Thursday, June 7, 2012

stake a claim with me. and them.

The Vatican is ticked off at American Nuns for focusing too much on poverty and feeding hungry people when their primary concern should be crusading against the important threats like gay marriage and abortion. Sigh.

So nuns are pushing back. Or maybe they're just being perceived as pushing back. Whatever. The point is, they're still doing what they've always been doing - serving God and loving people in radical ways despite institutional pressures to conform and fall in line. And for some reason, the media is affected by this particular disconnect.

I keep reading articles about this issue and I'm especially fired up by some of the comments. Instead of being inspired by the nuns, people focus on their disgust for the Vatican. Some make wild statements about how they've lost all faith in the church and they're done with organized religion. It reminds me of people threatening to move to Canada when politics-du-jour don't shake out their way. Which means they are totally missing the point of this holy work and these beautiful women. Thus, I vent:

Dear Outraged,

Newsflash. The church has always been a little screwed up. Always. Since the very beginning two thousand years ago and among believers of every time and place. We don't get it. We do gross and defensive things. Even those in charge fall and fail. But that is not all we do!

Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes people speak out and change the status quo from within. Sometimes with live in strong tension with such grace that we are suddenly alive and vibrant as the body of Christ. We get angry and passionate and dissident because we believe that God and neighbor are worth the discord along the way. And we grow taller while our roots sink more deeply into the earth, grounding us in the great story of people getting it both wrong and right for generations. When we stick around, we become part of both the past and the future. It's holy.

So you can huff and puff and use the yucky tone from the Vatican as an excuse to give up on the church all together, but I think that's a lousy excuse and completely ironic. Nuns have always been second-rate leaders according to the Vatican. They've always been questioned and challenged. They've seen plenty that could have caused them to leave or give up on the church. But instead of bolting, they decided to stick around and cause change. It's harder. It's messier. But those who do are brave. They choose to remain shoulder to shoulder with people who love and frustrate them. They choose to work within an institution that will never be perfect, though it points to someone perfect. And for that, there will always be criticism.

Christ returned after the resurrection to call us together and prepare us for the Holy Spirit. He knew we'd mess it up and prioritize the wrong stuff along the way. He knew we'd get distracted and bossy and flaky in between great moments of faithfulness and good deeds. But Jesus didn't call us to get it all just right. He just called us to try. Together. Always together, lest we huff off and decide we could do better all alone. Ha!

So buck up. Put your big girl pants on and come back to the huddle. Not "spiritual" in theory, but in actually, communal practice. Darken the doors and show your face. Sure, the Vatican is here, but so are those nuns you like. And liberals and conservatives. And dreamers and doers. And rich people and poor people. We've got a little bit of everything in this big, crazy church. 

All we're missing is you and your outrage.

Hope to see you Sunday, 
Your Faithful and Failing Sister in Christ


val said...

All true, and so incredibly well said.

Your voice is a gift.

love always, Val

Mary Hess said...

AMEN! Thanks, Meta, for pointing to what matters.

Chris Enstad said...