Rejecting Religion

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from Finding Our Way Again
Brian McLaren

Those who reject religion are often rejecting a certain arid system of belief, or if not that, a set of trivial taboos or rules or rituals that have lost meaning for them--each a thing residue of a lost way of life.

One of the other passages reflects on the popularity of books on Buddhism.

He [Dr. Peter Senge] replied, "I think it is because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and christianity presents itself as a system of belief."

This seems so true. Whenever I hear discussion of Christianity, it is almost always with respect to some question of doctrine or ritual practice and almost never, within the Catholic Church, with respect to "How must we then live?"

While right doctrine is important--it informs actions and guides lives--right living is more important. Wasn't that really the point Jesus kept making to the Pharisees? They understood doctrine, they had interpreted it down to the finest possible thread. They had figured out how to calculate when the sabbath began and how to observe the sabbath in every detail. But they failed to live their faith, clinging instead to rule and ritual which, while important, are empty if lives are not lived according to what lay behind the rules and ritual.

Many Christians have become the new Pharisees, standing in judgment on others and enforcing their rules as right practice, whether or not they are guided by just principle. In the past I have seen frequent call for denying politicians Holy Communion because of their stand on abortion, and probably other issues. While it is important to uphold right doctrine, it is more important to show love--and while it is possible to show love while withholding communion, I don't believe that love is what drive most people to clamor for this action.

And that is only one of endless examples that could be trotted out.

So then, what are we to do? I think the answer lay in what McLaren says his book is to do--to help us revitalize Christianity not only as a system of belief but also as a way of life, profoundly lived. And each of us must come to terms with that ourselves.

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Good to see you posting again, and good posts they are.

I've noticed in my own life that the more fervently I believe in right doctrine, the more I love. Why? Because then I feel loved. I feel less loved if Christ didn't give us the Church. Specifically the Eucharist makes me feel loved. But the hinge of belief in the Real Presence is the Catholic Church.

Right doctrine is that which gives assurance that God loves us. We only know God loves us from the gospels, and we only know the gospels are true from the Catholic Church.

This gives one the certainty that allows one to reach out, the ground that stabilizes. Without that assurance and grounding, can we love? Perhaps. But in my own experience I find a correlation between being willing to help somebody and believing the truth of sacred doctrine.

Dear TSO,

While I do not diminish the importance of right doctrine, it has been my observation that those who most forcefully put forth exact observance are often those who show the least love "to the masses." That is not to say that they do not love individuals, but an encounter through a blog or even at a near remove is more like an encounter with vinegar that with honey.

When proper doctrine is lived rather than talked about and preached by those unqualified to do so, I would, without question concur with your opinion expressed above.

However, my experience has often been that doctrine, or mere practice is used as a bludgeon. That is, we shun or accept based on the most trivial differences in practices--holding hands during the "Our Father," or the precise understanding and phrasing of "who proceeds from the Father and the Son." We have two Churches based on that alone.

So I'd be cautious about exalting right doctrine qua doctrine. I'd say, seek right doctrine, seek how to live it and show it in one's life, and then you've achieved the perfect balance--the ability to preach always, when necessary use words.



I don't consider whether or not to hold hands during the Our Father as doctrine, or anything close to it, so perhaps we're talking past each other.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 22, 2009 7:53 AM.

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