Almost one hundred years ago, an Episcopal bishop in Wisconsin noted his “strong antagonism to proselytism.” “Men want to get others to join their side, their party, their church,” he wrote in 1914, “by way of triumph over some other party. They want their side to win, their sect to grow.” Reading those words while the major American political parties geared up for their quadrennial convention pep-rallies was a fortuitous thing. Seems to me that the heightened vitriol of yesterday’s religious arguments has simply been relocated to today’s political arena. “This spirit leads to jealousies and rivalries,” the bishop maintained long ago, adding “it undermines the spiritual life.”
One of the gifts of a faith-based community is that we have learned, given our unfortunate history of fighting, to go beyond divisive, partisan warfare. People of faith know that that’s a loser’s game.We are interested in building a community of people who are joined in the deep and meaningful questions of life. The Christian New Testament calls this the Body of Christ, and the earliest Christians saw themselves as precisely that, Christ’s Body in the world, gathering in His Name to support one another and heal humankind through prayer, unconditional love, hospitality and service. Today, most faith-based communities are more interested in improving the quality of your life and your family’s life than fighting doctrinal battles.
Make your life deeper, more bountiful, more marked by love, once again, as we set off into autumn. Find a faith-based community and go there, not to be seen but to be enriched. Consider that bishop’s other remarks, eerily relevant in 2012 as they were when written: “No wonder the air is laden with murmurings and complaints of the disappointed, when so many never seriously face the problems, what are we, why are we here, what will our future be, in what does our real happiness consist, and what will bring man peace at the last?”
I would dare say that the entire faith-based community of St. Mary’s County is praying, looking, and hoping for you.
A Letter to the Editors of St. Mary’s County, Maryland newspapers, The County Times (published Th. Sept. 6, 2012, p. 16) and The Enterprise (published Wed. Sept. 19, 2012, p. A-8)