They Keep On Asking

I received a note from Seattle University today, asking if I’d give them some cash. It’s funny – I’ve been chatting up by family and a few other people about this lately: I spent the last 20 years or so as perhaps the most committed Catholic I know. Not that I was a party line kind of guy – but I was at church every Sunday (sometimes two or three times on a weekend) with my guitar, I was up on the current theology and politics and so on.

And yet – in the past 18 months – my sense of integrity started to twitch. It was a combination of stupid rules (you gots to kneel, brother or stand – but only when we tell you!) and a sense of un-just behavior that tipped me over the edge. The current pope hasn’t helped – he’s probably a nice guy – but his idea of moving the church forward is more about moving the church back. Until I can stand up at church, with my guitar, and feel like my friends who are gay, divorced, former clergy, or women are receiving great treatment – I don’t really want to go back.

But I don’t want to go somewhere else, either – so – you can see the gap. It’s a bit like your first language – everyone has one. In the religious world – the catholic tradition is my first language, and I like most of it a lot. Lutheran tradition is great. So is the Jewish tradition, and a bit of the Baptist. And the Methodist. I bet there is a lot to like about a lot of the others, Christian or not.

But I don’t want any of those, I want the catholic tradition -but a better one. The one that I mostly experienced growing up, and in high school and at University, and at most of the churches where I have played. I want the emphasis to be on creating a community that is large, not small. Where the emphasis is on people, and not rules. Where justice matters more than doctrine. Where inequality is challenged, top to bottom. Where new is welcome and old is celebrated. Inclusion, not exclusion. Lately, my metric for the catholic church goes like this: If they are working to exclude rather than include (for any reason, almost) I don’t want a part of it.

It’s odd – because my sense of wonder at the world and my place in it hasn’t changed any – it’s just the public expression of that which has changed. I still believe in the goodness of the world, and the goodness of humans (despite how I feel when I commute in a car). And I believe that it is bigger than me – that it is more important than me – so – something or someone, somewhere, got it started. Jesus, God, Buddha, Mohammed – take your pick. The particular doesn’t concern me so much – just like kneeling or standing doesn’t. It’s an interesting place, and a little uncomfortable, too.

I wonder what will happen next.


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