The precariousness of the religious life we share.
“Bladerunner” was the name of a movie I never watched, but it is a compellingly graphic image that feels about right as a descriptor for the religious life I live and share with many of you. In my imagination, if you run on the exact edge of the blade it won’t cut your feet – like testing the sharpness of a knife on your thumb. But fall out of balance even a pinch to the left or right and, yikes, there is blood.
As you probably know, I was originally a Chinese Philosophy major in college until I shifted to Western Philosophy in my junior year. At the time I knew far more about Buddhism, Taoism and Confucius than I knew about Jesus and Christianity. But then came the long, slow trek up the mountain of Church History in seminary, and learning about the endless wrestling sumos of doctrine and dogma, both Roman and Protestant. That has been followed by a steady wade against the current of popular religion to fish in the deep pockets of progressive Christians and the Un-churched. Now it seems, and in truth for many, many years, I am surrounded by people that participate in the community of Trinity and at the same time have beliefs and spiritual practices that likely would not be affirmed in most Christian churches, even Episcopal churches.
The vibrancy, the utter exuberance of spirit that we share together, is directly related (I believe) to the thick and textured nap of beliefs in Trinity. We have people who have lived and studied in ashrams in India and others who have been passionate partisans of Evangelical Christianity. Think about the texture of that landscape. We have folks that practice yoga as their central spiritual practice and others that offer copious intercessions to Christ as their weekly spiritual discipline. Conjure the tensions and shared mojo of such a difference. We have many, many people that know far more about the daily content of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal than the content of the Bible, and others that study the Bible, Tao te Ching or Sutras. How rich is that soil?
The precariousness of such blade-running for Trinity is derived from who and what lies on either side of the balance. There are those who are actually hostile to the fact we host such a broad and rich community. They say we are not Christian, or that we are not Episcopalian enough, or that we have left the broad faith of the Christian tradition because we welcome people with so many different journeys. On the other side, there are people who are hostile to us simply because we are a Church. All religion is bad in their minds, and Trinity is suspect and dangerous along with all the other churches. Somewhere in between there are those who earnestly desire a deep spiritual life and pick and pull from popular authors and seemingly exotic traditions but consider Christianity a dark splotch on the spiritual landscape, and so wouldn’t step near Trinity. The blade upon which we run is quite fine and the risks, it seems, expansive and numerous.
If I was going to rant about this precariousness, i.e., vent my frustrations and anxiety about it to you, I would complain about the attacks and hazards and pull on the chain of easy judgmentalism I can get into if not careful. When I get too close to that well of negativity the best thing to do is stop, take a deep breath and look around. I have the best view in the house on Sunday morning and evening, and from my perch I see your faces and hear your voices and all of it evokes gratitude. “How could I be so fortunate,” I frequently wonder. Blade-running has its obvious risks but oh, my, what spectacular rewards.
Posted on Sep 28, 2010