Another question: what does it mean to follow Jesus? Is a person to follow Jesus as she/he is coming to know Him, or are they to follow a Jesus someone else tells them about? If someone is coming to know Jesus as one among us who loves each of us beyond anything we can describe, how are they to deal with a Jesus presented as someone to be feared and obeyed, and whose dictates conveniently correspond to those of a given religious institution? On one’s journey is it possible to be firmly committed to be open to Jesus as we come to know him, and yet reject rules and demands that clearly conflict with the Jesus one is coming to know? If Jesus tells his followers to love God with their whole being and love their neighbor as themselves, how does one’s relational or marital status affect their ability to do this? Or how does anyone get the right to tell others whom they can love and how?
What is a person to do when they come to realize that the operational values of an institution purporting to be the only way to Jesus clearly do not reflect the values that Jesus lived and taught to his disciples? What happens when a person realizes that, while Jesus said people will know his followers by the love they have for each other, many who claim to be his followers conduct themselves in a self-righteous, judgemental, belittling, and abusive way, castigating any who do not agree with them? What happens when folks on their journey come to realize that the Father presented to us by Jesus is not an angry God who plans to send people to hell for missing Mass on Sunday, or not thinking holy thoughts about him all the time, or the occasional sexual lapses or “bad thoughts”, and so on?
What does it mean when a tradition teaches that each of us without exception is made in the image and likeness of God, is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God, each of us is important, each of us is necessary, and none of us is an accident, and then some institutions claim in God’s name to lay down qualifications and standards as to what God really had in mind, and it is not some folks if they are in certain categories? What does it mean when a person is coming to know profoundly in their own life the experience and meaning of the “Our Father” as being in direct contact and relationship with God, and then encounters a system that imposes its own interpretation with itself as the sole intermediary and means of access? What does it mean when persons, perhaps aware of God with them on their journey, perhaps not, find themselves in a strong and committed relationship and some institutions condemn them for this? How are these folks to feel? While they might know somehow God loving them, they do not find his love in some institutions that claim to speak and act in his name. What are they to do?
What are folks to do when they approach representatives of religious institutions with serious life impacting questions and receive all-knowing answers which clearly do not reflect real life issues and relationships? Can an institution really have relationships? Is there a difference between relationships as studied in books and classes, and as lived out in real life? What happens when a person on his/her journey comes to realize that Jesus doesn’t always provide answers, but very often raises more questions?
What happens when persons who are suffering the pain of coming to know their own sexual identity are told by an institution claiming to speak on behalf of God that, unless they follow a lifestyle that is in accord with the institution’s norms they will be punished for all eternity, as will their parents if they do not change their offspring’s behavior? What gives any person or institution the right to tell these images of God that they are “intrinsically disordered”? Where is Jesus in all this?
What about an institution that claims to be the only way to a loving God, yet keeps its ministers in line by threats and silencing, and the perceived power to damage their livelihood – in other words don’t rock the boat, speak the party line, or you will be in trouble? Faced with this, few ministers speak out publicly what they think and say privately, and who can blame them? Many who have had the courage to speak out loud are paying the price.
Is this what Jesus had in mind when he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another; as I have loved you, so you must love one another; by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”?
Just wonderin . . .