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Anglican: Church and love of God (fwd)
> Thank you for your response. I still have questions, however.
Me too. o')
> > While admittedly hard to understand, I am not the first to notice and
> > value people who come to understand God's love outside the community of
> > those most conspicuously gathered and named as 'The Church.'
> If you mean through another religious tradition or another "quasi-religious"
> (quotes mean I can't find the right word just now) community--such as a 12
> step program (but not limited to them, they are just the ones I participate
> in)-- then I understand. But I still think there has to be *some*
> incarnated community for us to understand and experience love. Your original
> post *could* have been read to indicate that it was found without that--sort
> of a bolt from the sky thing, or an intellectual apprehension, or emotional
> conviction--and while that may happen to the mystics, they are rare enough to
> not make that a good procedural suggestion for others seeking to experience
> God's love.
Did the thief on the cross initially experience love in community? The
woman at the well? The Syro-Phoenecian woman?...
I share your strong conviction about love requiring a community, but I
cannot in good faith absolutize it. Nor is my emphasis the same as yours.
For me, the drive towards community is as a response to the love of God,
not as a prerequisite for experiencing it.
The church itself is often stifled, I believe, because we Christians
locate the church community as almost exclusively the place where we
experience God's love. That sends a very false message to many
non-Christians, that we think we have god all contained in these buildings
we build, in these rituals we perform together, and in our isolated
communnity. On the contrary, the energy that I experience in Eucharist
sends me forth into the world not to condemn it, not to treat it as if it
is not holy, but to to love it as much as I can, albeit never an adequate
reflection of the love that God has given to me expressly to share with
Nor is my love of the world conditional upon my getting the world back
into my parish. People who have come to the church because of my work
(and I am always amazed when they do), never come as a condition for my
caring about them; they come filled with the same love of God that I have
experienced to check out ways to network with others who have had
spiritual experiences--or sometimes to find out why I go, or....
> > My world is filled with faithful atheists, atheists to the God of Hate who
> > is so steadily preached to them. For example, some gay young people boogy
> > into the night and go from the dance hall to the hospice to clean up vomit
> > and excrement of AIDS patients--and they long ago fled the communities
> > that scorn them. I find it unimaginable that God is poised on a throne
> > waiting to say, "But ah, now abides faith, hope and love, but love counts
> > for naught if you have not said the creeds every Sunday and gathered with
> > those who think they are so much better than you are!"
> Another question. Is there any difference between the concept of love
> expressed by Christian faith, admittedly imperfectly and with a fair amount of
> evil mixed in (the church still awaits the eschaton) and the love expressed in
> other groupings? I ask because I do find the concept of a loving God
> expressed in AA and in the church to be subtly different theologically. I'm
> not always able to clearly describe it, but I am constantly aware that it is
> there. It's very easy and very trendy to say something like "there is more
> community and love in AA than in most Christian churches" (I've said it
> myself) but I am more and more coming to believe that that romanticizes AA and
> is a cheap shot against the churches. (AA is lucky in a way: you don't "get
> in" until you've "paid your dues" and done that first step. Churches have to
> accept just about anybody.)
All communities are different. I share your respect for those which have
been special to us as a means of grace. I don't want to risk idolizing
the institutions however.
I have never been a part of AA, but priests and lay alike whom I love and
value have frequently confided in me that AA is far richer as a source of
their spirituality than has been any parish of which they have been a
part. Many writers I know, especially poets, would specify circles of
friendship that have provided the richest access. I care an awful lot
about good Anglocatholic worship, and I have watched my parish fill
visitors whom I have brought there with awe such as they have never
experienced before, but far more fail to come back than the several who
do. Nor does the experience necessarily mean more to those who do come
back. We occasionally get sizeable bequests, for example, from persons
who visited only once or twice and spoke to noone...... God spoke to
This area is filled with much mystery, which I respect and would be
uncomfortable forcing into narrow certainties. Essentially we are talking
not about our work, but aoubt the work of the Holy Spirit.
> > Faith is not my gift to God, but God's gift to me. God has abundantly
> > loved me, more so than I have yet even begun to fathom, none of which I
> > profess to understand.
> Oh, absolutely.
My caveats to lesbigays, with which this chain began, relate to my views
expressed here, but also address something which I have not addressed in
this message, viz. the distinction I draw between systemic evil and
individual evil. I share your awareness that no community is ever perfect
and I agree that we would be foolish to cut ourselves off from human
community merely because we find sin in it, even sin widespread. Those
are risks common to us all, and the evil is evil in which we all share,
everyone of us.
Systemic evil is evil that occurs as a result of systems, often not even
consciously owned by us when we are the administrators of (or even unhappy
participants in) those systems--as when we pay taxes to support an unjust
war, for example, or when we pay tithes to institutions which are doing
little to reverse their inherited patterns of community segregation and
In our time we designate many systemic evils as -isms. I take those very
seriously, just as the Hebrew prophets did under other names.
Systemic heterosexism pervades our church as does racism and sexism. I do
not want my nephews and nieces to attend a parish outside their
community unless they are thoroughly grounded in their own worth; I would
never want them to wait for white persons to validate them, nor give white
people that option.
I do not want any girls to grow up expecting men to validate them.
I do not want any lesbigays to go to church expecting straight folk to
validated them; yet that validation is precisely the way in which most
discussions of lesbigay are raised in Christendom. O the church says that
it is talking about scripture, but were the church talking about
scripture, we would be sharing John 3:16 and taking its sole condition
much more seriously. We would not suddenly order a tract to find the 6
bible bullets no one ever mentioned in the first 30 years of my life in
the Bible Belt.
We who have experienced the love of God, have an obligation to come into
the Church to share that love There are congregations who have not
experienced it for years. There are also many congregations who have
inherited systemic evil that are most grateful for the prompt to peel it
off. Grace is amazing still.