Thursday, December 27, 2007

This Quaker and the Eucharist

When I was a Methodist, I shared the Eucharist ritual but it felt hollow most of the time. My mom had asked me if I would "take Communion" at their Methodist church at the Christmas Eve service. I said it depends on how it was presented. As a convinced Quaker, I am not totally against ritual per se. I am searching for the divine, the spiritual source and power of these rituals. I believe that much of that has been lost. So, I was keen to see how the Eucharist was presented this past Christmas Eve.

I listened carefully to the pastor. What I heard in his sermon was the following: you (the congregation) are the sheep, we pastors are the shepherds, we will bring you the Word of God. So you just sit there passively while we protect you from "predators". (huh? Sin? the current administration?) He went on to say that we needed to "look for a Savior". To me, that's fine to do that, if you bring that strength inside, bring God or Christ or whatever you choose to call the deity in your life. If you keep it external, remain passive, remain unconnected, remain sheep on the hillside, then this is dis-empowering, in my opinion. My brother and I talked this over later. He did not hear it the way I did. I'm not saying I'm right and he's wrong or that the pastor is a bad person. Just that from my experience in life, this felt hollow. So, I chose not to take Eucharist. I didn't feel I could connect with God, through that ritual in that place. I watched instead. People looked like they were entranced. Now that could be a positive thing or a negative thing. So I don't pretend to know what they were feeling.

I guess the other thing that always troubles me is that folks in the clergy will talk about Jesus, their church will go on "mission trips" to help people in trouble, but they won't ask the tough questions like why IS there this insane war in Iraq? Why has the Katrina response been so tragically inadequate? Why ARE there terrorists? What could we do to make the world a more peaceful place by LOOKING AT THE UNDERLYING CAUSES. Sigh. I take the stance that Jesus was a radical person who asked the tough questions, lived a powerful life that challenged the people in power, challenged their authority. But asking those sorts of questions might offend some wealthy members of the congregation, then there wouldn't be enough money for the huge multi-million dollar addition, for the "band aid" mission trips. I know, in my heart that people are doing their best. At least I want to believe that there is that in every person. Maybe not. Organized religion does have the capacity to do many good things in this world. But often I see them doing negative things. Or being silent about injustices. Silence is complicity.

I'm not saying that I or the Quakers have all the answers. I don't know if I have ANY of the answers. I do have a lot of questions, however.


gartenfische said...

This is interesting. I just put up a post that reminds me of this. Or, this reminds me of that. Whatever---you know what I mean.

We attended a cathedral church a few years back and one of the priests frequently preached about the war and how wrong it was. That stopped when the new dean arrived and started focusing heavily on the budget and on money. Can't upset the wealthy patrons, can we? So we left that church.

Like you, lots of questions. No answers.

poodledoc said...

Yes,when churches become big business, the Spirit becomes diminished. I believe that organized religion has the ability to empower people. But some organized religion keeps people down. I feel sad about that. I believe that it drives people away from churches so they become untethered from spiritual communities.

Suzy said...

Looking at the underlying causes is a radical act. It is powerful (and threatening to those in power) when people of faith begin to question. I'm thinking of your post on Nicaragua and the concept of liberation theology. That doesn't get talked about a whole lot these days. I don't know where I'm going with this comment ... it's a good post, and thought provoking. I guess I'm wondering, even as a Quaker, how to be more of an activist, not just a band-aid applier?