Tuesday, November 29, 2005

an article and then a ramble

American Prospect Online - Having It Both Ways

i talk about my dad a lot here. i can't help it. he's the one guy (if not the only guy) i totally respect. he was the major intellectual force for me when i was growing up. for as long as i can remember he said that he was a rampant individualist. his individualism can be seen in his ministry, one that advocates an eschewing of 'group think' and encourages a congregation to turn individually to the bible and give their fat cat preacher a big bitch slap for stepping out of line. (i paraphrase.)

it's difficult to maintain a congregation when you continually encourage them to mutiny, but such was the paradox of my dad's ministry.

while such rampant individualism is useful (innovation, imagination, sense of self in relation to others - basically, it makes you no one's fool) it's problematic when there is no community to surround the individual. for instance, i was talking to my father right after the katrina disaster and was encouraging him to tell his congregation to be more involved with the disaster efforts. he told me they were involved but he also said, my ministry is more of a spiritual one, not a social one. that was a little disturbing for me and i wondered if this was what was making me draw away from a particular kind of christian faith.

i'm not comfortable with the spiritual/social binary the church seems to be stuck on. while i love the Gray Lady, i do wish there was more...preaching. our social stances i am totally happy with. our focus on living as a community of faith is one that renews me. but there's that third thing i just wish there was more of. like, the other night my roomie and i were getting our tongues tied around the name gethsemane (it's the name of a local garden shop). i said, you know - it's the garden where they captured jesus.

she was totally blank and she called it 'catholic' to know details of the bible like that. she shrugged, we mainliners don't think about the details of the bible. we just like the ideas.

that kind of disturbed me. for me, the ideas and the details are all important. i'm not saying that bible trivia is necessary for a fully realized faith, but it sure as hell helps to know the effing basics!

and on the other side of the spectrum, where my dad's church is, i wish there was more of a sense of community. it's fine to be well-versed in complicated matters of doctrine, to know the bible like it's your best friend, but what does all of this mean when you don't recognize that those around you are your neighbors?

what's the point when all you can concentrate on is your muscular christian/individual spiritual walk with jesus when you can't think about other sojourners along the way?

wow. i'm totally rambling. but i'm serious. what's the point? and why don't presbyterians carry their own bible to church?? what's up with that?

6 comments:

john patrick said...

Ug! I know about Gesthemene, but not because it's Catholic. Everyday Catholics just call it "the Garden" as in "Agony in the..."

I'll tell you what Catholic is; Catholic is validating and lifting up the existence of straight men... and absolutley no one else. THAT'S what Catholic is, apparently.

Yes, I'm looking for a fight.

Ah, good preaching. Breaking open the Word, we call it. It is scarce nowadays, and in some faith communities (including my own, sometimes) it's looked upon as a preacher's exercise in vanity. I went to a workshop on liturgical worship a couple of years ago...

Well, before I get myself into too much trouble, let's just say this: some people care about the outreach, some people care about the theological... and some people even care about the liturgical.... The trick is to find a community that is good at all three.

I can't answer for the presbyterians... I can tell you about us catholics.... but Ding, I'd like you to express what it means for you for everyone to show up to church with their own Bible. I remember you telling me (ahem) 10 years ago, and I remember your words being very compelling.

ding said...

jp, you're going to have to remind me what i said 10 years ago. i'm sort of afraid of what i said.

here's a story why it's important to me: when i first moved to michigan one of the earliest things i did was find a church. i went to the closest baptist church to my apartment. it was an american baptist congregation that provided bibles for you. one sunday the pastor, a very nice man, quoted a scripture - that did not exist. i looked around and no one even flinched.

and there i was flipping through my bible wondering, 'did i miss a tab or something?'

it was sloppy. maybe he misquoted. maybe he mistakenly gave the wrong chapter and verse. but how would any of those people know?

not knowing is awful.

jesus chick said...

not knowing IS awful. knowing and not doing is even worse.

john patrick said...

d, it was something about literacy and empowerment and even a sense of personal responsibility.

I remember you told me about that and it totally struck me.

Remember? Then I told you that in the Catholic tradition, I told you that the Word is primarily proclaimed and heard, rather than read. We stand to hear the Gospels. And you said something like, so they only know the parts of the bible that the church feeds them? And then I said, yah, well theoretically we read the entire entire bible in three-year cycles, if you go to Mass daily. And I remember that struck you.

Remember?

The three-year cycle is a tradition that grew out of centuries of poverty and illiteracy. It makes less sense now, in literate America, but old habits... Besides, what are we supposed to do... CHANGE?

Anonymous said...

...for instance, i was talking to my father right after the katrina disaster and was encouraging him to tell his congregation to be more involved with the disaster efforts. he told me they were involved but he also said, my ministry is more of a spiritual one, not a social one. that was a little disturbing for me and i wondered if this was what was making me draw away from a particular kind of christian faith.



I here ya Ding, because faith without works is DEAD!

Thank God for Dads, though(smile)

ding said...

jp,
i do vaguely remember that. (wow, you can remember that far back.)

i still think that way; it's clearly a result of growing up under a pastor who thought empowering a congregation was better than merely standing in front of a bunch of sheeple.

to carry and study one's own bible means to be engaged with what you believe. but i also understand about the catholic tradition of reading the bible in 3 year cycles. and forgot why there's all the sitting and standing - it's to recognize the word of God. (though presbyterians don't do what episcopalians do, quite.)

(it really takes 3 years? and do you read everything? like, amos?)