Thursday, March 8, 2012

Past the pearly gates, our suffering is over

From Chicago Tribune-

Q: I grew up in the Lutheran church, but left because they were so exclusive. I'm currently a member of an Episcopal church with a beautiful but aging building and a dwindling congregation. Our current priest lacks leadership skills.

We have an endowment that's keeping us going, but the money will run out in about seven years. Church meetings about this issue are not good and I'm fed up with the whole situation. At 78, I don't need this aggravation in my life.

In general, I feel that religious institutions, including many churches in our town, are problematic. Therefore, I'm thinking of leaving the church and becoming, as they say, simply "spiritual," by which I mean following the commandments, helping others and trying to live a good life. However, my wife is worried. She asks me, "What will God think?" Can you help us? -- Anonymous, via

A: Listen to your wife! Obviously, I can't speak for God, but I can speak for my brothers and sisters in the clergy who've given their lives to build and sustain communities of faith. The key to understanding your agony is to pray about and think about the role of community in your faith life.

You absolutely do not need a community of faith to live a good life, a compassionate life, a virtuous life. There are wonderful atheists and horrible religious people, and vice versa. However, there is a singular benefit to being a member of a religious community: What God wants us to do here on earth is way too difficult to do alone. This is the reason we come together in faith. We give and receive courage and hope when we pray together and do good works together and study God's word together.

More here-,0,4376788.story

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