Friday, April 10, 2009

Random Thoughts on Good Friday

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, oh, oh oh, Sometimes it causes me to tremble
Tremble, tremble.
Where you there when they crucified my Lord?

--Traditional Spiritual

OK, everyone who knows me at all well knows that I'm a PK. What's a PK, I hear some of you ask? Well, in my experience those who are PKs and those who have a significant other who's a PK know the term. For the rest of you PK stands for Preacher's Kid. My dad was an ordained minister in what is now known as the United Methodist Church.

These days, I pay little attention to organized religion, and yet.... The Jesuits are supposed to have said "Give me a child to the age of twelve and he's mine for life." I know that I'll be a Methodist till my dying day--even if I never go through the doors of another Methodist Church.

On this Good Friday, 2009, my thoughts turn to religion, tradition and belief. This is partly due to having read Judith Warner's blog on the New York Times' website--a blog posting entitled "This I believe." If you click on the link, you can read her blog for yourself. If you don't care to do that, let me summarize it for you. Ms. Warner talks about being Jewish, celebrating the Passover with a more-or-less traditional seder, attending the Episcopal Church as a youngster, going to Easter Sunday services this year, and wondering how it all fits together and what she is passing on to her children. Read her blog and the associated comments. It's well worth your while.

My mind also has made this turn because of discussions we've had in the office the past few days. I work with two men from North Africa, a woman from the People's Republic of China, and a few assorted Americans. On my desk I have a copy of the Koran, a book by a German theologian, Rudolf Frieling--Christianity and Islam, Rafiq Zakaria's The Struggle Within Islam, and Stephen Kinzer's Crescent & Star--a history of Turkey. These are all my own books--brought to the office from my home library. I also have two books by one of our faculty members, Silent Victims and The Last Pharaoh. I've just finished editing the second edition of The Last Pharaoh, a book that sets out just how fragile peace is in contemporary Egypt, and asks pertinent questions about what will happen when Mubarak is no longer in charge.

As the US has become more and more deeply entrenched in Middle Eastern affairs, I've felt it necessary to learn as much as I can about Islam and its adherents. Nothing I've read has made me want to convert, but I have read enough to know that Islam itself is not our enemy. We are told, "In my Father's house are many mansions." I believe that at least one, or perhaps more, of those mansions is set aside for people who follow the teachings of Islam.

But Islam is not my tradition. It is not my belief, and that's what I really want to talk about. I did not attend church last night, but as a child and even into my twenties it would have been unthinkable to not go to Maundy Thursday services. In my father's church, we celebrated communion four times a year. One of those communions was on the Thursday evening of Holy Week--truly a commemoration of The Last Supper. In Methodist tradition, communion is a sacrament, The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. It is not up to us to say who is or is not welcome at the Lord's table--all are welcome. Again, based on the way my father celebrated communion, it was a time for people to come together--to commune. In the liturgy, people would go to the altar rail, kneel together, take both the bread and the wine (Welch's Grape Juice in the Methodist church), and wait to be blessed and dismissed. A Roman Catholic friend, having attended a Methodist communion with me, said "The Catholics could sure teach you something about efficiency." I replied that from our viewpoint, efficiency was not a virtue. The moving line experience in RC or Episcopal churches has always struck me as somewhat impersonal. But then, it's not my tradition. I miss taking communion, even as I acknowledge that I don't really believe in the absolute literal truth of the crucifixion and the resurrection.

That said, even today I can recite the Apostle's Creed. It speaks to me deeply, in a figurative sense to be sure, but still. The hymns of the church remain my favorite music to play at the piano or organ, and to sing--especially in a group setting. Our Missoula Gay Men's Chorus is now preparing for the Spring 2009 concert, and one of the pieces we'll be singing is the old hymn Fairest Lord Jesus. It's a beautiful arrangement that always carries me back to Sunday School.

I miss the music. I miss communion. I miss the liturgy. But how can I faithfully fulfill the vows I took at my confirmation when I feel that the United Methodist Church views me, at best, as a second-class citizen? For thirty-seven years the United Methodist Church has been trying to come to some understanding of where, or even if, gay people belong. As long as my church cannot accept me as a child of God, then can it ever really be "my" church?

Today is Good Friday. I guess my reflections are a personal form of tenebrae. I don't cry out "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" because I know it is not God who has turned against me. It is, rather, those people who claim to speak for Him. Sunday won't find me in church--I'm not one of those Christmas and Easter Christians. I won't be dying eggs, going to a sunrise service, or eating a baked ham. I will be reflecting on love, connections and community.

Bless you all!

1 comment:

TheHappyMan said...

A "PK" ? LOL...Well, I'm sure you saw that movie LATTER DAYS, right?
Hugs, M