Friday, November 13, 2009

Apparently I'm NOT Generous in terms of Orthodoxy

For this Ethics class that I am taking down at Boston College, we must write a pretty hefty paper by the end of class in mid-December. Part of the work building up to this massive, looming paper that is hanging over my head along with a few more that are due for other classes in the next couple of weeks... back to the point, part of the work that we have to do to prepare writing this paper is to write a book review for one of the books that we are reading for said paper.

This class is entitled Ethics in an Ecumenical Perspective. For this paper, it is completely up to us on what we choose to write, as long as it has something to do with Ethics. Now, since this is not my only class, and since this is my first major encounter on a scholastic level with RCC scholars, I chose NOT to write a paper on Thomas Aquinas, Natural Law, and/or anything to do with that. I am enjoying my reading for class, preparation for discussion in said class, and constant bewilderment about casuistry; but I cannot say that I am prepared to write a paper on any of these things and have it make any sort of sense whatsoever in order to have a passing grade.

Instead, I decided to write on something that I have a little more familiarity with, and something I would actually enjoy learning more about. So, the paper I will be writing is on this whole emerging/emergent church/movement (yes, I do know there is a difference, but I choose to lump them all together, except for the RC, Johann Metz, that actually started the emergent church in the 1980s - he is different). I will be writing about them, what they believe, what their idea of ethics is or should be, and how that is affecting the rest of the followers of Jesus world. I must say, I am excited to write this paper. I am both excited, but also extremely nervous. The more that I read from these emerging men (and women? although I don't know of any women authors yet), the more confused and bewildered I end up becoming.

I usually begin reading these books and get excited about the ideas. I often think to myself, "Yes! We need to be doing more as Christians! Yes! Jesus went to the poor, the blind, the sick, the lost, the completely helpless! Man, we really need to be doing more with this! Sign me up!!!" Then, usually about 1/3 into the book, they begin to ask questions. Now, let me say this - I am NOT against asking questions. Please, let's ask questions. The only way that we can actually dialogue and move onward, upward, outward, whateverward is by asking questions and work on giving answers. But here is where I usually want to start throwing the books against the wall - they start asking questions and refuse to accept answers to the questions. And then, instead of saying that what Orthodoxy has given as answers and has tested and questioned and tested and questioned over and over, that these answers are good and by definition Orthodox, they decide that it's time for something new, because these are new times, new places, new situations, new knowledge (secret knowledge?), it's just NEW.

But will they say it's new? No, I doubt that. They will claim that it is something that has been said before. And in a way they are right. They are grasping at ideas from history, throughout history, and taking them for their own; then they change and twist those ideas to what they would like to say and claim it for themselves. To say the least, by this point, I get frustrated. Is this the point of the emerging movement? To frustrate? I think that some of them would say that THAT is exactly the point! They would whole heartedly like to frustrate you, but have that frustration be with the complacent little religious affiliation that you hold near and dear. This is not the frustration that I am experiencing. No, my frustration is with the authors, with their denial (or really lack of affirmation) of anything Absolute. It leaves me puzzled and questioning and not in a good way. If anything were to drive me to atheism, I am beginning to think that this movement could be it. And that, dear friends, is a frightening thought to me.

At the same time though, I'm getting a little sick of the bashing of each other on both sides. And I have tried VERY hard in this blog to not point my finger, make fun and belittle the opinions, thoughts and beliefs of these fellow followers of Jesus, because I do want to engage in this conversation, and there is no room for name-calling in this conversation - and it is there. It is rampant. And it hurts, offends, and has no part in what Jesus calls loving your neighbor or even your enemy.

I think then the only way that I can end this blog entry is with some ideas for both sides in how they should approach the next meeting. Since the ones in the past have gone so, well, um, let's just say that they haven't really gone at all.

1. Meet.

2. Emergent/ing leaders need to recognize that a refusal to answer serious questions does not look like they are constantly pondering or that the question is not one that even needs to be asked (because it does need to be asked, some people do find them serious enough to ask them, and that is the point), but that when they don't answer, this seems to affirm in the minds of the non-Emergent/ing a denial of these questions. And in turn, this means some more serious questions will be asked.

3. Non-Emergent/ing leaders need to take a step back from what they have always claimed to be truth and be willing to discuss WHY this is claimed, HOW this is claimed, and if indeed what is claimed as truth is truth for ALL time. I know that this part of it all EXCITES me. As someone who has been fed a TON of information and regurgitated it well and often for quizzes and tests, I get more excited when I read the Holy Scriptures and am able to articulate a particular truth from it because of what I read, not because of what a professor or author told me (not that those classes are bad, may it never be! Most of those classes have been my favorite classes and have taught me more than I can actually ever realize. But sometimes we need to reevaluate what we are doing and why. This is not a bad thing, even companies have to do this. And just because we stop and question does not mean that we do not come out with the same truth in the end, but we might come out with a better way of teaching?).

4. Meet again, because there will be a lot more questions after the first meeting, and continue this process.

The one thing that I can see happening from this, if done properly, is a better understanding of each other and oneself and maybe even a growth towards an understand of how to work together, despite differences. Another thing that I could see happening is that we discover that the differences are truly far too different, meaning that we are no longer even followers of the same Jesus. If that is the case, then at least clarity will be had and we can divide and learn how to coexist until whatever end comes, whenever and however that comes.

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