Thursday, June 08, 2006

An open letter to my atheist/agnostic/anti-Christian pals

Christians aren't perfect. We aren't. We're not perfect individually and we're not perfect as a group. We don't --or at least shouldn't-- claim to be anything other than flawed and human. Feet in the mud, head in the clouds. You know the deal. We (and it's hard saying "we" because "Christian" covers a lot of ground considering there are just about 2 billion of us) are all failures in a sense because that's what happens when imperfect beings are given a perfect law. That's where Grace comes in, but that's a different sermon.

As y'all know --or might not know-- I was raised first pagan then atheist and, to my surprise, received The Call to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church when I was 19. I can't explain The Call to someone who hasn't had it, except to say it's like a female orgasm; not everyone who thinks they've had one has had one, but when you know you've had one, you know.

I'm turning 27 next month and will only this fall begin serious work towards the priesthood (quick FAQ: yes we wear a collar, yes we can marry and have sex, yes we can be gay, no we don't think you're going to go to hell if you don't agree with us, yes I'd like another Scotch) which may not even turn out. Just because I say I got The Call doesn't mean I'll make it into ordained ministry.

And I don't suck.

I mean, I have done some terrible things in my life --some on purpose, most through carelessness-- but as a general rule I'd like to think of myself as a pretty decent person. I try to treat others well, I don't have problems with people who don't agree with me and I do my best to remember that old Three Legged Stool (Three legged stool = the process of Anglican decision making that says all choices should be made in light of Tradition, Scripture --which I think is a weak point because you can make the Bible say anything-- and Reason, see how Reason's in there too?) Usually I succeed, sometimes I fail.

The biggest trap that we set for ourselves as Christians --and that other people set for us-- is following Scripture. No one can follow every direction in the Bible all the time. Right now I'm wearing a cotton/linen blend. That's against the laws of Leviticus. Anyone who thinks they can collect enough Bible brownie points to get themselves into Heaven, is sorely missing the entire point of Grace.

The Fundamentalists seem to be setting themselves up for failure, or at least hypocrisy, this way. Oh, and about those Fundamentalist. I suspect that's what giving Christians a bad name. A group of misguided --though probably well intentioned-- folks. Of course, when they make some money they then become "The Religious Right."

The "Religious Right?" I suspect they represent the average Christian just about as well as Al Qaeda represents your average Muslim. Folks may hate the RR (I don't but I think they're sorely confused and not doing much of anything but shooting themselves in the collective feet) but that doesn't mean you should hate all of us. Hating or mistrusting a group of people because of the actions of a few. Isn't there a word for that?

There is no such thing as a perfect Christian --well, there was but we killed him-- the rest of us are slobs like me, wallowing towards redemption. We're not dragging gay people from church or picketing abortion clinics. We're just trying to live right, pay rent and maybe have enough money left over to see The Weary Boys and have a beer.

That's all. Peace be with You.


Anonymous Glen said...

The three-legged stool decision making process — based on Rationality, Tradition, and Scripture is pretty darned good. My only complaint is that we’re counting one leg twice. Scripture IS Tradition. Granted, it’s an anthology of (mostly*) VERY old oral traditions cobbled together into a semi-cohesive whole. It’ been extensively tinkered with** by folks with very serious agendas.
* That last chunk of the Lord’s Prayer (you know the one we’re to use in our closets) "For thine is kingdom asn the power … etc. is a newer addition to the text.
** There was the credibility fight between John’s and Thomas’ partisans — see negative campaigning in John Re: Doubting Thomas" and that bit that runs: all the disciples gathered EXCEPT THOMAS etc. Rearranging the order of the books of the Old Testament book order to plug our Christian agenda was not exactly kosher, if you see what I mean. Also remember the Diet of Worms (not only does it merely sound icky, committee work almost always IS icky)

We do what we can with what we gotand hope for grace to make up the difference.

12:56 PM  
Blogger RuthRE said...

good post, send it to the papers, it should be read by many

9:57 PM  
Blogger Pink Shoes said...

I intended to comment on this earlier, when I first read it, but... well, whatever my excuse, I'm back.

I loved this letter and felt that it honestly and openly expressed and discussed what's at the heart of the issue, and on the heart of many of us who strain to explain that we're not like "those Christians." Thanks for posting and exploring this whole question.

6:09 PM  

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