Sunday, March 07, 2004

Somebody 'splain, please
"Faith unexamined is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind."

It has come to my attention that in my former parish, Forward Day by Day, the little devotional booklets that list each day's Bible readings with an accompanying short meditation, have been removed from the racks in the church. It is apparently just too liberal.

A few months ago, I had heard a fellow vestryman talk about taking the booklet away from his wife to protect her little mind from its corrupting influence, but I didn't understand what he was talking about. Now I understand my former rector has the same dim view of the devotional.

To use some of the language I've been hearing from certain parties, I am baffled. I am perplexed. I am bewildered.

Why should this staid bastion of church lady-ness now be considered heretical? It seems to me to be a bulwark of middle-of-the-road conservatism, as controversial as vanilla pudding. To try to decipher this mystery, I picked up the Aug.-Sept.-Oct. issue that was conveniently at hand (the current issue, obtained from my current parish, is in the other room with my Bible.)

Let's see.

Oh, dear. Look at the meditation from Aug. 26, an essay asking you not to automatically discard something that doesn't fit in your box marked "religion." (Reference: Acts 26:24-27:8, "I am not mad..but I am speaking the sober truth.") The essay addresses someone who chose holistic healing as a treatment for cancer and the congregation "had the rector speak to her because with those views [which they considered New Age] she didn't belong in their box marked Christian. Some wanted her banned from the altar rail."

The author asks you to consider, "How many times have you looked the other way, discounted a person, written them off as mad because the truth they spoke was outside of your comfort zone, outside of your box marked Christian?"

Humm. My great-aunt, a tea-totaling, Bible-carrying, ladies'-church-tea hosting lady, was also a firm believer in holistic medicine, way back in the 1930s and 1940s. (She lived into her 90s). I guess it's a good thing she was a Baptist and didn't have to worry about being refused communion at the altar rail.

Here's one I bet the the AAC-card carriers find offensive, the most "liberal" in tone, and talking about sexuality: the entry from Aug. 30. The Biblical reference is Mark 14:43-52, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple and you did not seize me."

The meditation writer says, "Yesterday, Jesus was saying, we laughed and talked and told stories. Today you are treating me like a wanted person. What changed? Am I different?"

The difference was the writer's daughter phoned to tell her she (the daughter) was in a lesbian relationship.

The writer continues, "Finally, I thought, I loved her before the call, what's changed? What made me reel? It was my need to conform to the rules of the society around me How often do I go along? ... What would happen if you stepped out and dared to listen to the voice of God within you and not to the voice of your co-worker, neighbors, or the media?"

I guess this is shocking, indeed. Imagine loving your daughter, regardless, with the same love the Father lavishes on you. How heretical. How apostate. I guess this woman and her daughter should be refused at the altar rail, too.

In a very controlling atmosphere, the greatest heresy is thinking, thinking for yourself -- not blindly accepting what you are told to think and believe. Thinking is a very threatening activity in some quarters.

Yes, this bland, innocent-seeming booklet is full of heresy, asking us to examine our preconceptions, to think just a little "outside the box." I'm sure it has gained no favor in certain quarters by being an agency of the Episcopal Church.

Maybe there should be a book-burning in the church parking lot.

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