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Friday, November 23, 2007

Classism and the Maze of Schism.


I’ve been thinking a great deal about “The Great Divide”. By that I mean, the difference between Evangelical Episcopalians/Anglicans and the rest of us in North America.

I’m tying to understand the anger and the harsh, often violent rhetoric. Who are these people? Who is their God? Why are they hell-bent on the ruination of The Episcopal Church?

I’m thinking that class issues play an important part in all of this.

Let me explain by way of thinking out loud. I don’t mean this as an essay that is definitive, but rather, evolving. No where will you read, “Thus saith the Lord.”

I do not mean that to vacillate. I only mean what I say: I am trying to understand what it is that exists, way, way down at the bottom of the deep valley of “The Great Divide” in the present troubles in the church.

Why? Because, for all of my glibness and defensive posturing, it simply pains me to see the church in the state of schism. I am looking for some comfort.

I suspect that understanding the dirty little secret of classism which has long plagued the Episcopal Church just might hold one of the keys which may unlock the confusing, chaotic mess of schism. I may not be able to connect all the dots, but there is an odd sort of comfort in the exercise itself.

Then again, I often retreat to my intellect to find solace. It happens a lot in the LGBT community, as well as among many of the oppressed. If we can make sense of it we can live better with it, since we can’t seem to change the human dynamics of oppression, prejudice and bigotry.

My father was a simple man. A working class man. Although he had a sixth grade education, he was, by no means, dumb. Just uneducated. He would never, EVER, have been an Episcopalian.

That’s not just about education, much less theology or ecclesiology. Being a Portuguese immigrant and Roman Catholic were inseparable – you know sort of like being a Jew. It's your nationality and your religion. The same was true for any immigrant group. Consider the Irish.

Even more than that, however, my farther would have felt singularly out of place in an Episcopal church. The central, albeit least talked about reason for that would have been an issue of class.

Oh, he would have been met and greeted warmly on his first visit – even his second or third. But, he wouldn’t have become a member. He wouldn’t have felt comfortable. More importantly, no one would have encouraged him to do so.

His great gifts to me were his stories. I don’t believe he ever considered them gifts. Rather, he simply told them as story – an answer to a question from his eldest daughter. His duty as a father to try and explain and impart his understanding of the wisdom of the world.

I just read an essay entitled, “Not My Father’s Religion” by a man named Doug Muder, an Unitarian Universalist pastor which calls his religious denomination on their classism and elitism.

He says, succinctly, “Unitarian Universalism has a class problem. Like our race problem, the class problem seems paradoxical to many UUs: We try to stand for all people, but when we look around, we’re usually standing with people like ourselves.”

He continues, “One reason this paradox is hard to talk about, I think, is that a lot of us believe an explanation that we don’t’ want to say out loud: Working-class people are stupid. The powers-that-be have duped them into pining for Heaven instead of changing Earth.”

He could be talking about The Episcopal Church.

Here’s the thing that caught my imagination. Muder uses a very apt metaphor of baseball. He talks about his father, a factory worker in the cattle feed industry, a Missouri Synod Lutheran by religious affiliation, who often worked the night shift and overtime. Muder describes how he’d race home from school on his bike and they’d play baseball – father and son in the front yard.

“Dad had a method for teaching me not to be afraid of the ball. ‘Let it hit you,’ he said. Because that’s how Dad thinks: If the worst has happened already and you survived, what’s to be afraid of?”

He could have been talking about my father.

“Consider baseball helmets,” Muder writes. “The major leagues didn’t make batting helmets mandatory until 1971. You know who fought that rule? Hitters. The league had to grandfather the active hitters in, so that they could keep facing Nolan Ryan’s fastballs without helmets until they retired. The last batter who didn’t wear a helmet was Bob Montgomery in 1979. The same thing happened in hockey, whose last helmetless player retired in 1997.”

“Now, from the outside it sounds crazy that the players would fight against people who were trying to protect them, but it makes an odd kind of sense. You see, the players knew the lesson my Dad taught me in the front yard: If you’re afraid of the ball, you can’t hit it. They just took it one step further: If you’re really not afraid, why do you want a helmet?”

“When you’re doing something hard like hitting a baseball,” Muder writes, “sometimes the mind-set you need, the one that works, is not the objective, big-picture view. It’s the one that tells you to be brave, not the one that tells you to wear a helmet.”

I’ve been thinking about this image, and applying it to the rhetoric I hear from the Episcopal Evangelical Right. I’ve had to look beyond my disdain for the religious machismo in order to hear strains of this metaphor in everything that is said and done from that side of the church pew.

Don’t believe me? Here are the scriptural mantras of two of the major Evangelical Blogs:

“Be on your guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be brave. Be strong. Be loving in everything you do.” (Oops. Well, not so much on that last part., but yes, that is ‘Stand Firm’.)

"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it." (T19)

Stand firm. Hold firm. Firm, no matter what comes at you. Let the ball hit you.

Got it?

I think of my own working-class parents – my mother was a ‘presser’ in a dress factory, my father, a rubber worker for Firestone Tire and Rubber. If they knew what it was to ‘follow your bliss’ they also knew enough to resist the temptation.

‘Discernment’ was something clergy did in seminary or “Father” talked about on spiritual retreats which they would have loved to attend, but never had the time because, well, there may be overtime available and that paid ‘time and a half.’

They didn’t go off to work in some dirty, dingy factory because they had discerned this as the work they were called to do. They went to work every day and to church every Sunday because if they didn’t, they were convinced something bad would happen. They’d be punished. Get fired. Go on (gasp!) welfare (‘The Dole’ as my father called it).

And, in the long run, if they were to be punished, so would their children in the form of some awful illness. And, THAT was just not gonna happen. No way. Not if they could help it.

My parents didn’t need help discerning what to do. They just needed to make themselves do it.

Is this starting to sound even vaguely familiar?

The maze is another metaphor Muder uses to explain the Great Divide. “Picture it like this,” he writes. “Imagine society as a giant maze, with success as a prize at the end. Some people are born right by the exit. Others start in more difficult places. They can’t just wander out. They have to make all the right moves.”

“Now,” he continues, “if you imagine yourself standing in a high place overlooking the maze, compassion for the people deep inside might raise questions like these: Why does it have to be so hard to find the prize? Couldn’t we knock out a few walls? Why can’t the minimum wage be higher? Why can’t the government hire the unemployed? Why can’t college be free?”

“From a God’s-eye view,” continues Muder, “those are great questions. But, if you’re inside the maze, that mind-set won’t get you out. It doesn’t help. No matter how good those question are objectively, if I’m so deep in the maze that I seriously doubt I’ll ever get out, I don’t need them in my head.”

I have a clear childhood memory of the times my father would get frustrated and angry with me. That was when I was curious and asking lots of questions. Questions, to him, were the enemy. Follow them, and they could lead you down the path to sin and perdition.

“Curiosity killed the cat,” he would warn. My father also used to say. “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”

I always thought it was a joke. Now, I understand.

I think I’m also gaining an insight into the Evangelical resistance – no, repulsion, actually – to ambiguity and paradox, which, for me, are two of the compelling parts which form the nexus of the Spirit of Anglicanism.

If your world is black and white, however, I suspect you might tend to read the Bible from that same color lens.

If your working class world is harsh, your God is bound to be harsh; so, too, will be your theology. Ordain women? You mean, ‘the weaker sex’? How could a woman be ‘proper matter’ for the Herculean task of fighting against Satan, the incarnate form of Evil which is as present and real on Earth as the goodness of God.

Ordain homosexual people? Those men who appear feminine? Those ‘sissies’? See the argument about ordaining women above. And, if you don’t believe that, well, just read the Bible. It’s all there. In black and white.

People of color? That just adds to the difficulty of the task of getting out of the maze. Might take the job that is the one chance I have to escape. They might get out before I do, and you know that ain’t right. There is an order to the world. White men first. Just read the Bible. It’s all there.

Often, this harshness is communicated in the language employed in daily conversations – especially if the carefully balanced order of the harsh world is threatened in any way. Then, there is no hope for ‘dialogue’.

I can hear my father, “Talk. It’s TALK, Elizabeth. I don’t know what the hell ‘dialogue’ is supposed to mean. Whatever happened to people just TALKING with one another? You want to know what’s wrong with the world?” he’d ask, his face flushed with anger.

“People don’t TALK to each other anymore. They DIALOGUE! I’m the father. I talk. You’re the daughter. You listen. Easy, see? Jesus Christ!” he’d mutter under his breath and walk away in absolute disgust.

Professionals tell their kids to find something they love and do that as your life’s calling. If you do what you love you’ll be brilliant, creative, and energetic. You’ll succeed – and the road to success is paved with inspiration.

It’s the way out of the maze. Or, at least, it’s one way. The good way. There’s also the bad way, driven by fear and greed – those who sell their time and money for a lot more money than the folks in the factory who work for them.

In the working class families, the road to success is paved with self-control. Children are taught to resist temptation. Walk the narrow path. Do the hard thing you don’t want to do, so that you and the people who are counting on you won’t be punished.

Unlike the professional class kids who get a second chance – and even sometimes, a third and a fourth – you only get one shot out of the maze. And that shot is usually through education. Sometimes, it’s a combination of things. Sometimes, you get a lucky break – being at the right place at the right time.

Whatever. You got one shot. If you blow it, you not only ruin your dream, but the dreams of everyone who worked and sacrificed to get you to this country and have this opportunity. That’s an enormous burden.

All of this has helped me understand the harshness of the rhetoric from the Right. The need to shame and blame. The impulse to destroy. The drive for power and control. To take the hits in order to win.

Clearly, sexism is one of the driving factors. It messes up the ‘natural order’.

However, I think some of it also has to do with our own classism. At least, that’s the way it seems to me as I listen to some of those who leave comments the three or four Evangelical conservative Blogs I check into periodically.

Here’s the thing: my own classism is not helping the situation. Yes, I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. The simplicity of some of their arguments and the fundamentalism of their logic may cause me to cringe, but these folk are not ‘stupid.’

If I consider their theology as too focused on the wretchedness of the human condition and ‘otherworldly’ matters, it’s only because their understanding of the human condition and their world view are so very different from mine.

I am coming to understand that class status – mine and theirs – has a primary role in informing that perspective.

I’m working hard to understand these things because I’m tired of banging my head against the wall and going nowhere in the Maze of Schism in our church. Which leads me to end with one of my father’s best stories – one I’m thinking is more and more a parable about the Maze of Schism.

My father fought in World War II in what he always called, alternatively, “The Pacific Front” or “The Pacific Theater.” He saw most of the action deep in the jungles outside of Manila. One night, in the heat of battle, he and two of his buddies got caught off from the rest of his battalion. It was very, very dark. They were tired and scared.

They had come upon a wall, which seemed to be preventing them from finding their way back home. The more they moved along it, the more their frustration and anxiety grew. Finally, in exhaustion, they fell asleep for a few hours.

As morning began to break, they awoke to hear voices. Carefully peering over the wall, they could see, not too far away, a battalion of Japanese soldiers. “Turns out,” my father said, “the wall we had been cursing had actually protected us.”

He would get quiet and pensive and then add, “So, if you are ever in a dark and scary place and there’s a wall, don’t curse it. Don’t try to take it down. Just move along it for a while. Rests when you need to. Sleep if you have to. It may not be a bad thing. It may actually save your life.”

Let those who have ears, hear.


UPDATE: Check out the very thoughtful comments on another verse of this conversation over in MadPriest's Neighborhood.

http://revjph.blogspot.com/2007/11/do-i-hear-hallelujah.html

17 comments:

Paul said...

Elizabeth, I think you have raised an important issue and one that Americans are very uncomfortable discussing. With the myth of a classless society we feel we are walking in a minefield if we bring up the topic. Yet the experience of socio-economic locus is very determinative of our view of the world and our role in it and, consequently, of God and how things ought to be. Following one's bliss is anathema in my blue-collar family, a combination of prideful self-will and self-indulgence. You just do what you gotta do to survive. Our grandparents were immigrant farmers scraping by. A world defined by duty and sacrifice naturally leads to a deity who demands duty and sacrifice. A God of abundant blessing and delight is not a god they comprehend. Rules are not to be questioned. Hell is to be feared and the afterlife is far more prominent as the needful balance to life's woes and injustices here and now. The experiences of the privileged are so different from those of the downtrodden or those in between that this has to influence one's spirituality. There are always exceptions and transitions but I think you've noted something that probably has wide application. Here's to a grace-filled discussion of it!

Muthah+ said...

I too come from a working class family. I am proud of those working class roots that provided a solid foundation in hard work and clean living. Education was the way to move away from the sense of punishment--that sense that one must earn our keep by the sweat of our brow.

My family would never have been Episcopalian either. Dad because he didn't go to church and mom because she DIDN'T go to college. She didn't feel that she had anything in common with the college (write: sorority women)that makes up the majority of the women of southern Episcopal Churches.

The wall I see in Episcopal churches doesn't have to do with conservative/evangelicals and liberal or progressive, however. I still see profound differences in the Episcopal church in the north and the south--differences between the suburban, the city and the rural areas. The walls are often played out at such things as conventions or diocesan events.

When I went to seminary 30 years ago, I was given an assignement by Carter Heyward to find others in the semenary who had been raised working class. I could find only 3 of us and all of us had been raised RC. It made me see that the for the most part, the clergy are often upper middle class or above and often our parishes are not--certainly not in small upstate NY parishes.

It is interesting that such classist walls are not as apparent in ELCA congregations where ethnicity determined your acceptance rather than class. Isn't it interesting that we have to find ways to wall out others just to save our lives?

Jim said...

There is certainly a class level issue in TEC. The thing is, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to apply it to the schism. Take the current set of schismatic bishops -- can anyone see Bps. Iker, Ackermann, Beckwith, (soon) Lawrence, and the others as 'working class?' Lest we forget Dr. Harmon to refer to one of the blogs you cite.

My dad and mom were the step up at least economically. Mom had some college, a big deal for a depression era part Rom, part Hungarian woman. Dad's dad was a die maker. He was a designer again with some college. One of my brothers is an attorney, one a retired police detective, the other held a MS. I have a BSB, and Sue-z made deans list. So, yeah, we have climbed the education ladder.

I see the divide as cut by a world view that turns on ambiguity. Yes, that is the issue, is the world clear and God with it, or is there ambiguity. One need only read David Virtue's rants against Frank Griswald to see that certainty (the new word is 'clarity') is the touchstone.

And yet, I still do not get it. OK, some want a world of absolutes, I see at most very few. Is this why we cannot pray together? Is that why entire diocise have to schism? For that I become unacceptable?

I suppose if Dr's Virtue and Harmon want absolutes, they may have them, preach them, proclaim that I as a bad liberal dude violate them. But excommunication?

I find it hard to get, when I read the glee that the commenters on Virtue and Viagra greet any reverse suffered by TEC. I do not for instance wish AMiA ill. I don't like their ideas, but they may certainly have them! I also do see working class folks who are able to handle indeed embrace ambiguity.

I dunno, as I write it, I come to think I sm seeing your point. Maybe the world has to be black and white, only. Maybe if ambiguity raises its ugly head, if there are two or more creation stories in Torah, then the universe collapses.

But what of the leaders? I could simply say cynicism. It could be that the explanation is that simple. Leading the lower class has advantages, there are a lot of them to contribute.

I should like to think that is wrong. First because I rather like some of them. Dr. Virtue and I get along rather well actually. One of the more literalist deacons in Dallas is a friend. One of the most conservative of the retired bishops is a correspondent I value. I have even corresponded a bit with N. T. Wright and enjoyed the exchanges.

So if not cynical leadership what? Well, maybe a mix? I can for instance find cynical explanations quite easy in some cases. But what of the rest?

Conviction, a belief inherited that the world is monochrome. I guess that is the best I can do. I just do not think it covers the space?

How do you explain the leaders?

FWIW
jimB

Bateau Master said...

Whatever. You got one shot. If you blow it, you not only ruin your dream, but the dreams of everyone who worked and sacrificed to get you to this country and have this opportunity. That’s an enormous burden.

As a "Good Friday" Christian, I imagine that Jesus understands the working class very well. He was never given the option of exploring His bliss and happiness, but was on a hard and narrow path for the sake of others. He knows obligation better than anyone.

He gives warnings to the prosperous with the eye-of-the-needle and the narrow way.

Wander beyond the perceived path and others will try to redirect and conflict will arise. The question is whether you are remaining on The Path or are you traveling the wide highway.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, BM. You absolutely made my case. I couldn't have done it any better.

Alcibiades said...

Thank you for a deeply insightful piece: the account of your father's experience, and his perspective on life's walls shall long remain with me.

In his classic work Rockchoppers: Growing Up Catholic in Australia, the Australian historian, writer & RC priest Fr. Edmund Campion suggests a different way of seeing contemporary sectarianism is through a variation of the traditional understanding of class; rather than a blue/white collar split he suggests the real division in Anglo-Western societies (and he is speaking particularly of Australia, so I'm not sure how far this might apply to other contexts) lays between those who work with "things" - tools, hands, machines etc., and those who work with "words" - lawyers, teachers, clergy etc.

From this he proposes that in the past Catholicism (in both Roman and Anglican/Epsicopalian streams), with it's strong sacramental focus has connected most with those whose world is framed by tangibles, whereas the individualist abstract reasoning of Protestantism related better to those whose daily work involves the manipulation of abstracts.

Yet the past 30 years have seen this division fragment. As an example: I now "make" and "build" things for a living (databases and web pages) but they are inherently ephemeral, and the "bricks" from which they are "constructed' nothing more than numbers represented by words. Where might I fit into the old socio-religious framework? Conversely, few lawyers these days have the luxury of dictating letters - the once humble role of typist has now been universally incorporated into their job description. The "things" they produce are on on elevel just as physical as the mperson on a production line.

In response to these changes it seems to me both sides of the ecclesiastic division have actually moved closer toward each other, but it's this proximity from which much of the current difficulties are arising. "Anglo-Baptists" are rejecting the old exegetical individualism in favour a a Catholic-style magisterium ("This is what the Bible says about xyz, and even if xyz isn't creedal you can't be a Christian if you don't view it as we tell you to") at the same time Catholics are exploring notions of every individual being their own Priest, Theologian, and Bishop.

Understanding all of which helps me make a little more sense of what I see going on (or at least that which I encounter in my own country so far away from the TEC battlefields), but doesn't really provide any solution - sorry.

The best strategy I've seen (only the only one which seems to me as if may be succesful) is that of a gay man I know: years after being rejected from ministry when he came out, he has now returned to his old congregation (an AOG mega-church) where he is befriending as many people as he can. His reasoning is that most people in the place simply don't know any gays, and so find it easy to forget thay're human. By confronting them as a real-life person full of love, laughter, life and friendship the old walls break down, and the congregations homophobia is broken-down from within.

He achieving quite spectacular results from what I can tell, but he's a truly amazing person. Following his example and being an outspoken inclusive Catholic within an evangelical congregation would take more emotional strength than I could ever imagine having. Still.. perhaps in the end a truce may only come when we can all honestly appreciate each other's shared humanity - something which I for one admit I'll need God's Grace to to accomplish effectively.

Peter said...

The current situation within TEC seems fairly straight on -- the Bible says that man shall not lie with man. If that does occur, it is a sin. It isn't a subject of parenting, income level, or other side issues.

The method of clearing up sin is called 'repentance' . . . I haven't heard that mentioned in all of the social concerns that is bantered about.
And why not? Could it be nice to chat and discuss the multiple sides of an issue as simple as that?

I am in TEC, but have been listening for discussion on the proper concerns: Is it souls or cash that drives TEC? I'm amazed the fight that is going on to grab property from those leaving TEC. No cash was expended by the Bishops in erecting, equipping, staffing, repairing my parish, and the bishop thinks he can retain those souls by pocketing the cash upon selling off the property.

Reading today's TEC news is no longer enjoyable.
I'm sticking around for awhile longer to see if TEC can get back to being the traditional church that was passed down though the centuries to us.

Perhaps in the coming Spring some of the sidestepping TEC supporters will rise our of the
winter sleep like groundhogs and see the world of the church as it is.

I still believe in miracles!

Mark said...

So, how do you explain those of us liberals who are on the poor, working-class side? I come from a family of general-store merchants on one side and farmers on the other. I didn't go to a great intellectual center of learning. I live week-to-week.

I suffer from chronic severe depression, and have never seriously held the sad, cruel vision of God and the World that so many "working-class" conservatives do.

It's something other than class, I think, though conservatives use that as a convenient wedge issue.

Mary Clara said...

Elizabeth, this is very thought-provoking. My family were farmers and ranchers on both sides, moving westward each generation, so all experienced the vulnerability of frontier life and of agriculture. They became small-town citizens and community leaders, and by my parents' generation were making the transition to professions or small businesses. The agricultural life and small-town entrepreneurship are a bit different from the working-class experience in industrial areas where one is clearly at the bottom of a social and economic ladder; however they do lend themselves to clarity about the consequences of not following the rules. Success and failure are very clear-cut, objective, and 'out there' rather than based on internal values. Most of my elders were disinclined to indulge in either 'following their bliss' or entertaining ambiguity. As Paul says of his family, "A God of abundant blessing and delight" was not familiar to most of them. And some had a definite awareness of class as a determinative factor in their lives.

I find it interesting how much contrast there was between the Southern family and the Midwestern/Rocky Mountain folks. The East Texas clan who had come via Alabama and Virginia had a fairly harsh and conditional God. They went from Hardshell or Primitive Baptists to Southern Baptists to Methodists, getting less severe each generation. The Colorado folks (by way of Iowa, Missouri and the Dakotas) were gentle Methodists. I've always felt that these differences had (1) a component of regional culture, (2)a temperamental dimension (personality type being partly inherited), and (3) a dumb luck factor, involving what theology was on offer where they happened to live.

In the deep South, white racism was an important factor in people's entire way of thinking. Life was literally 'black and white' and in order to maintain white identity, perhaps everything had to be seen in clear-cut, either-or terms. (Not having grown up in the South, I have to try to make sense of this as an observer, which is not easy.) Some of my elders were able to break through this barrier in their spiritual lives, others were not. I think racism complicates and aggravates the issue of class in the South even today, and this probably affects religious views.

We who grew up in the prosperity and expansiveness of the post-WWII, post-Depression era and surpassed our parents in education and professional status really do live in a different spiritual universe. I think it is immensely helpful to look at the theological and ecclesiological strife in TEC in the light of these differences. Your family story is such a rich vignette of one facet of the divisions we face. It reminds us to look behind what is being proclaimed as truth to see what that formulation of truth might be so important and convincing to the one who is proclaiming it (and why he or she may feel insulted or threatened when others don't agree).

I would be interested to know more about the individual backgrounds of some of the schismatic leaders, and also of the economic and class makeup of some of the breakaway congregations.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This is a fascinating discussion - much more so that I could have asked for or imagined.

No, it's not just an issue of class or gender or sexuality or even simply the intermeshing of all of them.

I just took out one strand in this Gordian Knot - classism - and explored it.

What's fascinating is even the strand of classism has a different strand, depending on where you live or from whence you hail.

Peter - I hope you find a spiritual home that will feed your soul and you will find peace.

I left the RC church of youth to join TEC and have never once regretted the decision.

May the same be true for you.

Lisa said...

Gosh! I'm impressed by the depth and thoughtfulness of your post and most of these comments. I'm not writing to agree or argue, but to add a couple more thoughts.

I don't see the class issue at work in my local parish. We're the only Episcopal Church in this town of 40k. So if you're an Episcopalian, you worship at Grace. Thus, we have considerable socio-economic diversity, including factory workers, university professors and doctors, and several folks just one step from homelessness. Probably 20% of our active members are African or African-American. And the few folks who are having trouble with +VGR and related issues are in the "professional class," not the working class. Go figger.

As a former rector observed, tolerance is kinda "enforced" on us. I suppose someone who didn't like our diversity and tolerance could go to the next-nearest TEC parish about 35 miles away, but it's pretty much a mirror-image of ours liturgically, theologically, and "politically."

I don't know whether all that's relevant.

I was struck my a lengthy comment Mary Clara made over at MadPriest's. He's pulled it onto the front page here. She suggests there that "the schismatics' obsession with same-sex love is not about personal morality at all. It has to do with a perceived threat to cosmic order." It's well worth a read. Made more sense than anything else I've yet read about why the "other side" is so vehement.

Grandmère Mimi said...

What a thoughtful post and comments. I don't know that I have wisdom to add to the discussion, but I have much to think about.

Before I joined the Episcopal Church, I thought of it as the church of the rich, the church of the upper class. When I began attending my church, I saw that my view was incorrect. What I thought of as a rich church is actually a financially struggling church, and has been that way for the 11 or so years I've been there and actually for it's whole history since 1844.

The congregation is pretty heavily upper middle class and fairly well-educated, with a few from the lower economic class.

The reason for the financial struggle is the small size of the congregation in a heavily Roman Catholic area. However, we are growing, and the financial strain has eased some.

My background is not even working-class, since my alcoholic father sometimes didn't work. We were poor and kept afloat only with the help of extended family.

Despite that background, I did try to "follow my bliss", but I knew that I would have to make my own way. No one was going to take care of me, as I followed my dreams.

I don't know what my contribution adds to the discussion of what made the schismatics the way they are.

Desert Kat said...

Very thought provoking- and definately not from an angle that I considered the schism from before.

My thoughts have been that what we are seeing is a modern re-enactment of Mat 15:11. People are so busy pointing fingers at sexuality that we are forgetting the greater sins of anger and pride. For some reason we, as a nation, have never shaken free from our Puritan roots. We have never really claimed sexuality- we either hide it away or abuse it, we have difficulties in accepting it as it is.

In their own way, those who are breaking away from the church are the Pharisees. Shouting about the "sins" of another while ignoring the hate, cruelty and pride coming from their own withered hearts. Personally, I feel sorry for them. And I pray that somehow they will find themselves reunited with God. As I have yet to see any scriptual reference to "The way to salvation is through me- except for you, you in the tattered shirt and definately the smelly guy over there."

Bah, these be nothing more then half formed thoughts and one of my dogs is informing me that it is past dinnertime.

Mary Helen said...

Elizabeth, The link to the discussion at Mad Priest's Blog does not work. Thought you should know.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Mary Helen. I think it's fixed now. At least, it worked for me. I included it at the end of the post.

Catherine said...

Elizabeth, you have articulated many of the thoughts buzzing around my head in the past few weeks. I was raised one of seven children in an Irish-Polish RC family. The fear of God in the form of the priest who heard confession every two weeks and the nuns who deigned to teach us heathen public school kids Catechism kept us in line. Life was about surviving; Church was about repenting for all those sins we couldn't keep from committing daily. Only constant struggle and vigilance would keep body and soul together on Earth and earn us our eternal reward in Heaven.

My experience in the Episcopal Church was extremely different. Priests were real people with families and kids who could be troublesome as well as a joy. Instead of believing what the church told me I had to believe, I was challenged to think and pray through issues. I grew into the Episcopal church as my view of my place in the world changed. I'm not sure if it was intellectual growth or the dawning feminist movement that led me to walk out of a Roman Catholic church one Sunday and decide that no man who had so removed himself from the real-time demands of living in a family had the right to tell me there was only one way for people to live in a close, personal relationship. I only know that the horizons opened by my reading and study prevented me from letting someone else run my life, temporal or spiritual, from that time onward.

Although our parish has some diversity in educational levels, we are largely a well-educated bunch. We are also a largely liberal congregation. A link between education, a sense of choice in your life, and tolerance for ambiguity?

How about a link between power needs and conservatism? Leading liberals is like herding cats. If you can convince people there is only one way and you have the key, they will follow much more easily. Of course, I could be wrong (and probably am).

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi, Thanks for your thougthful post. I have been so enriched by so much of this discussion. No real answers. Just more to think about.