Sunday, June 22, 2014

Putting Away Childish Relationships

When you were a child did you ever have a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or a doll to which you were truly attached? Did you love that object so much that you thought you would be lost without it?

I remember the stuffed bunny my older sister let me have from her box of toys. For a period of time that bunny and I were inseparable. We went everywhere together, we played together, and we slept together. The advantage to such a relationship is that a stuffed animal never voices its opinion. In its fuzzy comfort, its reassuring gaze, and its silence we find the perfect companion, one who never says "No" and one who never challenges our beliefs.

As we mature, we lose our childhood attachments, but the childishness of attachment sometimes remains evident in the new attachments we have made. We see this at its worst in dysfunctional relationships where silent affirmation of one party's life and actions are the expectation of the other party.

The dysfunctional Church is one that expects, and all too often receives, reassuring gazes, fuzzy platitudes, and silence from its members who blindly follow it wherever it may go.

A functional Church then may be one in which a mature relationship exists between the Church and its members, a relationship in which differences of opinion are respected if not accepted, and a common purpose can be pursued unencumbered by struggles for dominance by one individual or group over another.

As long as those differences are not over the common purpose.

For those of us whose Church believes that our common purpose is to support abortion, to reduce our carbon footprint, to support gay marriage, or to promote one particular view of social justice, aren't we by remaining silent partners or by helping to finance the Church's new found purpose just worsening a dysfunctional relationship? Isn't this enabling?  Aren't dysfunctional relations the very things the Church should be seeking to heal? Instead, it seems like our Episcopal church is one in which dysfunction is bred, is nurtured, and is clung to like a child holding onto its love object.

I know it is childish of me to hold onto the Episcopal church after having grown to see it has lost its ears, its fuzzy warmth and its plush appeal. Maybe it is time to put it back into my sister's toy box and let it mold in peace, but I know that to do so would be to forget the hearts of the real, living, flesh and blood, soft and fuzzy, quiet pewsitters who are innocently caught up in the inertia of this dysfunctional church.

For them and for myself, the focus of our attention, and of our affection, needs to be shifted towards a different object than to what, in our immaturity, we had been mistakenly attached.
"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. ...  There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires." ~ J. R. R. Tolkien (h/t Creedal Christian)
Or, as we are reminded in today's Gospel lesson,
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:34-39

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