We learn too late

I’ve been hit, forcefully, with the realization that trying to do two jobs when both are all consuming is killing me. It has already killed a relationship (where both of us were preoccupied with things other than our beloved – how easily we are blinded to the inevitable results). My misplaced “adventure” has caused my life to be very unbalanced and has effected all parts of my life – physically, emotionally, spiritually. I can’t keep doing this.
I’ve also realized the result of trying for five years to live as a left-brained person, when I am not that kind of person. I can’t keep doing this! Reality has hit home.
My preoccupation with all the troubles within Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church has done me no good. It has poisoned my thoughts and my spirit. There is nothing wrong with keeping up with what is going on, forming opinions, and expressing those opinions, trying to help. The problem comes into play when I allow all the dysfunctions of others to become my own. The problem is when I take upon myself other people’s issues, their hardened hearts, their blindness. This isn’t good for a priest – for anyone. I see what we have done to two religion writers, and it is wrong.
I see my failing. I see my wrong. All interpersonal problems ride on a two-way-street, but part of that street belongs to me and I have to face it head on, admit it, ask forgiveness where necessary, forgive when needed, and move on. My prayer is that the other will do the same, but I cannot guarantee that he or she will. My prayer is that he will, but it seems to be too late. Perhaps for the better.
Here is how I wish I would have loved – how I wish I will love my God, myself, Ashton, and my neighbor:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

Time

The Church catholic and Christians and the religion in general can be and have done remarkable things. It, they and we have perpetuated the worst of everything thinkable upon people and within societies. I don’t know how to identify the difference between those who do live a life that is imbued with the call of Jesus and his way, the way God desires for us all, and the other group, the rest of the vast majority of people and institutions that call themselves “Christian” whose lives and policies demonstrate through their actions and words anything but the way of Jesus – all the while they demand respect as “Christians” and condemn anyone who doesn’t think like them or support their cause. I’m no better, but in perhaps different ways.
Back around 1992-1994, I left American-Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism because I just couldn’t take the hypocrisy, the lies, the self-righteous egos and attitudes, the self-deception, and the condemnation, scorn, and dripping condescension they so easily levied upon those who were not like them. Not everyone was like that, of course, but I knew that it was either leave or die spiritually. I knew that this wasn’t God, but I couldn’t stay around that part of the Church any longer. Frankly, I’ve seen only a worsening of the movement since then, primarily because of insecurity, envy, and the compulsion for worldly power and money.
I thought about Quakerism and the Anabaptist tradition. I had always been attracted to liturgical worship and the idea of a sacramental church. I began attending an Episcopal Church after finishing my Master’s degree – St. Paul’s Church in Akron, OH. I moved to Highland Square in Akron after finishing my degree and the church was down the street. I didn’t want to get involved; I didn’t want to know people. I just wanted to experience what this kind of worship and theology were all about. I knew that Roman Catholicism wasn’t a right choice. I didn’t know enough about Eastern Orthodoxy.
I found in Anglicanism and increasingly in Anglo-Catholicism a way of being a Christian that was honest and ancient and deep, yet not without its own problems. I found the best of the ancient traditions and saw in the lives of the saints and martyrs and doctors of the Church something real and profound, despite their foibles and problems.
Now, with the infestation of Anglican-Evangelicalism with the rankish spirit of American-Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism and from the fundamentalistic pseudo-liberal Anglicans, I am finding myself back in a similar place that I experienced in the early 1990’s. I know it isn’t God and I see good and bad within us all and within this Church, Anglican. I just don’t know how to separate out that which is truly God and that which is not. Some people find that process very easy, but I don’t.
The organized Church doesn’t reflect Jesus and God’s will for the most part. It has good PR, tells a good story, likes to deceive itself into believing it is something it is not, and all that. Yet, it is in all its imperfections the instrument that God still uses to accomplish some very good things – somehow. The longer I live, I am only more convinced that we all are depraved, bent, broken and it is an amazing accomplishment when good comes from us. Of course, this is the story of God and redemption and forgiveness and mercy and love and restoration and healing and peace and joy despite the circumstances, and this is loving one’s neighbor as one’s self – doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
This thing, this Christian thing, is really quite simple. Be honest. Have a sober estimation of oneself. Be humble. Don’t judge, for that is God’s business. Honor God and keep his commandments – which for us is simply to love God and love neighbor.
Why can’t we do this? Why? Yes, yes, I know all the psycho-social arguments. Why can we not do this? Really. Why not?
I came to all this stuff this morning after reading the article in the Los Angels Times about the loss of faith of their former religion reporter. Here is the link to the article. Read it.

Religion beat became a test of faith

My faith in God isn’t slipping. My faith in the Church is. My faith in people rests with the understanding that we are all capable of great good and horrendous evil. God is a respecter of persons – He calls us to the good, the beautiful, the sane, the giving of self, healing, restoration, reconciliation, but He will not force any of it upon us, and we bear the burden of the consequences of our rejection and deception. I just want to find people who want to live the simple faith. People who mean it. To work for the best, deny ourselves, and love. God helps us.

Romans 1

I was thinking about Romans chapters 1 and 2 this morning and decided to read a portion from The Message version of the Bible.
Romans 1:19 –
“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life…”
That one line: “They… trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.” The sense that people trivialize themselves into silliness has struck me. We are children of God, why do we so tend to deal with ourselves in ways that do not recognize our place before God – his heirs, his children. We would rather, what, live lesser, demeaned, defamed lives with regard to who and what we truly are, what we are capable of, what has been given to us.
We have lost our ability to rightly understand life, our lives; love, how to love vulnerably and honestly; hope, for we hope in things that are superficial and vanish; joy, for we believe we can find happiness and satisfaction in things; our kindred, for we lose our ability for relationships and the life sustaining presence that they provide; fullness, for the downward spiral can’t stop and we become lesser and lesser of what we were created to be until we are – lost.
God has shown us the way out of the mire. We, I truly think instinctively, know where to go to find the way out, but we don’t. We often would rather be blind, illiterate regarding life, and believe we know better. We find ourselves descending into silliness and confusion and harm. God has shown us the way out. Will we listen, will we heed his call, will we take the steps necessary to find the Way that makes us whole again?

Just be…

I was part of a panel discussion this last Thursday after the premier of the revival of the play, The Runner Stumbles, off-broadway (The Beckett Theater, 42nd St. between 9th and 10th Ave’s). The play is produced/acted by a theater group in which a life-long friend of Ashton’s is an assistant producer, actor, director, and all that kind of stuff. She contacted me about the panel, made up of clergy – Roman Catholic Jesuit, two Episcopalians (myself and Bishop Roskam of New York), and a Reformed rabbi. Well acted play, and a good panel discussion at least according to audience and producers.
I’m reading the book unChristian right now. It comes from the president of Barna Research Group and details the findings of a three-year study concerning the perception of American Christians and Christianity by “outsiders” – those who don’t claim to be Christians. It is geared to the American-Evangelical/Born-Again side of the Church universal. The findings suggest that at least for Gen X & Y (Busters and Mosaics, according to the author), Christianity and Born-Again Christians have a very bad image among non-Christians in this country. I don’t think this is really new news, except for Born-Again Christians (according to the research findings). It seems most Born-Again Christians think that “outsiders” have an impression of them as people of integrity, caring and concern, honesty, and general respect. It ain’t so!
Anyway, reading this book, which while articulating the problem well doesn’t present much more than a PR makeover as a solution (sadly), and participating in the panel discussion, and other general life-experiences here in New York City, tell me that there really is a great interest in spirituality among “outsiders.” Christians have a bad rap, and nowadays I believe that the bad rap comes from the bad examples exemplified by that part of the Church in ascendancy right now – Evangelical/Born-Again Christians. Most of the audience for this play, which concerns the tragic lives of a Roman Catholic priest and nun in rural upper Michigan at the turn of the last century, was older. Yet, there is a lot of interest expressed by younger people who visit St. Paul’s (the generations dealt with in the study and book). I think the interest is there, but we do a terrible job meeting people where they are, dealing with concerns and questions they are actually asking, and presenting the truth of the Gospel of Christ and the life in ways they can receive/understand/deal with.
Anglicanism is uniquely situation to take into account these two younger generations, but right now rather than being good examples we are battling over issues that those generations aren’t concerned with and are being thrown into division by extremist elements on the right and left. We, not just the American-Evangelicals, are being poor examples, too. All of us are struggling to find our true selves, find God, and find ways of living that are actually helpful in finding a good and peaceable life. This is a key element in the play and the book. What are our answers and what is our example?
There is the aspect of, “just be!”