My latest Catholic Free Press column.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court on the legal state of marriage has reverberated across the country. People cannot stop talking about it and the conversations are often heated. A seismic shift has taken place in our culture. It caught me unprepared for the personal storm of confusion and fear that I would experience as a result.
Facing the inevitable
Christians are facing a “brave new world.” Confrontation is now inevitable; I cannot avoid it no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel. I have to be clear as to what I think and how I feel and learn how to express it both firmly and in love, as Jesus would do.
These recent events have revealed in broad daylight what had been concealed in the shadows of my soul: I am a weak-kneed, timid Christian, locked in the tyrannical grip of caring about what others think of me. My instinct to self-protect causes me to hide away my faith and avoid discussion of it with others. Writing about it is easy enough because I can do that hidden away in my room. Now I will have to look someone in the eye and defend it.
Questions to pose
God, however, is good, kind, patient and wise. In my prayer he prompted me to process my thoughts and feelings through my writing as that act tends to sort out things out. And so I posed to my journal: What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Is this belief worth defending? How will I express that belief? Am I prepared for the backlash that will come from defending it?
As I pondered those questions, others rose to the surface—why are people abandoning the Church? Why do so many feel threatened by Christianity? I decided to step out for my faith by posing those questions, beginning with our adult son who has left the Church.
Getting some answers
Stephen may no longer attend mass but he counts Jesus as his first and main influence and thus tries to live out our Lord’s teachings. Stephen is passionate about justice for every person, believing that those who have been marginalized need to be acknowledged for the pain they have endured. Injustice must be addressed. He cites the numerous examples in the gospels where Jesus seeks out those who had been disparaged When I asked him about why he left the Church he stated that there was an inconsistency, a disconnect, between the institution and the teachings of Jesus which he could not reconcile. It got personal when he pointed out that same disconnect with regards to my beliefs versus what we as a family had taught him about how people ought to be regarded and treated.
Storm and calm
The discussion grew quite heated, even explosive as our differing points of view, particularly on marriage, collided. My biggest fear of being called a bigot because of my beliefs played itself out. And yet, in the heat of the moment a sense of calm came over me as I realized he and I did agree on something: we wanted a perfect world where all people could know acceptance and justice. We reconciled, agreeing to disagree on the particulars while concurring on our desire for perfection.
I survived my first encounter with confrontation regarding my faith. It made me painfully aware that our Church has to answer to these charges of inconsistency and for the sins of the past committed by her people. And so I continue to ponder the difficult questions: What did we do to foster the perception that the Church as an institution does not reflect the teachings of Jesus? What can we do to present the Church as a Mother, welcoming all of God’s children? How can we change the impression of the Church from a place of judgment ready to impose punishment, to that of a hospital where we present ourselves to be healed of our wounds by the Great Physician? How do we walk the tightrope of standing firm in our beliefs and passing them on to others, and yet, doing it in love?
Reach out rather than pull back
For myself there is only one way to find out: walk with God hand in hand, reach out to those around me and continue asking the hard questions. Step out of my comfort zone; emerge from the shadows of timidity. Accept the backlash and discomfort as the price to pay for seeking an authentic encounter. I may persuade no one with my feeble words but perhaps with loving actions done with the heart of a servant I can be a true disciple of Jesus and be the healing presence He desires me to be.
Copyright 2015 Susan Bailey.
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter