Or any community of faith/belief? What is the Church’s role in our lives, especially in our bedrooms (or wherever we engage in sex)? What is it that it’s supposed to be doing with and for the people – within or beyond its walls?
“The Church needs to remember its boundaries when it comes to getting into people’s lives.”
Even I was shocked to hear this powerfully fervent declaration from a third-year seminary student attending the public presentation of my doctoral research. I’d asked the audience’s thoughts about traditional Church teachings that support a familiar adage, “A man won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” That was her response.
What’s the Church’s place, then, in our lives?
Until I read Hunting the Divine Fox: Images and Mystery in Christian Faith by Robert Farrar Capon, I’d never given its role that much thought. I accepted whatever my family and Sunday school teachers taught me. As I grew, I had my issues with the Church, but I suppose I thought they were my own to work out. I’d never considered that the Church may be operating in ways beyond G~d’s intention or its authorized reach. From Capon’s work I began to agree that the only thing the Church ought to be doing is helping to point people toward G~d. That’s all.
If this is the boundary, then all the preaching, teaching, and other activities that condemn and cajole unmarried people into celibacy and abstinence are misplaced. These are decisions people need to make for themselves. The Church should supply them with the necessary [objective] information and tools to make their own choices, be available to listen, discuss, etc. – if requested – and then – “butt out.” Huh? How well would this ideology sit with the church leaders you know? 😉
As Christians we tend to refer to Yeshua’s (Jesus) examples. Soooo . . .
What did Yeshua say?
Yeshua taught kin-dom principles. Then he empowered individuals by affirming that it was their faith and their choices which created the healing, peace, etc. that they sought. “Do you want to be well?” “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.” The deciding factor was not the establishment’s [Church] self-wielding authority – nor the individual’s allegiance to it.
In his sermon Sunday (3.11.12), “The Fractals of our Faith,” Rev. David Anderson Hooker celebrated the crumbling of two establishments under their own weight – the penal institution and the American education system. If they crumble, he argued, then we get a chance to rebuild them. There is no renovation; they are beyond repair. Hooker added, “And the Church is dying on the vine.” I don’t disagree with this metaphor, but the image I see is more like the one he painted of the institutions. I see the Church crumbling too, under its own weight of self-wielding authority that has become a massive power machine operating outside of its boundaries.
Honestly this is the fractured and fractal “holy” foundation that supports the people who seek to control women’s bodies and their decisions about sex and sexuality. We can become angry at the voice-boxes or we can turn our attention to what’s at the heart of the matter – our faith, our beliefs, our sacred texts, our traditions, our communities of faith, our interpretations, and our appropriations. Dare we women challenge the Church’s role and authority? Absolutely and only we can do it. If we look hard enough with the right tools, there are plenty of examples in our sacred texts. The Shulammite in Song of Songs has become my greatest heroine, boldly going after the man whom her “soul loves” (Songs 3:1-2) and declaring at the end of her story, “My vineyard (my genitals), my very own, is for myself . . .” (Songs 8:12).
So, I guess, yeah – to the Church – “butt out!”
© 2012 candi dugas, llc