In another conversation today with another male colleague (cleric) I heard about their faith crisis, creating a vocational crisis for them as well. Their pain comes out of a deep questioning of biblical theology and historical doctrines. What do I believe? What can I preach? What does any of it mean? These men identify with those who have left the church, and they do not recognize or trust the hope in the gentle but steady return.
Marcus Borg talked about pre critical, critical, and post critical faith. These clergy with great integrity are experiencing the pain of the second phase but I’m not sure what will help them move into the third phase without abandoning their vocations, or turning away from the faith in which they found nurture.
Most birds don’t leave the nest until they know how to fly because a premature choice can be deadly. I am afraid for my friends, afraid that their choices will not bring freedom but despair.
I was wondering why no women have spoken to me about this. I suspect it’s because women have to figure out how to work within a patriarchal structure and process. We have to see the diamonds in the coal, the precious fruit within a difficult covering. Because that is where we begin, I wonder if it gives us a method for dealing with new learning and the shock of that learning.
When I speak with lay people who are returning to church, they are coming because they buy into the social revolution of Jesus; in the beauty of traditional liturgical practice, they find rest for their souls. In the chaotic energy of family services, their hope is fed for a new world that sparkles with creativity and spontaneity.
The church offers an intergenerational community of people who are growing together beyond the answers and into the deep questions. These are people reimagining ancient metaphors and reframing old symbols, making ritual joyfully reverent, meaningful and spiritual food in a tough and hungry world.
I hope my brothers find support to move into the land of post critical thinking. I hope they find nurture and allow themselves to be new and vulnerable again. I hope awe overwhelms and opens all our hearts so that we may all see and love more clearly, more dearly.