This post is a bit of a departure from my usual blogging style. This article (about a Catholic preschool rejecting the re-enrollment of a student because the child’s parents were lesbians) could have been the basis for a post about the tension between doctrine,practice, and public opinion; insensitivity and shameful discrimination, or the way too many churches define LGBT persons by their sexual orientation instead of viewing them as human beings.
However, this article highlights a few themes I have come across recently, in writing for my college paper about religion and spirituality issues.
After ignoring/sidelining or condemning LGBT persons for so long, many Christian denominations have, for the past few years, been facing questions about their past and future behaviors: Do we perform marriage/commitment celebrations? Should we become a Reconciling congregation? Do we ordain gay clergy? Do we allow gay people to become members of our church?
“I feel like gay people are used to this by now and that really matters of religion in the gay community are kind of things that can’t be helped,” said sophomore Mike Kurtz, president of the Marist College Lesbian, Gay, Straight Alliance. “For example, two gay people getting married in a church-The church represents certain ideals and if you want to get married in a holy place you should support that religion’s ideas-just because a religious entity is supporting its ideals, people shouldn’t get outraged, it’s personal. You just let people believe what they want.”
Mike brings up an insightful point. Organized religion is structural, based on aspirational adherence to key standards and expectations for behavior. To a point, this structure serves as a guide, worldview, and framework.
However, the edification of organized religion builds on a vision. Is not all-encompassing love part of the vision of the New Testament?
To what extent do faith communities engage in ad hoc balancing of the culturally developed tenets of organized religion and love, respect, and acceptance of people?
This story is about 1,800 words–and that is the trimmed version.
While interviewing Dr. John Knight, a professor in the Religious Studies department, he asked me what I thought young people saw lacking in the Catholic Church and other organized religious denominations and what would help draw youth back in.
One of the most compelling parts of faith for many young people is social justice, a theme common to the utopic vision of most faith traditions. In my experience, what myself and others that I know have found most eye-opening and inspiring in their faith and belief experience is active compassion–helping to repair a hurricane-damaged house, setting a temporary soup in a city park where homeless or displaced persons congregate, or working at a after-school program with children.
As easy as it is to be disillusioned with modern forms and practices of organized religion,this experience is so powerful for believers of all ages because it is the actualization of beliefs, rhetoric, and theology in the form of unconditional spiritual love, without pushy proselytizing, for other human beings. Social justice is an assertion of vital relevance for the organized church.