The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Joe's Theology

Information will be forthcoming regarding the animal abuse problem. We are deveoping a possible solution, but this is going to take time. Don't you hate hearing that?

At the risk of offending Roman Catholics I have to say your pope just needs to keep his mouth shut. Maybe it is best when he issues statements that just repeat old edicts and such, like when he offended the entire Muslim world with his lecture in 2006 in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus. The emperor was one of the last Christian rulers prior to the fall of Constantinople to Muslims, so you where where the comments led the first time.

Now he has offended the rest of the Christian world by categorizing their denominations as “defective.” But this too is nothing new; the idea was part of the 2000 Dominus Iesus, written by the pope when he was just a cardinal.

Graduate level theology courses have given me some knowledge of the process of seeking theological understanding and the importance of it. But I also understand that theology, just like religion, is personal. Each person has to come up with their own understanding of God, or Creator, or Supreme Being. Since every person has different life experiences that they draw on to form this understading, every person will have a different perception of God and the relationship they have with God.

I believe that not only are the Christian denominations “defective” but the Roman Catholic Church is as well. They are all defective, because there is no way any set of doctrines can precisely embrace all the true mysteries of the universe. Knowledge will never be complete, and theology certainly relies in part on our knowledge and understanding of nature.

Because not all humans receive and process information in the same way, it is unreal to think that all people can be expected to receive and process spiritual teachings in the same way. In fact, that is probably part of the reason we have so many denominations in Christianity anyway. Too many.

In Bessemer, we have a local paper that recently bragged about being the only paper that has a whole page dedicated to places of worship. Approximately 185 such places are listed. (As an aside, at least one of the churches in the list does not exist, and the phone number given rings at a building supply company, leading me to believe that maybe the editor is inflating the number of churches to make the paper and his city “look good.” Who knows how many more of the places listed are non-existent?)

Bessemer has about 30,000 people, and we know that about 40% of the population attends church on a regular basis. That means 12, 000 people are scattered among the 185 churches, or about 65 people per church. The national mean is 75 people per church, so not too far off considering I estimated some numbers and realizing that some people travel out of the area to attend and that all of the churches in the list are not in Bessemer.

But my point is that if theology were simple and applicable to everyone in a like manner we would not need all these different places and styles of worship. Or, maybe theology is simple, but popes and pastors and priests complicate it and in the process divide us by convincing that their doctrine is the “true” doctrine.

It is not right that the "leaders," whether it is the pope or priest or local pastor, use their position to bring people down because of their understanding of God. What this does is pull us away from God and toward the pastor. Instead these leaders should be building us up and helping us to further strengthen our own awareness of God in our lives.

My advice: seek God and spiritual fulfillment in your own way. Take what any pastor or priest tells you with a grain of salt. Remember Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who fell from his lofty perch after it was revealed he was paying a male prostitute for sex? People in his mega-congregation were quoted that they would have to find a new leader, implying they were followers of Ted Haggard, when they should be following Jesus and his teachings. What they should have said was they needed to find a new “pastor.”

So wouldn't it be best to leave the pope to his Prada shoes and Serengeti sunglasses, and the pastors to their various sordid secrets, and just concentrate on our own relationship with God. Otherwise we will always be wondering and setting ourself up for disappointment. Do it and we might just find what we’ve been missing.

Sorry, I almost got in to my preaching mode. I am a southerner, you now.

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