Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church
November 21, 2008
A few weeks ago I was in a downtown Columbus hospital making some visits and who walked into the room where I was? An old friend of mine who is a Catholic Priest.
I know this sounds like the setup for a joke… “There was this Protestant minister and Catholic Priest in the hospital…” But it is not. I had not seen Marv in over 10 years. Though he was an old friend and we chaired the country Ministerial Association together…when I saw him I hesitated because I was not certain whether to say, “Hey Marvin!” or should I say “Father Marv!” or should I say “Father O’Connor” or “Hey Father!”
Why should I hesitate? He is my age. We have about the same number of years in the ministry. We have had common experiences. We knew/know each other well enough to be on a first name basis… “Bob” … “Marv.” Why was I so careful about addressing this old friend?
I did not want to show him disrespect. I did not want to offend other Catholics within earshot. I did not want to offend Rome and all the Saints. (Take your pick.)
I see the same thing happen with Catholics who address me, they are just not certain what title to use or how casual or formal to be with me. This religion-stuff is so difficult for all of us.
Case in point: recently I went to hear Bishop John Spong. Spong is a retired Episcopalian Priest who is an academic and one who takes the Bible seriously. He also questions much in the Bible and feels that in order to have a deeper faith, one must question and wrestle and wonder. But in doing so, he has been attacked for not taking the Bible word for word.
His thoughts are pretty complex but they are carefully thought out and reasoned, even if they are not universally applauded. It seems that it is difficult for many to hear others question the scriptures. But, here is another thought of Spong’s that should resonate with more of us.
Bishop Spong seems to think there are three types of Christians: the Fundamentalists, the Christian Alumni (those who have Christian background but no longer have any use for the Christian Church) and those who are seriously questioning the Bible and the Church and trying hard to say what they believe in, rather than what they do not believe in.
I know that most of you are saying, “Huh?” and I don’t blame you. Even I am saying “huh?” I don’t think Spong is saying that there are three set, distinct groups and all Christians fall neatly and clearly within one of the three groups.
Like a good Teflon-coated politician I can relate to all three groups. I no doubt believe some things that the Fundamentalists believe. I fully understand why people are a part of the Christian Alumni Group because there are days when I want to be a charter member. But, for this moment, I am more fully a part of the third group which is trying hard (or should I say, I am beseeching the Holy Spirit for help) to state and live out what it is that I believe in and make certain that others understand.
Did Spong say this, or is it just me…but it seems that the greatest threat to the Christian Church is that we cannot articulate why we follow Christ or give a solid reason for doing so. We can say what we do not believe in, but not what we do believe in. When the Fundamentalists are the only ones speaking, there are no other voices to listen to.
So, do I believe in anything? Is there anything I can state with conviction? Sure. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and I believe that He showed us a better way to go about our lives. It gets much more complex when you get to the details though.
On the other hand, I am still not sure whether to call my friend, the priest, Father Marvin or Marv.
In this case it is easier to deal with the Son of God than it is to deal with a Man of the Cloth.
Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing