Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross is our cry of a desperate alienation from God, taken up into His, and transformed into Resurrection and gift of the Spirit.

    Again, we unleash a dynamic process as we identify our many passions and deaths with those of Jesus. Gradually we place our faith in the Indwelling of the Risen Christ and place our hope in Jesus’ victory, entrusting our wounded lives to Him. Gradually, the Spirit strengthens our faith through the gifts of wisdom and gradually enlightens us with self-understanding, enabling us to fathom our compulsions and weaknesses. Gradually we experience being healed of our emotional wounds and the wounds we have inflicted on our conscience. All of which leads us to greater love of Christ.

    However, the impact of our entering deeply into the Paschal mystery does not stop at our own self-healing. As the love of the Spirit is poured forth in our hearts, we bond with others in the Body of Christ and act as channels of the Spirit’s healing of the world. Fr. Keating writes “We will not know the results of our participation in Christ’s redemptive work in this life. One thing is certain: by bonding with the crucified One we bond with everyone else, past, present and to come.”

    In our spiritual journey we will invariably encounter many deaths—the death of our youth, the death of our wholeness, the death of our dreams, the death of our honeymoons. They can be Paschal deaths, deaths that are real but do not end possibilities if we take them to the crucified One and set in motion the process of identifying with Jesus and allowing the Spirit to empower us to live our new lives. If we allow them, our Paschal deaths will open up Paschal resurrections and achieve greater intimacy for us with Christ.

    First Posted June 19, 2001
    2001 NY Cursillo (English).

    “The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments . But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

    “A moral theology built on the authentic Gospel will be a far cry from a stoical morality built on duty and obligation, both deduced from some cosmic law of nature.”
    –Fr. Joseph Oppitz, C.Ss.R, Autumn Memoirs of St. Alphonsus Liguori

    Becoming a Christian is not so much inviting Christ into one’s life as getting oneself into Christ’s life. ~Orthodox Study Bible

  24. Carol says:

    It’s all about balance. Sometimes poetics says it better than doctrine:

    God’s Letters by Grace Schulman

    When God thought up the world,
    the alphabet letters
    whistled in his crown,
    where they were engraved
    with a pen of fire,
    each wanting to begin
    the story of Creation.

    S said, I am Soul.
    I can Shine out
    from within your creatures.
    God replied, I know that,
    but you are Sin, too.

    L said, I am Love,
    and I brush away malice.
    God rejoined, Yes,
    but you are Lie,
    and falsehood is not
    what I had in mind.

    P said, I am Praise,
    and where there’s a celebration,
    I Perform
    in my Purple coat.
    Yes, roared God,
    but at the same time,
    you are Pessimism–
    the other side of Praise.
    And so forth.

    All the letters
    had two sides or more.
    None was pure.
    There was a clamor
    in paradise, words,
    syllables, shouting
    to be seen and heard
    for the glory
    of the new heavens and earth.

    God fell silent,
    wondering,
    How can song
    rise from that commotion?

    Rather than speculate,
    God chose B,
    who had intoned,
    Bashfully, Boldly,
    Blessed is his name.

    And he made A
    first in the Alphabet
    for admitting, I am All–
    a limitation
    and a possibility.

    “God’s Letters” by Grace Schulman, from Days of Wonder. (c) Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. Reprinted with permission.

    AND
    And teaches us to say yes
    And allows us to be both-and
    And keeps us from either-or
    And teaches us to be patient and long suffering
    And is willing to wait for insight and integration
    And keeps us from dualistic thinking
    And does not divide the field of the moment
    And helps us to live in the always imperfect now
    And keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
    And demands that our contemplation become action
    And insists that our action is also contemplative
    And heals our racism, our sexism, heterosexism, and our classism
    And keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
    And allows us to critique both sides of things
    And allows us to enjoy both sides of things
    And is far beyond any one nation or political party
    And helps us face and accept our own dark side
    And allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
    And is the mystery of paradox in all things
    And is the way of mercy
    And makes daily, practical love possible
    And does not trust love if it is not also justice
    And does not trust justice if it is not also love
    And is far beyond my religion versus your religion
    And allows us to be both distinct and yet united
    And is the very Mystery of Trinity
    ~Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

    THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT.
    A HINDOO FABLE.

    i.

    IT was six men of Indostan
     To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
     (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
     Might satisfy his mind.

    ii.

    The First approached the Elephant,
     And happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
     At once began to bawl:
    ‘God bless me!—but the Elephant
     Is very like a wall!’

    iii.

    The Second, feeling of the tusk,
     Cried:’Ho!—what have we here
    So very round and smooth and sharp?
     To me ‘t is mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
     Is very like a spear!’

    iv.

    The Third approached the animal,
     And happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
     Thus boldly up and spake:

     ’I see,’ quoth he, ‘the Elephant
     Is very like a snake!’

    v.

    The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
     And felt about the knee.
    ‘What most this wondrous beast is like
     Is mighty plain,’ quoth he;
    ”T is clear enough the Elephant
     Is very like a tree!’

    vi.

    The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
     Said: ‘E’en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most;
     Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an Elephant
     Is very like a fan!’

    vii.

    The Sixth no sooner had begun
     About the beast to grope,
    Than, seizing on the swinging tail
     That fell within his scope,
    ‘I see,’ quoth he, ‘the Elephant
     Is very like a rope!’

    viii.

    And so these men of Indostan
     Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
     Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
     And all were in the wrong!

    moral.

    So, oft in theologic wars
     The disputants, I ween,
    Rail on in utter ignorance
     Of what each other mean,
    And prate about an Elephant
     Not one of them has seen!

  25. Carol says:

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.
    –Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    One more poem:

    Late Fragment

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    Raymond Carver
    http://thisoldbankofsand.blogspot.com/2012/05/late-fragment-raymond-carver.html

    This is the fourth and final poem from our guest editor. He writes: Raymond carver died relatively young of lung cancer. This very short poem says what was very important to him in his life – not wealth, or fame not even health, but to be beloved. I am extremely fortunate that I love and am beloved.

  26. nakedpastor says:

    OMG Carol. I don’t know HOW you do it! I realize you are well versed. No doubt about it. But I just don’t read your lengthy comments. One way to shut me up: just throw a bunch of words at me. You win!

  27. Carol says:

    Believe it or not, there was a time when lengthy, often night-long, dialogues, especially on complex meaning-of-life issues, were not that unusual.

    When my brother and I were adolescents they often took place in my home with Mother acting as facilator. Those who were to tired to drive home would be handed pillows and blankets to nap on the floor. When we woke up Mother would fix a big platter of bacon and eggs before the sleep-overs would set out for their homes.

    Some things just simply cannot be adequately communicated in sound bites and bumpersticker slogans and we are more likely to radically encounter God in the deeps than in the shallows of life.

  28. nakedpastor says:

    Lots of words don’t equal deep, Carol. But I know you know that.

  29. Carol says:

    One little question, David: What did I win? I didn’t even realize I was playing a game with prizes. Are there any rules? Presumed unspoken guidelines?

    Spiritually, I am adult convert, not a cradle Christian; but culturally I am a secular humanist. Perhaps that is why I cannot spend too much time in the ecclesiastical sub-culture without getting cultural claustrophobia. The parochialism stiffles my spirit and quenches my joy.

  30. Carol says:

    Perspective on the Church, or at least the Evangelical part of it from another blog:

    http://revolfaith.com/2012/11/19/what-the-church-could-use-more-of-scholarship/

    What the Church Could Use More of: Scholarship
    Posted on November 19, 2012 by April K
    Yeah. I said it. And it’s true.

    The church has such a rich history of scholarship. Roger Bacon (1214-1292), a church friar, was one of the first people to promote the use of the scientific method. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) wrote history’s most compelling philosophical treatise on the existence of God. The metaphysical philosopher who gave us Occam’s Razor, William of Ockham (1287-1374), was a prominent Christian. The mathematician who invented coordinate geometry (Nicole Oresme) was “a passionate theologian.” John Calvin of was a Doctor of Law. William Tyndale translated the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew. And of course, most Christians are familiar with Martin Luther and C. S. Lewis. Even the “infamous” Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, was a devout believer for much of his life.

    This is hardly an exhaustive list, either. The Apostle Paul himself was extremely well educated in his day.

    So what changed on the way to the 21st century? Why do so many modern evangelicals discourage and outright reject formal scholarship?

    Somewhere, evangelicals began viewing public education as secular, evil, a threat to faith. Perhaps it happened when the Theory of Evolution became required learning in science classes. Perhaps it was when the “safe sex” campaign began circulating through children’s health classes. Perhaps it was when prayer was taken out of schools. I don’t know. But it’s truly baffling. And it’s certainly not to the church’s credit.

    In recent years, a disturbing dichotomy has arisen in society, courtesy of the new atheism movement: You’re either a Christian or an intellectual. You can’t be both. To be Christian means to reject all scientific theory and natural phenomena; to be intellectual means to reject anything faith-based. Much of that is just noise, a juvenile act of hateful, close-minded ego-stroking by people like Richard Dawkins. (Yeah. I said that, too.) But they also have a point. To a large degree, the modern church has abandoned its scholarship–even when it comes to interpreting scripture. And it’s alienating Christians whom God has gifted with a healthy intellect and who want to explore their faith and the natural world on a deeper level.

    For evangelicals, the pursuit of knowledge hasn’t just been discouraged at the secular university level; it’s also been squelched at the theological level. Many of the people filling the ranks of atheism today were once believers who had sincere questions about church doctrines and practices. Instead of receiving thoughtful answers from church elders, however, their questions were met with outright hostility and dismissed as sinful. Visit any online atheist forum, and you’ll see countless deconversion stories that are appalling in their similarity. When the church refused to answer their questions, they sought answers from elsewhere in the world–usually, from people who had long since rejected faith.

    Now, many young believers are encouraged to attend Christian universities and Bible schools where their church’s doctrine is reinforced in the curriculum, whether or not it’s intellectually sound. There’s a fear in many churches that if young people study evolution or discover there’s more than one way to interpret the Bible, they’ll leave the church. But asking them to adhere blindly to doctrines and attacking those who dare point out contradictions in teachings is already sending them away in droves.

    According to the King James Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote,

    Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

    And the Apostle Peter said,

    Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

    If all they meant was to simply study scripture, that’s sufficiently damning of any anti-scholarship, anti-questioning attitudes. People have an innate need to understand what they are taught. If the church refuses to mentor new believers, they’ll never mature in their faith. And immature Christians often lack the ability to witness effectively and become easy prey for those looking to discredit faith in God.

    In the old days, religious meetings offered some of the best educational opportunities for common people. Many were farmers who had never completed school and didn’t know how to read. But that’s no longer the case. Educational opportunities are now widespread, and technology has made society very sophisticated. Telling young people in today’s church to “just have faith” whenever they encounter something they don’t understand no longer cuts the mustard. They want to know what other people believe and why, and why their church’s doctrine is superior. They want to know the full context of the scriptures, the history of the Bible and the true meaning of the original Greek and Hebrew words. I believe the reason that the evangelical church is steeped in heresy is that it’s kept all the potential Martin Luthers in ignorance–or driven them away.

    The evangelical church has also responded badly to those who have chosen to pursue a secular education. Despite my former pastor claiming that God desires to place believers in different fields, including secular ones, he and the rest of the church clearly favored the young people who sought ministry degrees at approved Christian colleges. Offerings were taken up to help cover their expenses. No such offerings were taken up for those attending public universities. The public university students also received less moral support from their fellow believers.

    Instead of standing their ground and refusing to bow to worldly influences when public education turned secular, Christians instead retreated to their fundamentalist foxholes and left the unbelievers to their devices. As a result, the number of influential Christian scholars in fields like science and philosophy appears to be dwindling. And the church’s rejection of formal scholarship has only provided fodder for hardline atheists to claim that faith has no place in serious scientific research. Now, what little Christian scholarship exists is often discredited in academic circles, the claim being that Christian scholars allow their beliefs to distort their research. Apparently, atheist scholars are immune to any kind of bias and agenda-pushing.

    What’s sad is that people on both sides of the aisle have forgotten that many of the scientific and mathematical advances that set modern objective standards for research were brought to us by Christian scholars. Perhaps it’s time the church remembered.

  31. Brigitte says:

    Carol, sorry, there is no way I am going to get to that, today.

  32. Carol says:

    Brigitte, there is no reason why you should be “sorry” for not responding to my [or anyone else's] post.

    This is a virtual community, where we can say what we think, or not, because most of us have no actual relationship in real time/space with each other.

    We can share a line of thought without others needing to feel obligated to pick up on it. When they do respond, it is because there is genuine interest; not just a polite (or impolite) gesture.

    The majority of people who join these virtual communities are lurkers, not active participants. They are free to make that choice.

    That is why I really cannot understand why anyone would feel threatened by anything posted on this board. It isn’t logical.

    But, then, we are not always logical. That is an Enlightenment heresy, that the only problem is ignorance and if we could just get people to recognize the truth all would be well.

    I think religious dogmatic absolutists believe that also, even though the Scriptures, and not just the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, teach that the human passions and will, as well as the mind, are disordered.

  33. Carol says:

    Since I believe in God as Creator/Sustainer as well as Redeemer, I also believe that when there seems to be a conflict between religion and science either our theology is wrong, our scientific theory is wrong or both.

    I am more interested in the “soft” social sciences like psychology and sociology than I am in the “hard” empirical sciences because I find the frequent illogic of human behavior, my own and that of others, to be fascinating.

    This transcript from NPR’s On Being Program speaks about shame/imperfection rather than guilt/sin as the fundamental cause of our feelings of worthlessness:
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/transcript/4932#main_content
    November 21, 2012

    Transcript for Brené Brown on Vulnerability

    The imperfection/shame theory seems be supported by the description of Adam and Eve’s relationship before the *Fall*: The man and his wife were naked, yet they felt no shame. Gen.2:25

  34. Barry House says:

    Love this post nakedpastor.

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