Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Now that the ad is in the paper and the website is up, I've been waiting for someone -- anyone -- to call. The newspaper didn't get delivered to our house this weekend. I noticed the snowy, saran-wrapped bundle of newspapers still in someone's driveway when I was out walking early Saturday morning. A friend called on Sunday to say that the newspaper had mistakenly placed the ad under Pentecostal.

That explained a lot.

But in the meantime, it had given me another 24 hours to feel muddled about how I was going to find people to build this new meeting.

My husband just shrugs. Have a little faith.

Says he who hasn't stepped in a church or meeting since we got married.

Faith is one of those funny words. Post 9/11 had lots of news stories about people who had lost their faith. The shock of loss and horror had made it impossible for them to believe in God anymore.

But was the faith they'd had a house of cards? Deep down, they believed what everyone believes, just ordinary things. Natural laws, time, sequences of events, probability. The events of 9/11 just pulled out the bottom card, and it all came tumbling down.

Thomas Carlyle talked about "our spasmodic efforts to believe that we believe."

Churches (and many meetings) work hard to promote a church-constructed worldview that is at odds with our nature-based worldview. People can't believe what they ultimately don't believe. So then there is a need for more sermons, more Alpha courses, more Christian rock songs, more hype to keep propping it up.

People lose faith when a child dies. I've seen it, burned in my memory forever. I watched them pray that this child would be spared, would live. But the immutable laws of existence could not be wrenched from their place in the universe. Their faith died when they discovered that all those sermons about God answering prayers didn't hold true. At least, they didn't hold true for them in their time of need. Ultimately, nothing else matters.

Religions set people up for this kind of shock and despair. We have to take down the scaffolding, the winches, the duct-tape and have a more honest religion. We have to start admitting we don't have all the answers. Much as we'd like to have super powers, we can't change nature or the laws of the universe with our own whispered wishes. We are in this life, not in control of it.

Do I have faith?


Faith is that somehow, somehow, behind and beyond it all, everything's going to be all right. That's as far as I get.

I certainly don't feel faith; I just feel tasks and nudges. I feel truth too -- don't always like that one, but I can feel it. I just have a sense of something beyond, but quite honestly, it's seldom much more than a sense. That I am starting up a church/meeting without faith in the traditional sense attests to the strength of nudge and truth I feel.

But this, what I am doing now, it isn't faith. It's just wrestling.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I had my clearness committee meeting last week (to discuss the programmed meeting I'm starting up -- see past posts).

Relief -- it is done.

Their questions were very good. I could tell they "got it" though they were struggling with the idea of actually doing it. One asked about my membership status. Another asked how well I could handle disappointment. I could tell that at least two of them knew that I was saying good-bye, and that was hard.

Despite my queasiness in the weeks leading up to this meeting, I wasn't uncomfortable once I was there. The four months of considering this leading and listening for the shape and direction of it seemed to sit beside me and guide me.

We were all clear in the end that it was a leading and that I should move forward on it. They suggested that once the group begins, we could consider requesting worship group status in the short term so that we can use the meetings' charitable status number for donations and expenses. Unlike most clearness committees, they will be giving a report to MM about this project so that everyone understands what's going on.

Yesterday I put the first ad in the newspaper. The website is up, and a few of my advisors have visited it. Once we have four people, we will start.

This is launch.

It's kind of scary.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Taking One for the Team

A few years ago, a workplace friend of mine was engaged to get married. Her parents' best friend was United Church clergy, so she and her fiance had decided that they would ask her to do the ceremony, but they'd hold it at the the fiance's Lutheran Church, to be fair. So everybody was happy.

Until the next day. Said fiance returned and told my friend, Sorry. No can do. He'd checked with his Lutheran church and got a big thumbs down for the whole idea. "We don't believe in women clergy," was his explanation.

Um, "we" don't believe in women clergy? A mere twenty-four hours earlier, "we" believed in it just fine! Obviously, he didn't believe women couldn't be clergy, or it would have figured more prominently in his mind when he and my friend were deciding on their wedding the day before.

Setting aside issues of abuse of language, especially the lobotomies done on words like believe, let's focus on the motivation.

I think, in short, it's safe to say that my friend's fiance didn't believe in anything in this situation. He was just taking one for the team. Taking one for the team is a kind of religious "us-guys" loyalty that makes people put the group's thoughts ahead of their own, no matter how much dissonance this causes.

This is the only way I can explain to myself the strange loyalties of people to their religions' most extreme and least defendable parts. I think of it when I hear Muslim feminists explaining why their wear a veil (or a burka!). Or when Catholics describe the roundabout, metaphorical, diagonal-sideways way that gee whiz papal infalliability makes sense. Or when fundamentalist Mormon women appear on TV extolling the virtues and benefits of their cattle-call "marriages" to one old man and how really it's wonderful for them.

I'm sure you can think of examples of Quakers straining to defend outdated or extreme ideas without my assistance.

They're all trying really, really hard.

Human beings are masters of rationalization when it comes to home teams. We find justifications for unpleasantness or just plain wrongness if it means we have to scrape the bottom of the barrel of our brains. Sometimes we do it unconsciously, out of an unspoken desire to pretend that it all still works for us.

Are we afraid it will all unravel if we admit that this or that about our religion is wrong?

Are we afraid of group censure? Being sicc'ed with a committee of care?

Sure, some people have to do it in order to survive. Women especially often don't have choices about their religion, so they have to make do. Nobody wants to believe that the extreme efforts they have made in a religion for 20 or 30 years have been pointless.

Some people, when they can't put up with their own rationalizations anymore, say so and then just leave. The people around them call it "losing the faith" and rally more strongly to the defence of their doctrines and customs.

In baseball logic, taking one for the team means the team is stronger because individuals are willing to set their own needs aside. In political logic, taking one for the team means the party can more easily defeat the opposition, even if these are not issues that individual party members approve of. For both, it's about consolidating power.

In religion, what's the logic of taking one for the team?