I just received a note from modenook.com informing me that it had been six months since I’d written an article. I had all the best intentions of beginning to write again. First at Advent. Then at Christmas. Then Epiphany. Most recently, I was fully prepared (of course I was) to begin at Lent.
But, as is often the case in life, the unexpected happens. The note moved me. I didn’t expect to be moved. I receive notes from modenook.com all the time. But this time was different. I was moved by the fact that though I’ve not written in such a long time, people have been reading my old articles. If people are taking the time to tune in, they deserve my best efforts and they deserve current writing.
I also felt guilty, an emotion that I think we need to revive. One should feel guilty for certain things, like having taken on a commitment and then not fulfilling it. The reason I’ve not written is not because I’m lazy, but because in reading all the Christian related Google alerts that I get everyday, I’ve had something of a crisis of faith. I don’t like much of what goes on in the name of the Church or in the name of Jesus these days. Whether it’s the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, or the condemnation of gay and lesbian people, or the pseudo-religious political hate speech that fills our airwaves, or, frankly, bad liturgy and lackluster theology, it all began to turn me off to my religion.
But today I began to think about all the good that goes on in the name of the Church and in the name of Jesus. Hospitals, orphanages, food banks, projects to rebuild communities devastated by war or nature, true and sincere worship, and so much more. If the Church is going to reemerge as a force for good, perhaps I could play a part in such a revival. Certainly by calling out abuses, but also by identifying solutions, and most definitely by pointing to that which is good and recommending how we can amplify it.
So what does it mean to me to be a “liberal Christian” given that’s the title under which I write? From a social justice perspective, it means I would rather err on the side of forgiveness, and gentleness, and inclusion. But, contrary to what many might think, being a liberal Christian does not mean “everything goes” or that I have no beliefs.
Christianity, in my estimation, demands something of us, and the Church is failing because we’ve engaged “lowest common denominator” everything – theology, liturgy, preaching – out of desperation to fill the pews. Our desire to make everything easy and to erase our uniqueness has resulted in further decline, not in growth. In short, we’ve expected nothing and we’ve received nothing in return.
In many ways, I am a traditionalist, and my theology reflects that. The first seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the Catholic creeds, sacred scripture, and sacred tradition form the foundation of my faith.
Nor does being a liberal Christian mean that I find of any kind of worship acceptable. I have a great distaste for anthropocentric, personality-oriented mega-festivals; for happy-clappy, performance-oriented services “shows”; and for sloppy, poorly executed “traditional” services. In my estimation we should offer our very best to God, most particularly in divine worship. Whether a sermon-oriented protestant service, or a traditional Latin Mass, nothing less than our best offering is demanded of us.
This is the perspective through which I view all things religious. I look forward to sharing my insights with you on the state of the Church in the days and months to come, and to hearing your feedback. Today is the feast of the translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom, and these were said to be his last words: “Glory be to God for all things.”