Obedience and MDS

30 October 2006

(*MDS: My Denominational Situation)

I went on a date last night with the woman whose husband I am, and we talked about a slew of things: relationships, friendships, generational differences, and much more.  It was a delightful, less-than-$50-tip-included dinner at Cafe Suron (for you Chicagoans, it’s at Pratt and Sheridan, just east of the intersection).

One of the things we talked about was the concept of stability from the Benedictine perspective.  Benedict criticizes the two bad kinds of monks —sarabites and gyrovagues— at the opening of his Rule.  He disses the sarabites because they live as monks without a rule and without superiors, lacking the practice of obedience by so living.  He condemns the gyrovagues beause they lack stability and can wander as they see fit, as opposed to being committed to one monastery and one community for life.

Although Benedict seems to demand a pretty huge commitment in the vow of stability, it isn’t something done lightly.  The rule specifies that an aspiring Benedictine must live in the community, although she would not be considered part of the community yet, for two months before the Rule is read to her.  During the first year of the eager pre-Benedictine’s life, the Rule shall be read to her two more times, each time asking her to realize that this document shall rule her life forever, should she join the community.  Should she persevere, the Rule says to admit her, require of her the three Benedictine vows, have her renounce all property, and become a member of the community.  Modern day Benedictine communities then allow their monks to profess temporary vows for a period of one to three years —for up to six years in many communities, I think— before the solemn, perpetual profession is made.

Yet Benedict is not unreasonable, and he recognizes people make mistakes or have difficulty in discernment or sticking to their commitment; the Rule provides for the monk to leave the monastery and his vows three times, and allows the monk to return each time, barring him after his fourth departure.

Big commitment?  Yes, but Benedict is pretty generous, both by allowing his monks and nuns to really contemplate this commitment, and even after the commitment is made, he provides for their wavering in that commitment.

This morning, as I was thinking, I thought about MDS.  Our family was somewhat hurried into joining OurChurch.  We has been attending for four weeks when we met with the pastor, and when we expressed a desire to join, we were told we could join in another four weeks.  Although I failed to be as prudent as I should have been, I feel that we should have been barred from joining, for at least another few months, so that we had been attending for six months when we joined.  A year would have been even better.  In that case, I wouldn’t be in this mess, a crypto-Episcopalian in an ELCA church.

A good, wise friend counseled me to obedience to the Church, casting the advice in Benedictine terms of stability and obedience; I guess now I wish I had responded thus, “Can obedience and stability be properly committed to if one was not properly received?”  By “properly received,” I don’t mean some technicality of aspergetical inaccuracy, that I failed to get some ceremonial “t” crossed.  I mean, shouldn’t my family have been counseled to wait?  At this point and in light of that, is my obedience and stability well placed.  I wonder what my friend thinks (feel free, Wise Friend, to remain anonymous).

My answer is, “No.”


The World Series Aftermath

As a Cubs fan, I must admit to certain amount of bitterness and even covetousness at the Cardinals’ World Series victory, but you know what? They won. Congrats to St. Louis, you lucky, good-baseball-playin’ bastards.

A friend of mine on Saturday commented that the St. Louis Cardinals might be the worst team to play in the World Series, let alone win it, in a long time. When he said it, it seemed to cast the Cardinals in a negative light, but now I’m not so sure.

What does it mean if the Cardinals are, in fact, the worst team in a while to get to the Series and win? Is it a greater credit to the Cardinals, for doing more with less: less talent, less luck, fewer spectacular seasons and series? Is it a greater stigma for the Tigers, who did a White Sox redux —hot first half, tepid second half, with handily-won post-season series— sans the World Series crown? Is it yet another argument for contraction? For human growth hormone testing?

I myself am not sure.

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5 Responses to “Obedience and MDS”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Wise? How generous.

    I think that you are asking the right questions. Is that enough of a response from the Wise Friend?

    You see, the issue of obedience is that it works best when there is a sigular Rule, and all may be obedient to one another within it. Is there such a thing within the life of your congregation, between you and the pastor? Perhaps there is not.

    This leaves you with only one real option, and that is to be obedient to the Rule that exists between you and God as it manifests itself in your family. Can you be obedient to that and remain? Can you be obedient to that and leave?

    Seek first the Kingdom of God. Hold your church accountable, brother. That accountability may best be served by staying. That is my bias. I’ll admit it. But this is your journey.

    May God bless you on this journey, my friend. You do not walk it alone.

    Mmm…tabacos y cafe! Que bueno!


  2. Wise Friend,

    You speak truth. Obedience makes sense and is possible with a singular rule, while obedience without a rule seems somewhat anomalous. And difficult

    Your opinion, even if it is biased, is quite valuable. That said, I think that I will definitely visit some Episcopal churches soon.

    Just thinking out loud, here . . . but the difficulties within the Episcopal church are unfortunate, but I feel invested in that debate. The things that the Episcopal church tradition —and by this I mean the things and traditions the vast majority of the church seems to consider needful and meaningful— I too feel are important.

    On the other hand, although very similar debates are going on within the ELCA, and while I feel invested in those, when I look at the things and traditions the vast majority of the church seem to consider needful and meaningful, constitutive and essential to the tradition, . . . I’m not sure there’s all that much common ground there.

    I know I belabor all this. I know people around me are probably tired of my constant turning of this issue in my mind and in my speech. I am tired of it. I think I will have a better grip on all this in, say, four or five months.

    I’m thinking about bloggicly retiring this topic for a while.

  3. justin Says:

    my cardinals won by doing the small things well. their fundamentals were pretty sounds…no 2 overthrows to third base costing what? 3 runs?

    they just played well, and were blessed with a wet slip inducing field…

    yay cards


  4. Did the Cards win, or the Tigers choke? With pitiful offensive series from Granderson, Rodriguez, and Polanco (I think they were 0 for 30 some going into game four) and some awful defense, the Tigers didin’t put up much of a fight. As I think about the series, it seems the Tigers rolled over.

    Again, props to the Cardinals, and winning because of your opponents’ poor play is still winning, but are they remarkably unspectacular World Series champions?

  5. LP Says:

    Don’t feel bad about being a crypto-Episcopalian in an ELCA church who (it seems) reads Benedict. I am the same way, just a little more on the Anglo-Catholic end. And yet it somehow works.

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