samedi, janvier 27, 2007

Love and change and things we can't untie

This evening the kids and I watched the film version of the A.M. Montgomery classic "Anne of Green Gables." Last week Sian and I saw the play- she was highly surprised to find that she liked it. So much of Anne's character, as revealed in novel and onscreen, reminds me of Sian-my daughter, like Anne, is highly verbal, imaginative, and prone to dramatize herself and her dilemmas in vivid, sometimes overblown language.

At one point in the movie we watched tonight (after our little drama in which Colin inadvertently hit Sian on the head with a pool cue) Anne, about to leave Green Gables to study to be a teacher, reassures Marilla that wherever she is, and whatever happens, she will always be Anne from Green Gables.

Sometimes I wonder... if someone from my past read my blog (as I know they do regularly) or engaged me in theological conversation, if they would still recognize me "Elizabeth of the Episcopal Church."

Looking back now, it seems that for years I was a member of a Christian subculture. Oh, I was a critical one-my acts of rebellion didn't endear me to the hierarchy.

But even at the time, I realized that I really knew very few people who were not Christian. This felt like a failing. It was part of what drove me, in an intellectual sense, to explore the culture of the "emergent church"-the reform movement that aims to help encourage worshipping communities that are less denominational and institutional and more concerned with integrity and vulnerability to the unchurched.

In some small way, my current congregation, St. Matthews, is part of the 'emergent' community . While many members are ex-Roman Catholics, others had no previous religious faith. There is little sense of hieararchy-both pastors act more as facilitators than as parents. Come up with a good idea and it is likely to receive a hearing from Chad or Tina.

My journey to St. Matthews has also been formed by my experience of disappointment with the Episcopal Church, and by my personal sense of betrayal and failure. Almost five years ago I went through an experience that, in retrospect, changed the trajectory of my career, perhaps indelibly. Since that time I have been gradually less and less involved in church circles, with little real desire to return to a prominent position in one. As a result, I am more engaged with people who are not Christian and much more open to hearing their stories.

I am still an openly believing Christian. I still wrestle daily with the paradoxes of being faithful in an American culture that gives lip service to the values of the Gospel. That being said, I find that, at the moment, the narratives I want to hear are those of the men and women who haven't been affected by the New Testament story-who don't find belief important or credible.

At the same time, I miss the discipline of being part of an organic Christian community. I miss the energy and vision and buzz of dedicated people who take their faith seriously. Do I wish that serious Christianity didn't often have that tinge of right wing paranoia and self-righteousness? Heck yes.

And I suspect that many non-believers (many of whom were raised as Christians) are probably also intolerant of what they see as an anti-intellectual movement (in an individualist culture, we fear "movements") on a moral bender. It may be ingrained in us to hang on to our stereotypes, simply because it limits our relationships in a complex world. We all seem to gravitate to subcultures of one type or another.

But I am coming to see, slowly, that to blame the church for being as sin sick as society is to miss the basic idea-it is both into church and culture that Jesus comes-not because He feels more at home in our churches, but because He sees church and culture as equally, and dangerously, ill and in need of redemption.

1 commentaire:

Jennifer+ a dit…

Hey Offcenter:

This is your neighbor on the ring...and a mostly-happy-but- sometimes-frustrated-with- the-"current unpleasantness"-Episcopalian. I'm very much enjoying reading your posts. You are so thoughtful and I appreciate the questions you raise and the level of introspection that you "exhibit"! My mind was racing reading your last couple of posts...Book titles like "Toxic Christianity", "The Post-Modern Parish", "The Practicing Congregation", and "Christianity for the Rest of Us" were coming to mind. I'm curious as to what kind of an Episc. community you experienced and how in that setting you were disconnected from non-Christians or at least non-right-wing-anxious Christians. You don't have to answer me, but if you wanted to you could come next door to my blog (thereverendmother) and reply or find my email link somewhere in a posting and we could talk offline...not to convert but to converse. Anyway...and either way...thanks for raising the issues and the questions.