22 August 2007

"I Quit"

I've heard these words before. They come from the same man who has quit his position in the music group that plays for both Catholic and Protestant services. He doesn't start out saying he's quitting, but that's what he does. And it's usually over some theological point.

What was it this time?

Apparently, it was a few things I said last Sunday in response to the readings.

It was a reading from Jeremiah--throw the man in the muddy well!--, and the bit from Hebrews about a "great cloud of witnesses," and that lovely piece from Luke about households being divided "two against three and three against two." In response to which we all said, "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!"

So what was the problem? First, I pointed out that Luke was describing what happened in his own time, that Christians were a very tiny minority and declaring oneself a Christian could have a disastrous effect on Dad's plan for a marriage-aged daughter, for instance. I went from there to persecution in our own day, and said that while we live in a society that is nominally Christian, Catholics are still likely to be hassled for their beliefs, especially in a prison setting.

Ted thought I was being divisive, making the contrasts between Catholics and other Christians too obvious. I told him I was reflecting the reality that Catholics experience in prison. He didn't get it.

Then he was upset that I seem to think that, in the end, almost everyone will make it to Heaven (or be saved, take your pick). His view of Scripture is that "it's very clear that only a few will be saved, and only those who claim Jesus as Lord."

I so wanted to ask, "Is your God that small?"

And then he was upset that I invited a roomful of Catholics and others to a one-hour presentation the next Saturday. A couple of Muslim volunteers are coming in to talk about the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims, and other aspects of Muslim spirituality. Ted thought I was proselytizing and what would happen if a weak Christian went to that presentation and converted? He could acknowledge Muslims as fellow human beings, but they are not brothers to him. And as a DOC chaplain, I wasn't supposed to be proselytizing.

I pointed out to him that I'm not a DOC chaplain, but the Catholic chaplain, and that what I say in a church service can and does reflect the teachings of my church. He was adamant that "Allah" was the name of a moon god that the Muslims had chosen to worship. I countered with the information that an Arabic Old and New Testament used the word "Allah" for God because that is the Arabic word, that Arabic Christians use the word in their prayers. He didn't believe that.

I told him that my church prays for Muslims and all others who believe in one God, recognizes them with us as children of a common ancestor. He kept shaking his head.

He was "grieved," he told me for these things that divide us, and cannot continue to be a musician at Catholic services.

We have been through this before and I honestly do not want to fight about it. I've known Ted for a number of years and we seem to weather this storm and still like each other. He worries about me taking it personally and getting my feelings hurt. I bite my tongue and don't say, "Honey, you aren't that powerful."

And what do you suppose the readings are for the coming weekend? The gospel includes the line, "Lord, will there be only a few saved?"

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