Saturday, October 07, 2006

Really, I'm Not Offended By I Corinthians 13, Okay?

I participated in a Catholic wedding today, because the priest was sweet enough not to do that Catholic exclusionary thing I've encountered before and refuse to let the PROTESTANT take any role at all.

He was an old dear, and very very welcoming of me. It was a beautiful wedding.

Someone from the Catholic side of the wedding party approached me and said,"It was so nice of you to agree to do those readings and to lead those prayers." And I said, "I was very happy to do it. The pastoral prayer is almost exactly like the one I pray every night from one of our Unitarian or Universalist prayerbooks." She couldn't hear this. She mowed me right over like a steamroller, so determined was she to insist on our great religious difference. In a tone that implied, "This must have been very hard for you" she said, "We know it's not your faith, so it was really generous of you to be here."
By then I was getting frustrated and offended.
I put my hand on her arm and in the same slow, sympathetic tone she had used on me, I said,
"I. was. happy. to. do. it. I thought all those readings were JUST. LOVELY."

I was irritated for several reasons. First, that this woman actually thought I would get up and read prayers or scripture that were contrary or objectionable to my religious beliefs and my faith tradition. Second, her total inability to stand in front of a non-Catholic and see them as a fellow Christian. Did she assume I was Jewish? I'm a Reverend; not bloody likely, despite my Jewish last name. I can only assume that she found out that I was a Unitarian Universalist and assumed I was a Christian-phobic crank. Ay, ay, ay. Whatever the reason, she was just determined to cast me in the role of emotional martyr, resentfully trading away my Protestant authority to the priest just for the privilege of being able to be there for the UU bride.

As if any clergyperson with any personal integrity would do that.
And as if I wouldn't find the words of the Tobit, I Corinthians and the pastoral prayer beautiful, loving and a privilege to bring before a group of dearly beloved on a wedding day. I have this vision of myself throwing the Bible across the room and yelling, "I can't SAY THIS GARBAGE!" I mean, c'mon, lady! Is that really the reputation Unitarian Universalists have earned?
And did you actually think the bride and groom and the priest and I weren't going to carefully discern appropriate things for me to do in the service? Like I was going to walk through the door and he'd say, "Oh here. You sing the 'Ave Maria and distribute the host, 'kay?"

Yes, it was hard to lose another UU kid to the Catholic church. But that's what happens when two people fall in love and one person's tradition insists on their marrying and raising their children in their Church, while the other tradition doesn't seem to much care whether or not they go to church at all, or how they raise their children. When a religious liberal person falls in love with an orthodox person, the liberal by definition will be more likely to abandon their tradition on behalf of the other's. You know why? Because the orthodox person will ask them to. I can only hope (and trust) that the couple will make compromises and work it out so that the Unitarian Universalist stream of argument will be part of their spiritual lives. And in the end, I care more that they share a spiritual life together than in dictating what tradition they observe. It is my observation that intellectually curious, tolerant people find a way to be intellectually curious, tolerant religious people even within orthodox traditions.

And so it goes with the sectarian turf wars throughout human history.
Ninety percent of the congregation this morning could not even share Communion with the bride and groom because they were not Catholic. And I had the personal feeling that if that priest was in charge of things, every one of us would have been welcome at the table.

And so it goes.

And so I go off to NYC to see MotherBang do her cabaret act tomorrow afternoon at Danny's Piano Bar on 46th and 8th. Come if you can and cheer her on. It's at 2 pm.

full of grace, baby


Blogger boyinthebands said...

I can very easily believe your Incredulous Catholic ran into one of our colleagues some years ago and did have a hissy-fit over 1 Cor 13. That would stick in the mind and be the talk of the reception.

Funny, it is one of my preaching texts for tommorrow.

Blogger Obijuan said...

I think it has less to do with the reputaion of UUs and everything to do with the still wide gulf of misunderstanding and misinformation between Catholics and Protestants - a gulf which forty-some-odd years of post-Vatican II openness haven't even begun to bridge.

Protestants think they broke from Catholicism in wild and radical ways . . . and Catholics agree with them. Lack of substantial contact between the everyday faithful on both sides only contributes to the illusion of difference and "strange ways." Neither realize that, despite cosmetic differences, liturgy is liturgy -- Word and Sacrament, praise and thanksgiving.

The sense of estrangement runs both ways. Not long after my break from Catholicism, I attended Easter services at the Disciples church where my mother-in-law was choir director. Despite some format differences, it was what I would describe as a "typical Easter service." However, my mother-in-law was convinced I was having first contact with a completely alien culture.

"That must have been a very different experience for you," she said (In that same tone you speak of).

My inner evil homonculus smirked and replied, "Yes, Easter's just not the same without the baby-eating ceremony." Polite son-in-law, I nodded and smiled and shrugged it off, instead.

Blogger Joel Monka said...

I was reminded of a joke a Catholic friend told me when we were kids: it's graduation day at a Catholic girl's school, and the nun has asked them what they intend to be. She's getting the usual answers- wife, teacher, nurse, etc., when one defiant girl stands up and says, "I'm going to be a prostitute!" The nun's face reddens and her knuckles whiten grasping the ruler."What. Did. You Say?" Unafraid, the girl repeats, "I'm going to be a prostitute!" "Oh, thank God," gasps the nun, "I thought you said a protestant!"

Blogger Chalicechick said...

LOL, Joel. The ChaliceRelative (hardcore protestant) likes to tell that one.


Blogger Ron said...

I remember a family member a few years back whose pastor converted from United Methodist to Roman Catholic. In tears she asked, because he and I had gone to the same seminary, why he didn't want to be Christian anymore?

PB, about MB; will she be performing during Revival time or days afterwards? About time to start building list of fun excursions for people to do together in the evenings during Revival days.

Blogger ogre said...

They still do that? I mean, ask non-Catholics to accept that their children will be raised Catholic ino order to be allowed to marry a Catholic, within The Church? I mean... in your neck of the woods?

Strange. They didn't ask that of me, 21 years ago, here in So. Cal. Good thing, since Madame Ogre was already actually a lapsed Catholic sliding away faster and faster and the Catholic wedding was a sop to keep the peace with her father, who'd had a tizzy and swonr that he (and his wife) would not attend, if it wasn't a Catholic wedding. The priest at some pre-Cana program made the point to us non-Catholics that our devout spouses would probably want their children raised in the faith, yeah.

Good thing it wasn't demanded. It would have ripped what was already a very, very delicate tissue. We arranged to have the local UU minister participate, and she said all the parts that were meaningful and important to us. The priest said all the parts he felt were significant, and signed the license.

Peace was kept.

We're both... um... devout UUs now. And the children have been raised in the faith.

Blogger Sun Warrior said...

This is quite funny, on a larger canvas too.

I have told many ministers of different stripes that I am writing a book on civilization and spirituality.

Every one has the same reaction. A marked, muted horror, taken aback until they find out if the spirituality is somehow 'ok' to them.

Having stood up at a Hindu presentation at the recent 'World's Religions After 9/11 Congress' in Montreal, I asked them why they were so inward looking. There were only Hindus at that discussion, just like there were only whites at the Catholic nuns' panel.

Confronting this cacophony of all the world's religions in one place, I told them that they needed to take off their condoms with other religions if they ever wanted to conceive a new world 'spirit.'

I didn't realize there was a world-renowned Swami at the back of the room. He was the keynote speaker after lunch. Listening to his speech, I don't think what I said sunk in.

Coincidentally, five blocks down the road a lone gunman was shooting 20 students at a school. Don't know how many of them read between the lines on that one.

Blogger anakashiko said...

No matter how hard I try, I just can't imagine a UU getting offended at hearing or reading 1 Cor 13. I can barely imagine ANYONE getting upset at it. It is lovely, if a bit hackneyed at this point (we talked about doing it at our UU wedding but decided it is kind of a cliche at this point, even if the sentiment itself transcends the cliche). I just scratch my head to think someone wouldn't appreciate this Bible passage.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Okay Sun Warrior, I'll bite: when you speak of the gunman and the world religions conference, what's the connection between the two?

While I initially laughed at your "take off the condoms" line, it then struck me as insultingly patriarchal. Are we trying to "impregnate" the unwilling? Or are we spreading disease? Great metaphor, but I'm not surprised it didn't achieve what you intended for the swami (or for me).

Blogger Sun Warrior said...

It just seemed ironic that everyone was focused on religion and violence and coming together to solve the world's problems, instead of being the cause... then this local, secular white boy in peaceful Canada opens fire on 20 teenagers a few blocks away.

Here were all these great Minds of religion wondering how their civilized institutions can become a force for good. Meanwhile, at a temple of the modern mind down the road, violence was happening. Everyone focusing on their faith to solve the problems. Everyone ignoring, or totally unaware, that it is the civilized mind, going back to Adam's choice to live by knowledge instead of wisdom, that is the real problem.

Religion is a civilized institution for the mind to control spirituality. So it converts wisdom into knowledge for the mind to manipulate. Thus the endless libraries of theology, and the infinite ways we can perceive Spirit but always feeling somehow compromised by our civilized station in life.

We take this for granted. Civilization is the natural, positive evolution of the human to live better than ever before. No one spends much time examining the intellect's role. The only 'control' we can contrast this with is a culture that never let the mind become dominant, which is, of course, the indigenous people of the world. We cannot understand our spiritual limits until we understand the dominant mind in the Church. Religion wants to make things whole again, but is constantly looking for the tonic of Spirit, not realizing its addiction to the ubiquitous mind is the real problem.

As for the condom comment, each religion doesn't want to be impregnated with any spirituality it does not regulate. So the reaction is predictable. Yes, it would cause a violent upheaval if Hindus pressed Christianity to acknowledge that reincarnation is a fact. The Church could not handle that fact. It is based on the zero-sum theory of life: one life to live, one chance to get into heaven. It would throw 2000 years of carefully constructed meaning about the Resurrection into a tumult. And it would shed light on the limited amount of spiritual experience allowed by their belief system. That's just one example.

The Hindus, on the other hand, cannot accept that God has a specific consciousness. What would fall apart for them if they had to acknowledge it? Life is joy, agony and wisdom. Modern religion thinks it can leave out the middle and still get the wisdom. So religion stagnates as the priests of inert matter, science and business, define our worldview, playing on our allergy to pain.

Why would it be insultingly patriarchal? Why is the masculine taboo? That is how life is created. Why do we need to control life? Funny how feelings of rape came to mind automatically. Is religion all about spiritual birth control? Planned parenthood? God in my life has been quite a violent thing. Taking out the lies hurts like crazy. Not quite St. Paul's definition of the lily-white flower of love. Ouch!

Civilization's record with domination has equated the word to mean 'abusive dominance.' Lost is the understanding of dominance with wisdom. That is what women are really looking for in men, wisdom with their energy. Knowing that truth, love and wisdom are the same thing, we can trust the thrust of God knowing that He knows what He is doing. But civilization is torn between the impotent, domesticated man of the office cubicle, and the insanity of George W. and jihadists. Funny how we have to control God lest the men get out of control. So an erection remains a taboo, and our spiritual birth control keeps the wagons circled as the world gets smaller and smaller. Things don't bode too well for the human race as we face our first planetary crisis together, climate change.

Sex is the creation of life. Religion thinks the only important life is human (despite its protests). So it helps cover the Creation in asphalt, convinced that reality is only God, humans and inert matter. It has no idea what spiritual reality is outside of a human standing in a desert begging for a cup of water from a far distant 'parent.'

Its a civilized problem. The mind in control. Wondering how to live by the heart of Jesus, but never looking 'upstairs' at what really is controlling us. We think the mind is the solution, not the problem.

So the condom comment did have its predictable effect.


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