A couple months ago, I wrote about why I left the evangelical churches of my youth. Of course, such things can hardly be dealt with in any sort of fullness in such a short space, but what I was trying to do in that post was sketch an understanding of what caused such a drastic shift in my life.
Years later, the church setting my family has found itself has its own set of issues, many of which I’ve discovered as I’ve journeyed further down the path towards ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. I have found the church to be just as flawed as the one I left, full of flawed human beings wielding the apparatus of flawed systems – in essence, a big, hairy mess. There are petty politics and power struggles and internecine quarrels; decades-long grudges and glaring institutional failures; oversights followed by overcompensations; history-making moments lost and realized.
And yet, through the disillusionment that comes from finding your new place to be as broken as the old one once the new-car smell dissipates, I stay. I stay, despite running away from myself only to find my self waiting at the next stop. So why? Why do I continue on in organized spiritual community of any kind, much less one so . . . formal? Sometimes I wonder if I stay in the church because I’m too proud to let it all go: I’ve put so much effort into the switch that it would be embarrassing to quit now. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just dependent or duped: I basically grew up in a church building so do I actually need it or have I been brainwashed to believe I do? Maybe all are true, maybe none.
Maybe I stay because I have the atheist-posited “god gene”: something inside me, unasked for but ever-present, imparted to me by my forebears, some latent biological-spiritual inclination pushing the neurons in my brain to respond to reality (and cope with its shortcomings) by seeking refuge in God. Maybe that’s true: I imagine there is some . . . thing within pushing me to attribute meaning to this life; something in my heart that, despite my intellectual hand-wringing and increasingly non-theistic view of the Divine, pushes me deeper into belief and community rather than away from it.
That thing is what I want to spend the next several posts talking about – why I choose to stay in the Church — and how it has chosen me.
There are many reasons we will explore. For starters, I choose to stay in order to remember, as well as to hope. I return to the community in order to long, to weep, and to serve, as well as to submit and to commune, and potentially others I have not yet unpacked. Beyond and within each of these meanings, however, is one overarching reason for my continued presence in the community of Christ: the Church is where I have come to identify the deep unitive potential of reality.
As we’ll discuss several times in the following posts, I don’t believe this potential to lie solely within the Christian context – or even within explicitly spiritual community at all. If it doesn’t “work,” that doesn’t preclude you from discovering love, meaning, and union. However, due to my personal frame and the focus that comes with organized religious observance, I have found more access points to it. The Divine Potential will continue to surprise even the least receptive of us, for it acts without regard for theology or worthiness, because it is one great torrent of Love issuing from the source of All That Is. It is the sound of the Love that brought all of . . . this into existence and it cannot help but echo within everything that came to be by Its power.
There I go again, getting mystical.
It is my hope that over the next several weeks, you find some point that resonates within your soul. Not so that you would choose to join a church or other spiritual community, but so that you might look at the world as it finds you and be just a little more open to the inexhaustible brilliance bubbling just under the surface, discovering the Potential lying in wait possibly just around the next turn of your life.