December 02, 2004

In God we trust, all others pay cash

This snippet of an email that Jonah posted in the Corner reminded me of a conversation at the family "Thanksgiving two days late" feast concerning the Epsicopal hierarchy appointing an active homosexual as bishop. My wife's sister-in-law mentioned that her mother's church had left the Episcopalian diocese and become part of the worldwide Anglican church. Of course, this led to the endless discussion about what minister was gay, what bishop had been gay, etcetera. Since I preferred peace at this time, I bit my tongue. However, I really wanted to make some points and ask some questions, much like I did to my in-laws. Blank looks don't make my day, though, which is why I held my tongue. Anyway, here's some of what I wanted to say:

1) When someone reads scripture during an Episcopal service, the officiant and congregation say "the word of God". If you really believe that, why are you rewarding someone who actively flouts that Word? If not, why bother with the pretense?

2) If a heterosexual minister had left his wife and was shacking up with a 20 year old, including an active sex life, would the Episcopal Church nominate that person to be a Bishop in the church? If not, why not? If so, how can you claim that the Church is there to provide spiritual and moral guidance when the leaders exhibit neither of those qualities? See question #1.

Anyway, I remember a conversation with my father-in-law where he mentioned that the church needed to work on topics that had some relevance to him. I called this boutique Christianity, where you pick and choose what you like and ignore the rest. Jonah received an email from a minister wherein he describes this particular folly:


I appreciated your abbreviated g-file on belief in God. I am a minister, so it is my business to ask people (although not necessarily public figures like you) what they think about God, beyond what they practice. In my case, however, most people don't think I am being rude, they just think I am doing my job. I do believe that there is an unhealthy interest in what people believe, especially when you are in no position to enter into an ongoing conversation on the topic.

Now, to Sheilaism. Your disgust at people picking their favorite items off salad bar of religious belief is right-on. It is really a way of saying, "I only believe in anything, but I do pick and choose the best of everything to create a religion that fits my lifestyle." Last time I checked, any faithful religious observance (no matter the religion or tradition) shapes one's life, not the other way around. You are not the first to dislike or observe this phenomenon. Robert Bellah in Habits of the Heart written in the 1980's interviewed a woman who described her religion as "Sheilaism," which was a smattering of all the things that she thought were most true and fit her own outlook.

I thought that you might like to know the technical term and where it came from.


Posted by Physics Geek at December 2, 2004 09:10 PM StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!