One of the weird-but-nice things about my online congregation is how incredibly diverse we are.
The same thing happens to every other vicar. I wonder how they manage it; some days I wonder how I do.
I’ve got an anti-abortion state rep from Oklahoma following me; she used to be with NARAL. But most of my followers are pro-choice, as I am; I’m opposed to abortion as a general principle, but I want it to be legal – because women have always sought it, in every time and place, and I want them to be safe.
My mother considered aborting my brother. I’m glad she didn’t, but when she explained her reasons I could well understand. She was afraid my dad would kill her, which was a constant threat we lived with for 25 years.
Why men blame women for getting pregnant is beyond me; it does take two to tango.
The fortunate news for me is that the Daily Office is really not concerned with abortion, but the simple-complex praise of God. The prayer service is mostly Bible with an added theme or two, and Holy Scripture doesn’t address abortion, unless (like the Vatican) you stretch “Be fruitful and multiply” beyond all recognition. Thus I can happily welcome this Oklahoma woman, who has obviously been wrestling with herself on the subject for years. I’m glad she comes sometimes; she helps me by her presence to remember that “my ways are not your ways, nor are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”
I mean, Josh’s opinion is not authoritative on anything. I might like it to be, but then, you know, I do prattle on. (And here you are, reading more of my prattle.)
Who isn’t pro-life? We’re all pro-life. And we should be; I certainly don’t want fetuses aborted for being Gay. I don’t want them aborted at all, if a woman can avoid it.
But I grew up with my dad, and I’ve seen how violent some men are. So I don’t like abortion, but don’t you dare send my mother to a back alley; Don’t You Even Dare.
That prayer site gets Protestants and Catholics; being an Episcopalian, I swing both ways. Some days I’m a total Catholic; but then Maureen Dowd writes another column (like yesterday’s), wondering why her church is so out of touch and out of date, and I want to shout, “The Protesters were right!”
She never seems to grasp why there was a Protestant Reform-ation. I guess if you go to Catholic school, the nuns just brush right over it.
(Of course there aren’t really nuns anymore in Catholic schools; the pope’s doing his best to get rid of them all. They don’t worry enough about abortion and homosexuality, he says. They’re too worried about the poor.)
But there’s poor Maureen, trying to make sense of her Church again, invoking JFK and Vatican II for the umpteenth time, like they were going to solve the structural problems inherent in the Church According to Rome.
If you set up a dictatorship, it means you follow the dictator. I don’t cry for you, Argentina.
They want married priests now; they’re right about it, though they happen to be 500 years late. They want women priests too, and they’re right about that; but not in your lifetime, Maureen. Wait a few centuries, then maybe.
Otherwise I’m all for mainstream Catholic theology. It’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous, it’s ennobling; it makes us better people.
Just leave out the sex, because they’re all screwed up about that.
I am Protestant and Catholic; that’s what’s unique about the English Reformation. The way we got here was bloody awful, but as a 21st century American I couldn’t be happier with my Church.
We have a woman Presiding Bishop. I don’t like her – she’s cold, political, calculating – but I thank God for her. Maybe she’ll wind up in a BBC mini-series someday, if the Brits can ever get past their own navel-gazing. She could give Tom Becket a run for his money (especially if Judi Densch gets the starring role).
My congregation reflects the democracy of the internet. We’re pro-Gay and anti-, Catholic and Protestant, Pentecostal and Baptist, American and Filipino.
This is the mind-blowing legacy of Thomas Cranmer, an English Catholic (married) priest who boiled the seven-times-a-day prayers of monastic life into a twice-daily discipline that ordinary people can follow. It’s almost all Bible; you can’t go wrong.
I don’t get why everyone’s not Episcopalian. It’s the only church on earth that makes any sense!
(Of course, it’s very English, and yes, that causes problems, and it’s this too much and it’s that too little. It has a million problems. – But not the essential ones: popes going off half-cocked or TV preachers building cults of personality. Prosperity Gospel? You’ve got to be kidding me.)
Meanwhile I’ve got business executives who come to the site, and ministers with outreach to the homeless. I depend on them, and they depend on me.
I’ve got Gay people and Straight people; neo-cons and Marxists. We’re all just trying to get by; to invite into our lives a little solace, a little strength, a little holiness – because we need it; because we’re sinners. Because we’re loved.
God’s love knows no bounds – and that includes insurance guys, radical feminists, the whole conglomeration of humanity.
I struggle to respond to them sometimes. I worry that my words carry too much weight, that the choices I make (especially in the art and captions) don’t reflect them accurately, don’t nourish them enough, don’t enable them to worship together with people who aren’t like them at all.
I worry it’s a cult of personality. I know there are people who come because I write it.
I want to have fans, but Jesus is the One who matters, not me.
So I can get confused. For example: I have no doubt Barack Obama will win the Episcopalian vote. (That woman PB tells you all you need to know, without dictating a single vote. As a Church, we’re feminists; that’s our moral stance. We’re pro-Gay and pro-choice and we even collect rainwater from downspouts, which is really ridiculous where I live, 75 miles south of the Great Lakes.)
But it may well be that some percentage of my congregation sincerely believes, as a matter of moral conviction, that Mitt Romney is the better choice for president, and I have to respect that.
I cannot follow their reasoning, but if the Daily Office is really for everybody, I have to be welcoming to everybody.
Sometimes this becomes a great challenge; I couldn’t begin to tell you what a rector goes through, dealing with a swath of humanity.
I’m not wise enough to know how to be Jesus. All I can be is Josh, who is no one to take dictation from.
The good news of course is that I don’t have to be Jesus, and I wasn’t put here for this purpose. All God ever asks of me is to be Josh; a better Josh than I am, but “Josh” is good enough. When you love someone, you don’t repeal their very nature; I can’t say “God loves you” unless that applies to me too.
God is infinitely respectful of our unique personalities. The same God who loves me loves you – and the banker, the tailor, the candlestick maker.
I wish I were a better vicar, but I’m not going to beat myself up. We’re all doing the best we can here.
So as I reflect on the burdens and joys of being Episcopalian, someone Catholic and Protestant both, this is the best I can come up with for now: if God loves him and her and him, then I have to learn how, too.
“How” is another matter; I couldn’t begin to tell you how, unless it’s by listening, and respecting, and allowing, and forgiving. Wide latitude is what my Church preaches, even if I sometimes wish it wouldn’t.
I’ve lately declared that dailyoffice.org is a Safe Place for GLBT people; no homophobic comments allowed. (Very few were offered, but there are trolls in this internet universe). My particular gift, I think, or mission or calling, is inviting Gay people back to church. That’s what I want, for Gay-Les-Bi-Trans people to feel safe enough to meet the Living God.
In a way that’s all I want. Just meet him-or-her, and be safe. She can take it from there. (And she doesn’t depend on me to issue the invitation.)
But I also have to be open to people who are in a different place. We don’t all get hit with the Gay Lib Bolt of Lightning; it comes and goes.
I had a chance recently to engage with the mother of a Gay son; she’s come a long way and favors same-sex marriage, although she can’t get past her interpretation of the hammer verses.
We ended up deciding that we could take Communion together, which is the sine qua non of Christian life.
God doesn’t require us to agree; we can be both Protestant and Catholic. We can be neither or both or whatever we want; that’s just theology, which is really not uppermost in God’s mind.
Who eats together? That’s what she cares about.
Because that’s where the healing happens, where love can start to flower; I see you, and you see me, and we can be at peace with one another. That’s what God cares about.
Because she knows that when people eat together, we come away feeling satisfied. We’re at peace; we don’t fight.
The whole of the Christian religion is there in the meal; that’s why the Catholics are right. Jesus said, “Do this,” and he didn’t say, “Once a month, or once a quarter, or once a year, or once a lifetime, or if you feel like it, or if you don’t.” He said, “Do this.” I take that as a commandment.
If you get bread and wine you’re good to go.
So help me, Lord, I don’t know how to deal with these insurance people! Republicans! Capitalists! They’re everywhere! Some of them are even Gay-bashers, which really ticks me off! At least they vote for people who are!
God does not approve of bashers. Beyond that, we need to learn to get along.++