For the past few weeks at church the gospel readings have come from the “Bread Chapter” of the gospel according to St. John. It’s the sixth chapter, incidentally.
Oh, I have fond memories of this chapter! Particularly of my rather squeamish brother turning pale when we first read about Jesus telling the disciples how they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. It all sounds rather cannibalistic, doesn’t it? Maybe vampiric. That might be one of the more mysterious aspects of an already deeply mysterious religion. Right before communion, after all, we even proclaim “the mystery of faith” which is that Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
But I’m not here to preach a sermon. Actually, my purpose is a little more vague. But I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a Christian today. I’ve laughed heartily at John Oliver and Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, while hoping that the churches he’s spoofing get audited (hey, the IRS got Al Capone). I’ve rolled my eyes at headlines like “Another Professional Christian Caught in Cheating Scandal” and flinched at Facebook comments such as, “Exactly why I’m better off without that religion.” And in fairness, that person may be better off without organized Christianity. I am not… I thrive on communities of faith. Without my brothers and sisters at St. Giles in Oxford, my time in England would have been quite unpleasant.
But far be it from me to deny that Christianity has serious problems. In fact, pointing out serious problems is more or less how my brand of faith came to be (Thank you, Dr. Luther!). In my political science today, my fellow students were pretty eager to dump all Christians into bed with the religious right, which is by no means the case. Or forgetting that state religions favoring one denomination don’t just hurt non-Christians. There’s so many divisions that just saying “Christian” doesn’t give one much information, and tends to arouse suspicion.
This is a problem. And it needs to be solved. First of all, I think, fire-eaters need to shut up. Jesus had rather harsh words for James and John (whom he called the thunderbolts) after they asked to smite someone who refused to give them shelter for the night. And if the fire-eaters aren’t talking, the media might actually pick a more reasonable perspective when asking for the Christian response to whatever just happened…. Anyway, once everyone has shut up, shutting up, there should be civil discussion, debate, learning, and understanding.
A house divided cannot stand against itself, and there is a lot of division. And I’m guilty of that as much as anyone else. There are denominations I just don’t get and tend to regard with apprehension. Oops. But once we admit our problems and start talking instead of shouting, we might strengthen the house and not see the bride of Christ sore oppressed. Because as Christ was resurrected, we know anything is possible.