As announced on Friday, today I begin a blog-alogue with Meredith Gould. The first question I posed her was: Why do you choose to stay in the Catholic church when it appears to be in crisis? As someone who joined the Church as an adult, I was especially interested in what she had to say. The original plan was for me to answer Meredith’s initial question today over at her blog, but when she sent me this I wanted to reply immediately. You can read my response on Meredith’s blog.
For the past decade especially, our church has strained my credulity and broken my heart on a regular basis. I glean some comfort in knowing that I’m neither unique nor alone in this regard. Fortunately, I’m blessed to know Roman Catholics of deep faith who are calling for this century’s version of aggiornamento.
I happen to think this is a great and important time to be Catholic. Really. No joke. How often do we get to be right smack in the middle of an opportunity for radical Christ-based, Holy Spirit-generated change – and know it? The challenge is, of course, believing that such change is possible, that we can indeed “all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” I actively, consciously choose to walk by faith and not by fright.
As a sociologist, I tend to view each crisis du jour within a larger framework. From this perspective, I’m able to see the Roman church as a man-made social institution rotting under layers of historical grime; one that seems stuck in its self-perpetuating narrative. This sociological perspective also allows me to realize that change is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Thanks be to God – and I mean that quite literally.
Yes, I sometimes find myself praying, “Dear God, in your infinite mercy, please grant that I may be kicked out so I don’t have to leave.” During Advent, I even hinted around that excommunication might be a nice Christmas gift. (Everyone thought I was kidding.) Still, I choose to stay. Why?
I choose to stay because “the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” is indeed the goal toward which I’m called to press on. I know the institutional church is simply an artifact that needs excavation and transformation. I choose to stay because I know God is bigger and the Holy Spirit more powerful than anything humans might muck up. I choose to be a participant observer. I choose to stay because having been raised Jewish, I know things could always be worse. Indeed, they already have been.