My newest podcast, called Porn Nation, is taken from a chapter I wrote for a forthcoming book by Chalice Press called Oh God, Oh God, OH GOD! which deals with a wide range of topics on faith and sexuality. The book is due out February, 2010, and is the first volume in the new WTF? (Wheres the Faith?) book series focusing on young adults.
Archive for July, 2009
When left behind takes on new meaning
(Originally published in PULP)
The phrase left behind brings to mind for most people the apocalyptic religious fiction series, apparently scaring people into adhering to Christian doctrine or else. But for me, it raises strong feelings about what sucks the most about being a part of organized religion.
If theres one word that defines the relevance of a community of faith, its just that: community. Sure, we can practice faith alone on a mountaintop or study it in a book, but as my wife, Amy says, a book cant visit you in the hospital, and a mountain cant hug you back.
Theres a basic human need for community that started in primitive times when we, not being the fastest, fiercest or strongest species, had to depend on one another for survival. Since then, community has remained an essential part of our social fabric, and certainly not just in religion. But in that context, community not only provides love and support, but at its best, it also stretches and challenges us to become more as part of the whole than we are on our own.
The hard part, especially when you commit to the community over the long term, is that you set yourself up to be left, over and again. For some, communities of faith and, I expect, other communities too are there simply to serve them, to accommodate them like a pair of shoes. If the fit becomes less than ideal, or if something new and exciting comes along, they split.
For some, dealing with the inevitable conflict that comes from being a tightly-knit, interdependent group is worse than starting fresh. So again, they walk. Its kind of like being committed to a relationship where youre always the one getting dumped, and never the other way around.
Of course, this sort of vulnerability is a part of any relationship. Its just that the traditional values of sticking with one particular group, simply because or out of a sense of moral obligation, has changed with the increasingly dynamic nature of our culture.
We see it everywhere; people stay in jobs for less time than in the past, but we also get laid off more suddenly. So why do we owe a company our lifelong fidelity if they will turn on us at the next economic downturn? And sure, marriage is a nice idea, but weve seen enough divorce and infidelity to compromise any sense of permanence the institution held before. So it may work for us right now, but theres always an exit clause, right?
In a perfect world, communities of faith would be the welcome exception to this cultural norm. When we made a covenant to one another and to the Divine to stick it out, thats what we mean for better or worse. But I think before we can expect others to follow in this spirit, the institutions themselves have much healing and re-creation to do from within.
Its not religions job to accommodate, and to ensure comfort and customer satisfaction for all comers. However, it is incumbent upon all who call themselves sanctuaries to offer the hope, healing, nurturing and love that allows each of us to feel were a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Over time, this mantra may become practice so that its something in which we can trust again. Until then, we may just have to stick together, behaving as if we get what we need from one another. Hopefully, by committing to one another, we can live into the community we imagine we might someday be.