The City, but not

This could have been another “City” post, but I’m not in the City right now. I haven’t had a real vacation in a long time, so I am taking one and spending a week in Provincetown, MA. I’ve had friends who have come here regularly for years and love it, so I thought that since it is a bit post-season and quite I would see what it is like.
It is full of bus loads of senior citizens on bus tours with nametags, that’s what it’s like. Not quite what I was expecting, but it is quiet right now. I’ve been the only one in the quest house for the past two nights.
Anyway, I was supposed to be going on a sunset sailing excursion this evening on the restored, oldest schooner still operating. It’s a great boat. There is no sun today, so I swung by the dock to tell the captain that I’m going to wait until tomorrow. He is a great, gregarious guy who loves to talk about what he does and tell stories about his lifetime of sailing. So, his schooner is named, “Hindu.” The original owner imported spices from India, thus “Hindu.” The original owner spelled it “Hindoo” which, according to the captain, many Indians find offensive.
A group of five decided to still go out on the excursion and the captain was explaining to them how so many Indian tourists come up and ask about the boat and why it is named “Hindu.” Then he said this, which is why I’m writing:
“You have to understand about the Indians and Hindu.” He tried to explain, “Hindu is like, well, like Irish. No, that isn’t a good example,” he said. “Hindu is like Jews. You know, it’s everything; it’s a religion; it’s a way of life. It’s everything about them. I was going to say like Irish Catholics,” he went on, “but, well, that religion isn’t everything to them – not something they do every day. Not like the Hindu’s or the Jew’s when it’s everything for them everyday,” he finished.
Isn’t that something? This could reveal a whole lot about Christians in general and Irish Catholics in particular (well, honestly, just about this person’s impression of Irish Catholics). I don’t think this guy is religious (although probably raised Irish Catholic), but his perception of Jews and Hindus as a people who truly live their faith (and culture so influenced by their faith) is far different from his impression of Irish Catholics, or Catholics, or perhaps Christians in general. I suspect this is the impression of too many non-religious folks or too many non-Christians.
I really think that most of the people in this country view “Christians” as not particularly committed to their faith – primarily because I think too many people see the rank hypocrisy and materialism of those who love the limelight and demand that all accept their version of what the Faith must be. And let’s face it, average American Christians sitting in pews and behind pulpits don’t do a very good job, either. The recent findings of religious literacy even among the born-again crowd show an abysmally low level of understanding of the Faith and the Bible.
Now, Mother Teresa or the Amish in the aftermath of the school shooting tragedy in Pennsylvania are different matters. There are good examples everywhere, even if they get little attention. But the Religious Right or the Religious Left? Nope. Both camps love to claim the mantle of the true expression of the Faith, but rarely does either live up to even the most basic of the ideals set before us by Jesus – or, at least in those who we readily see in the media and popular culture. “Power tends to corrupt,” and all that.
Frankly, and I’ve said this before, I do believe that there are less and less people in the West committing themselves to the organized Faith and intentionally striving to live by the teachings of Jesus (with the help of the Holy Spirit) because those already Christian do such a piss poor job experiencing the Faith themselves. We are living a deficient form of Christianity. There is little verifiable “difference” between the lives of self-professed Christians and those who aren’t, and too many self-professed Christians don’t see it.
The “difference” is found in the everyday life, the everyday interactions, and the change that is wrought within us when we truly turn our lives to the Light of Christ. It should be that the captain could say “Irish Catholics” (or any group of American Christians) and everyone could shake their heads because of the witness of the faith that exudes from their very being. (And yes, I’m sure the captain has a less-than-accurate vision of the faithfulness of those who practice Hinduism or Judaism.)
He asked me where I was staying. Then, before he got on his schooner he asked me whether I drove or not. He said, “If you didn’t, I have a car I was going to tell you that you could borrow.” That’s something.
Tomorrow, the American House of Bishops begins to meet. Let us watch and see whether the various interest groups world-wide and their media-hound leaders might provide for this captain a good and positive vision of what Jesus calls us to through their words and actions. Wouldn’t that be something?