Monday, June 26, 2006

The Eminence of Distraction

Yesterday, I had a parishioner hand me a clipped out Op-Ed piece written by Cal Thomas. I have never been particularly enamored of his politics, nor of his style of engagement. For the most part, I perceive him as a slightly older and perhaps more original Ann Coulter. People who need to create, foster and engender controversy in order to be heard sadden me. Why can't people simply express ideas? Do we have to make the people on the other side of the issue demons? Yet again, in an increasingly polarized world, I see folk who could lead us more deeply into accord instead encouraging us to figure out how to blame someone else in order to feel better about our own lot in life--usually in an attempt to justify our own views and opinions, and to preserve them from challenge.

I suppose, if we can just get people to reject someone who is our polemical opponent, then we can claim victory. Thing is, I see that as eminently self-defeating. Perhaps I have a genetic predisposition toward holism, but I grew up in a family and in a Church that placed relationship above "being right." Better yet, I am proud to claim that I don't have all the answers. I am struggling to pull together enough wisdom in order to begin to ask the questions.

For most folks who are looking to this past General Convention of the Episcopal Church for some confirmation of our inept stumbling into heresy, or for affirmation of some radicalized agenda of inclusion at the expense of the kerygma of the Church's deep history and knowledge of itself, I am sorry to say that they are going to be disappointed. My impression of this year's GenCon was that it continues to be a microcosm of what is happening in the world of faith around us. We are striving to keep a moderate center while the extremes pull harder and harder at the edges of our sense of ourselves. Be you progressive or reactionary, the opportunity to be disappointed and upset is assured. One deputy of the diocese of San Joaquin said it best with regard to a piece of legislation pertaining to the Windsor Report: "We worked hard on this resolution. There is something in it to disappoint everyone."

It is about time we got over being opposed to each other and on with the business of being the Church. Over the past couple of months, I have found myself becoming increasingly impatient with the little, internecine battles we continue to fight when the greater challenge is to offer the hand of fellowship to each other and to worship, in active service to the poor, God. At least, I see Christ offering that model up to us, again and again.

This past Sunday, I preached to two Gospel stories: the first was Jesus' stilling of the storm and the second was Jesus' exorcism of the Gerasene daemoniac. Both tales are easily discounted as Jesus yet again demonstrating to us his "Super JC" abilities. We can rest assured in our faith that the man with the beard and toga will show up in the narrative again and again to fix what is broken. That is a surface reading, though. Jesus is doing something in these two events that can be quite frightening. He is affecting the world in an attempt to teach us to see the events and relationships in our lives in a new light. In the midst of the storm, with the boat about to be swamped and the people lost in the tumult, he simply stands and says "Quiet." And it is-to a dead calm. What now? All it took was faith to bring the inner stillness out into the open. What will we do with it, now that it is here? And what of the adrenaline rush of the storm? What will we be, for instance, without those storms in our lives--storms of controversy, or rejection, or inclusion, or of struggling to be the one who is right?

What also is to be said of the Gerasenes? After they encounter the former daemoniac, they beg Jesus to leave the country as soon as possible. To have that sort of transforming power in the neighborhood is as threatening as the daemoniac was, once upon a time.

So, we humans struggle with being in accord. What would happen if we could actually agree to disagree and still get on with the business of being the Church? What would happen if people like Cal Thomas, who take exception to our actions as a Church without actually being members, might be stirred to learn more, discern more and seek answers to questions about the motivations and reasons behind our actions in common life...Instead of actively condemning us with only half the truth in hand?

It might be a very different world.


  1. I could not agree more!! Stay the course!

  2. Well said, Mark. Jesus proclaimed right relationships, not necessarily right belief.