Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reflections During the High Holy Days, Part One: Why I'm Still Here


I can truly understand the criticisms of those who feel religions do more harm than good. I don't agree, because I think there often exist in such criticisms a willful neglect of the good inspired by so many faiths, but I can definitely see the harm people can do in the name of their interpretations of their own religions and why the bitter opinions arise.

I'll be the first to admit that of all the times I've ever felt like rolling my eyes at, taking by the shoulders and shaking, or feeling totally embarrassed for the Catholic Church, this current period ranks right up there with any number of historic moments people have pointed to ad nauseum as evidence for why the institutional Church sucks.

And I can understand why Christians in general, not just the Catholic ones, can be a real turn-off. Who wouldn't be frustrated by a group that seems, despite a Messiah who taught, "Do not judge," to be comprised of some of the most judgmental people on the planet?

Then there's Islam. The religion of peace if one looks at all my wonderful Muslim friends and colleagues, but just the opposite if you're choosing to look only at Islamists: the misguided militant, the suicide bombers in Russia and the Middle East. If it's hard to be a Christian in today's world, it's probably even harder to be a true and faithful Muslim.

I have tried to learn about many of the world's religions in an effort to develop my own beliefs, moral convictions, and practices. I embrace the interconnectedness taught in many faiths of the near and far east, but I cannot relate to spirituality that seeks to cultivate indifference or imperviousness to physical realities, relationships, and sufferings, or to distance individuals from the world they inhabit. Archbishop Oscar Romero once said, "The Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it." I related more to that kind of statement of faith than any other. Faith, for me, is a way of seeing the world and living in it, not a set of beliefs. I want my faith to put me in the trenches.

Why, by this time, have I not left this troubled Church, with its frustrating history and frustrating issues and frustrating people?

Part of the answer can be understand by simply substituting the word "family" for "Church." It's home. I may need a break sometimes, but in the end I've accepted an identity that is rooted in the stories, symbols, pains, and hopes of this ancient People.

Another part of the answer is the person of Jesus. I won't go into my understanding of him here - that's a reflection for another day, and perhaps even another blog. But as I've tried to examine how the leaders or founders of religions have lived - not their successors, necessarily, who may have distorted their messages or used power to hurt rather than heal - I've asked myself questions like, Have they valued children and other powerless members of society? Treated women with respect (or disrespect)? Waged war? Regarded human beings as full of worth and wonder? I've concluded that Jesus is still the teacher from whom I want to learn the most important lessons.

So here I am. Still in the fold. Reluctantly at times, and in fact sometimes kicking and screaming and tearing my hair out, but definitely present and participating and trying to make my way. I may not believe some of what other Catholics believe, or express my beliefs in the same way, or even conceptualize Christ or the key ideas of Christian thought the way as many Catholics do, but I have an approach to scripture and an interpretation of Jesus' life that has enriched my own life and work, so for me faith, despite the struggles, has been a positive force.

I've been feeling contemplative lately, more so now that the Triduum is upon us, so stay tuned for "Part Two" wherein I may try to grapple with some questions that are probably thousands of years old.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

T, you say it so well! This Triduum is a time of frustration for me. I, too, remain, but with a sense of shame this year.