Last week, I offered two posts which were highly critical of the theological methodology being used in the denomination of which I am a part: the ELCA. No, I am not going back on those criticisms, but I am taking a moment to examine my motivations for writing as I did.
I am a student of Bowen Family Systems Theory. This theory has some interesting things to say about criticism.
#1. Criticism is a form of pursuit. Whenever a person is critical of you, that person actually desires to be in a relationship with you and feels like you are distancing yourself from him or her.
I won't dispute this point of BFST. The more I have developed theologically, the more the ELCA has accepted certain forms of theology, the more I feel the ELCA is becoming more distant from me. I'm not happy with this development since this denomination is my "parent." It is the only church I have a memory of on the denominational level.
At this point, one might ask, "Why don't you just pack up and leave? If you feel the church has left you, why not let it go and simply go on your own way. Find a denomination where you feel comfortable."
Well, in all honesty, does one become a part of a congregation/denomination to be "comfortable"? As a pastor, I have come to the point where I realize that sitting in the pew should be comforting and discomforting at one and the same time. In fact, if I'm not uncomfortable, then there is little chance of theological/spiritual growth. In order to better know one's identity and develop, one must engage others who are different. So, comfort isn't the issue.
I am also one who has a high sense of commitment. I am not one who walks away from relationships easily. I try to give them every chance possible. It would take massive infidelity on the part of another--a massive break of trust--for me to terminate any sort of relationship.
The ELCA isn't seeking to do anything which has pushed me to that limit at this time. I hope it won't. Are there some lines I won't cross. Yep, but we aren't close to there now.
#2. Whenever you hear criticism from the least emotionally mature, you are doing something right.
This is an interesting tenet of BFST, and one that makes me ponder deeply. Am I being critical because of pursuit? Am I being critical because I am one of the least mature? Am I being critical because I am taking a stand and preventing the choices of others from being invasive?
These are difficult questions because it is easy to say that I am the latter of the questions. I want to define myself as someone who is emotionally and theologically mature who is taking a stand and refusing to accept the theological position of the ELCA. But, I am well aware that nearly everyone would choose to see themselves as such. No one likes to think that he or she is immature--emotionally or otherwise.
So, I am forced to ask myself whether or not I am immature. Is it a possibility? Sure. I have to recognize this and walk carefully and humbly.
I am also forced to recognize the world in which we live. There was a day and age when communication was limited and theological arguments were held in the academy and through journal publications and the publication of books. But that day is long gone. Because of the advent of the internet and the rise of relativism--anyone can be an amateur theologian. Anyone can start up a blog--just as I did--and add their voice to the cacophony of voices. There is so much sound being made, it is only the loudest who garner attention. However, the loudest are not always the best theologians or the brightest. The loudest sometimes simply yell just to hear their own voices. The loudest oftentimes just shout to try and overwhelm the other voices which are out there and silence them through intimidation.
I hope I do not come across in such fashion. I hope I am entering this fray being seen as having the intention I truly have: to call the church, particularly my own denomination toward reformation. It is my belief the denomination has strayed too far from the orthodox faith and teaching. Theologically, I believe she is on the wrong track, and I will do my best to plainly articulate why and hopefully to do so without malice. That will be a huge challenge, but I am hoping to accomplish such a thing.
Whether or not my voice will be heard or make a difference remains to be seen, but at least my readers know my motivations.