I fell in with Fundamental Unitarians who preached radical tolerance. —KM
For the last two weeks my EfM group has been discussing Fredrica Harris Thompsett’s book We Are Theologians. Last week, we focused on the importance of every person participating in their local church, supporting each other and keeping each other accountable. While our clergy are an important component of teaching people about their corporate faith, they are not a stand-in for Christ or an intermediary between the average believer and God. This week we are looking at the importance of community, of keeping each other (and ourselves) moving forward in our faith.
One of the reasons I transitioned from the Evangelical and Baptist churches I grew up in was the shift in those churches (the ones I was exposed to, not every one) from a thoughtful faith that challenged itself and sought out information about the history of the church and the ancient cultures at the heart of the early followers of Christ to a blind and thoughtless faith where critical thinking has become “questioning God”. The place where I landed eight or nine years ago, Episcopalian, has a foundation in Christ’s teachings and three elements that share importance: the Bible, reason or thoughtfulness, and tradition. I appreciate that the larger church and the individual communities encourage people to learn about their faith, its origins, and its changes over the centuries. I do wish it had more of an emphasis on each person becoming familiar with the Bible by reading it instead of (often) reading only the excerpts found in The Book of Common Prayer.
I greatly admire Cranmer’s move toward making scripture and theology accessible to the common person who didn’t have the money to spend on an entire Bible; I also admire his insistence on keeping the language at the level of the common people. However, like with Shakespeare, that drive to speak the language of the people rather than the language of the wealthy or academics has been lost in the “keep it pure” movement. Part of what made these men and their works so popular was their genuine drive to meet the masses where they were. The Book of Common Prayer became a way for people to learn to read and to learn to think. Shakespeare’s plays, like modern cartoons, work on multiple levels, hitting the humor of the masses and the subtle jabs that could be appreciated by the upper and more learned classes.
The other thing that drew me to the Episcopal church was the way the local church members involved themselves in various aspects of our community and helping those in need. Many of the churches in my community come together to man and contribute to the local food bank, set up and run warming stations in the heart of winter, and practicing loving their neighbors by accepting everyone as “a child of God.” Much to the consternation and sincere concern of the more conservative Christians, many churches have openly ordained women and accepted into their congregations those who are openly gay.
In the end, I believe that each person’s relationship with God is between that person and God. I also believe we are called on the keep each other honest instead of hypocritical. We have a duty to God, ourselves, and our neighbors to practice taking care of one another.