The other day, I was handed a piece of paper, printed double-sided. It was a copy of an article from First Things, entitled The End of Protestantism (Peter J. Leithart). In this article he claimed the church is moving away from anti-Catholicism as a whole, and should just put down any expressions of reformist nonsense.
Be still, Anabaptists!
Oh wait. Perhaps not. Perhaps just the opposite.
But you get the idea, I imagine.
And as I read through this article, and read through this article, and again, I wiggled about in my seat and twisted my head around and wondered at the boldness of this assertion. And I wondered where, exactly, it came from.
Well, the truth is, I know exactly where it came from.
It comes from Rome.
I have always found it amusingly ironic that as people raised their fists against the Roman church and cried out against being forced into certain beliefs, that as they claimed to break free of this belief structure, they actually dragged with them some of the most destructive beliefs that the Roman church has to offer.
One of which is the concept of disunity.
IF you don’t believe in what we tell you, in the way we tell you to believe, THEN you are no longer part of the church.
Out you go!
And somehow, in some way, all Christian churches seem to have captured this idea of disunity and made sure it was encased for all time in the cornerstone of every church on Earth.
We know this because there is the word ecumenical in our language. The use of this word may give the impression that we believe in unity in the Christian church, but being ecumenical doesn’t mean being united; it means we only are wanting to head in that direction.
It’s not a reality; it’s a destination. Even less, it’s a path to a hypothetical destination. A destination that we all know cannot be reached.
There are photos. Photos that try to convince us that some people are thinking about “unifying” the church. Except the photos tell us just the opposite. Just how many people are in the photographs? How many denominations represented?
Ecumenism becomes just another word for having a party for “special” friends.
Unity, in the Christian church, is just another word for ME.
And the more I think about the concept of unity, I think that we just do not understand at all. And not just because we want unity to mean, you join my club and we’ll be united. But because we actually believe that unity means, everything the same.
To achieve unity, in our mind, we have to get everyone to do the same thing.
But this isn’t unity. That’s wholeness. A concept I have written on before. We don’t say that we sit in contemplative prayer in order to be united with God, because that implies that we were apart and are now coming together. Given that we, as a creation of God, can only and always be part of him, then we are experiencing and becoming aware of our wholeness with God, or “of” God.
Unity is when we bring different threads together. We weave the different threads together in order to make a new cloth. Different colored threads. Threads of different weight and texture. Each bringing to the union a different expression.
What makes me angriest about this whole world-wide teaching of disunity in the church is that it assigns to Jesus something he didn’t do. He didn’t hand his twelve disciples a set liturgy, a set way of doing things. He merely instructed them to go out and teach, preach, and heal. He, himself, never took on the role of a priest in the temple; neither did he make his disciples priests of the temple. Instead, he made things up as he went along. I’ll say this here. I’ll heal this way there. I’ll make sacred my own body and blood.
He responded to the situation around him as he came across it; he responded to the people around him as he came across them. And he expected his own disciples to do the same.
Go out into the world, meet the people who you come across, and serve them.
Instead, he trusted them to be the interpreters of the Holy Spirit, adopting what they had learned from him in each and every situation. Each and every different situation.
The article mentioned above fails to take into account the various stages in the spiritual development of the soul. Not every soul can handle all that a high mass has to offer. Like the body, where each one has a different capability to exercise – some can run marathons, others have to sit in a chair in order to exercise – the soul has its own state of health that has to be accounted for.
Some are so aligned with evil and are so desperate to find a way out, that all they can tolerate is a very simple message that God loves them.
I once had the notion that to teach the love of Jesus to the homeless we should bring them communion. Except it shouldn’t be the body and blood of Jesus – giving one who suffers more suffering perhaps is not the way. Instead it should be a piece of cracker dipped in honey: to give the taste of the sweetness of Jesus’s love. To make his love a pleasurable treat.
It takes some soul strength to accept our Lord’s passion, to take it into our own body.
But another thing that annoys me about the concept of disunity – a concept that is actually taught from the pulpit – is that it is a statement that God didn’t create YOU. He only created US.
Because God didn’t create everyone? Because God can’t speak in different ways, exist in a variety of expressions?
It’s one way and one way only?
This is what the church wants to teach people about God?
The word, ecumenical, is from the Greek for house.
Do we, in our family reunions, look around us and see only people who look just like us? Act just like us? Think just like us?
If so, then we’ve stepped into another world altogether.
As we have been taught, the house of God is very large. So large that it can accommodate us all.