Monday, August 03, 2009

If he comes in, I'm going out.

The photo accompanying a column titled "Why Obama's church choice matters" in today's USA Today shows the President shaking the hand of an Episcopal priest.

Thankfully, there's no indication other than that that the President might be considering becoming a part of the Episcopal church. But if he does, I'm gone.

I am a cradle Episcopalian. My mother was raised in the church, and I was raised in, baptized, confirmed, and married in the church. Two of my three kids so far have been baptized Episcopalian (just haven't gotten around to it for the third). I am nearly as passionate about my Episcopalianism as I am about being a San Antonian, and if you've paid any attention to this blog, you know that's a LOT. When my ex-husband left me, I first ran to my mom and then went looking for a priest. It is in my heart; my faith in God is bound inextricably with my love of my church.

It is hard to explain the ECUSA to people who think it exists merely because Henry VIII wanted a divorce (even some Episcopalians believe that over-simplified version). My church has existed throughout history as a haven for critical thinking, both about Christ Himself and human existence in general. We were there with other churches in fighting for an end to slavery and for the advancement of civil rights, and even now we as a church are strong advocates for the equality of people, for justice as well as peace, and for trying to live Jesus's teachings of love for one another. At the same time, we still believe in using our brains and questioning and (in spite of popular opinion) we are on the whole a dynamic church rather than a stagnant one.

And yet...

And yet, I periodically fall away from my church with great sadness and pain in my heart.

No church is perfect. The foremost failing of the Episcopal church (to me) is that it has become, of late, a predominantly liberal church. Now, liberal theology I appreciate. I am grateful that we have female priests. I am grateful that we accept homosexuals as chilren of God rather than viewing them as inherent sinners. I will eventually be grateful that we allow divorced parishioners to remarry within the church with zero hassle. That's the good side of liberalism.

But I have no use for political liberalism. I have no use for any politics within my church, quite frankly, but it seems as if the ECUSA preaches only liberalism when it sticks its toe in. The anti-war, pro-anthropogenic global warming, pro-public schools, pro-Democratic party line on every fucking issue shit sucks. And when it gets overwhelming, I fall away from my church.

In early 2003, my then-husband deployed on the USS Boise in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The boat participated in the initial bombardment of Baghdad before returning and being hailed (briefly) as the first combat ship to return from the war. But when they left on 13th February, I was a young woman with a very young child whose husband was gone for an undetermined length of time, with no local support, and deeply in need of her church. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, was quite vocal at this time in speaking out against a war I knew intuitively I would support. I drove to Resurrection, the church near my apartment that I went to whenever I could (not easy with a nursling who will. not. take. a. bottle. or consent to be away from Mommy at all)...and there was a big sign on the door about praying for peace.

I drove away.

I haven't been to church since Easter. Maybe the Sunday after, I'm not sure, but I think it was Easter Sunday. It has all gotten to be too much for me. I am a member of the Come As You Are worship service, which is much smaller and more relaxed than the services in the main church. I truly like several of the people who go to the service, I like the happier atmosphere, I like the music. I do not like the politics. I've talked about some of it before on this blog. The chick who, without the slightest hint of irony, compared Barack Obama to Jesus. The sermon wherein Rev. Wickham quoted as saying "When I hear Obama speak, it's like I hear the voice of God," and did not go on to preach of the folly of comparing a politician to God. There was also this photo (sans caption) inserted into the images we saw during Prayers of the People shortly before the election, and a whole butt-ton of other things that were smaller needles. And that's leaving out all the church politics where on multiple occasions I was told one thing to my face and then something else entirely actually happened. (It's actually the latter rather than the former that broke me.)

I'm just sick of it. Sick and fucking tired of it. My soul hurts. I want to go back to church, but at the same time there's a guy in Baghdad I care about a little more every day (no, I don't love him, and I probably never will, but I like him a whole lot & I want him to stay safe) and I just don't know if I can deal with the anti-war stance of my Church and most of my fellow parishioners right now.

Now Obama...if he joins up, I'm gone. Probably for good, but at least until he's out of office. If Barack Obama decides to play Episcopalian while in office, it is going to be a purely political move. He grew up on O'ahu, which I happen to know is pretty damned Episcopalian, and wasn't a member of the church there. If he becomes a member of the church now, it cannot be anything other than a thanks for the help my church gave his ambitions. (Or, quite possibly, a cynical commentary on what he thinks a Christian America is. Look, robes! And wine! And snobs!) And I know I can't take that.


Anonymous said...

I love the Episcopal church. It debunks all that silly salvation junk - see presiding bishops opening address at convention this year:

"the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being."

I mean who really believes that Jesus is still alive and resurrected anyway...please...he was simply an historic figure who we can emulate - read the great theology of Spong, study living the questions, and saving Jesus and read Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox - all great Episcopal minds that teach us the great truth that Jesus is dead and we need to live for today just love everyone and stop all that middle age junk about sin and repentance and judgement.

Only one problem...Jesus is not dead! Join a real church, it will change your life!

Mattexian said...

I had a similar problem with the Methodist Church (born, baptised, raised, confirmed, married), tho not because of some politician wanting to join. It's because of the international Church's liberal political agenda. I can read the Bible as well as the preacher can, and I understand what Jesus meant when he told his Disciples "if you have two cloaks, sell one and buy a sword." (And he wasn't suggesting they invest in the Lord of the Rings model!) He knew the world was dangerous and there are other folks who would do us harm, so be ready to defend ourselves against that. And yet, the UMC has a point on their platform of Issues, that guns are bad, m'kay? It's not the guns that are the problem, it's the crappy local gubmints that makes it so that using a gun to get what you want is easier than not (i.e. corrupt officials, criminal gangs, sometimes one in the same). Personally, I'm tired of That One's World Apology Tour, but when he fugs up here in the US(and by my reckoning, he's doing that a lot!), he doesn't say anything of substance.

rayanne said...

Why would let someone, anyone, dictate what church or religion you are a member of? Regardless of who it is. If that is all it takes to make you leave it, you didn't love it all that much to begin with.
I find all churches and religions in general are hypocritical. And churches are very political. Just because the government separates church and state doesn't mean the churches do in the end.
But to leave if Obama joins? That's just a lame excuse, leave it for all the other reasons and never mention it possibly has anything to do with Obama.
I was going to a small new church in my area. I hadn't been going long enough for any of the politics to rear up yet. And then the back up preacher took over on Good Friday. He 'literaly' used the word 'literaly' after every other word. Literally. It was like nails on a chaulk board and I just couldn't stand it. I don't go anymore and no one can make me. And I hate that word now!

Sabra said...

Rayanne, if you read the whole post you should realize it's less a matter of only Obama than him being the straw that broke the camel's back.

And I don't agree that all churches are political, at least not overtly. Politics never, ever came up at the church I went to in Hawaii, nor did it used to at St Mark's. (In fact, I think that's one of the things that has me so taken aback by it. I grew up in that church, and while change is inevitable, there's some that can & should be avoided.)