The Taser's Edge

How Things Have Changed (or, Ecumenism Begins in the Home)

In 2005 several American megachurches (Willow Creek in Chicago, North Point Community Church outside Atlanta, and Mars Hill in Michigan among them) saw that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday and decided to cancel Sunday services.  I was attending a conservative Lutheran undergrad, where there was an enormous uproar, but I really didn’t think it was a big deal.  My dad was an engineer before he became a United Methodist pastor, and the year he was first on a church staff, we weren’t able to do Christmas as we always had.  That is, it screwed up celebrating Christmas as a family (basically the argument Willow Creek officially made for cancelling services that year).

Now it’s 2010, five years later, and I find myself at several points this year hearing the normal evangelical “Keep Christ in Christmas” and thinking, “What about keeping the Mass in Christmas?”  (Meaning, Christmas is not just Jesus, but worshiping and sharing in him in community; which for me is a community which gathers around and shares in Christ at His Table.)

Then this morning, a friend from Duke Divinity wrote on Facebook:

Five years ago, this line of thinking (and the snobbery that seems to accompany the idea of doing Christianity right) would have made me throw up outright.  Today, I just have a hint of the taste of bile on my tongue.  And as you can see, I ‘liked’ the status and commented on it.  Finally, the fact that I did not formally ‘like’ that last comment does not mean that I didn’t find it hilarious on first reading it.  Now it’s your turn to throw up.

My ongoing question, though, is how to truly grow in love towards fellow siblings in Christ, while knowing that to actually hold (not just lightly prefer) the beliefs I hold is a good thing (just as it’s a good thing for those with whom I disagree to actually hold their beliefs).  It’s difficult for me personally, because I hate and often avoid conflict, but I also believe that everybody experiences some of what I’m talking about.

Having been in several places on the Christian map certainly helps.  I just don’t want to forget where I’ve been.

This topic seems especially pertinent when gathering with family for Christmas this year.  Plenty (most?) of the people in my family have profoundly shaped my faith, even given me my faith, and yet we disagree deeply on some issues which are incredibly important to me (and to the tradition, such as there is one, to which I belong).

A few ‘peace tactics’ I’m thinking about (which I think include some of my thoughts on the need for ecumenism in general in the Church):

1.) Focus on the hugeness in which we’re in agreement.

2.) Don’t take things so personally.  (Even though my beliefs are very personal, even touching on my identity at times, that doesn’t mean that disagreement is intended as personal attack.)

3.) Actually do engage on the disagreed upon pieces, but with graciousness and good humor, actually believing that I have something to learn.  (3a.: Avoidance doesn’t help deepen relationship, but there are many ways to healthily avoid without becoming avoidant.)

4.) Keep perspective and stay aware of the broader context.  (If this particular issue or argument is all that our relationship consists of, then we don’t have a relationship.)

5.) Don’t be so serious.  (Why do I have to talk about theology, the Church, and politics all the time anyway?)

[Note: I get the irony that to use the word ‘ecumenism’ over ‘ecumenicism’ or ‘ecumenicalism’ is actually to take a side with the Anglophiles, and that doesn’t bother me.]

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