Why A Bigger Circle: After Three Days of Comments

By Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

To review: the original blog on August 1- Watchful Hope – Can We Maintain This? – contained a long article by Jamie Manson about how those so inclined might best regard Pope Francis. It wasn’t published in A Bigger Circle but was e-mailed to the mailing list, and Comments as they came in were also e-mailed.

The response, as seen in the number of Comments received, has been remarkable in the history of this blog as has the range of opinions. This means to me that people were interested enough to want to join the discussion. Yet, two readers have asked to be removed from the mailing list. This suggests that the blog for some has been hurtful or offensive.

I regret any offence given, of course. I respect the continuum of opinions and belief that exists among people applying thought and intelligence to any issue. Experience colours all our thought and feeling and each reader’s experiences are unique to him/herself. Our responses to each other may seem to line up on ‘sides’ of a question, but on close examination, each is unique.

The Purpose of A Bigger Circle
I have had to look again at the purpose of this blog. It may have changed a little since I inherited it from Joy Connelly, but I don’t think violates her intentions. A Bigger Circle does attempt to include people of different views, to respect those differences, to attempt to address them in subsequent blogs, There has to be room for controversy. HOWEVER, the purpose is not to stir controversy. It is to explore what I perceive as common human dilemmas as we journey along, trying to reconcile mind, spirit, and the world. I also try to find ways of getting beyond where we – individually and/or collectively – seem to be stuck. I love to look under and around and into the dilemmas to find a place where we can at least understand what the different perspectives are. And where they come from (i.e. the experiences that form them).

Religion, Not a Popular Topic
I’m aware that questions about Church and organized religion may push negative buttons for some readers: a real ‘turn-off”. Yet, Church or Temple or Mosque play a big part in the lives of many, and I think A Bigger Circle has to include people of good will, with differences acknowledged and accepted.

Religion is important for those who find it a link to their history and traditions. For some it holds the family together. It is one way in which people give expression to religious feeling. Some find satisfaction for their spiritual yearnings. Church community can provide a lifeline for people otherwise isolated. Great for some, not for others.

And some of the big churches and religious communities have the ear of political leaders. Ignore that at our peril.

Can’t Promise Never to Touch the TopicI assume that readers understand that I am not advocating for religious institutions, nor for people who choose them. But I won’t drop the subject out of fear of offending readers if it seems timely to write about it. And if I do offend you, I’m interested in why people. Believe me, I want to understand differences.

The Comments Below
You have received the Comments that are attached in a series of e-mails over the past 5 days. If you want to read them in sequence, they’re here below.

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8 Comments

Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Why A Bigger Circle: After Three Days of Comments

  1. Received August 4
    Still ain’t buying anything the church is saying. Bunch of rich men being babysat by nuns and wearing better clothes and jewelry than I can ever hope for, doing what they do with their own sexuality then daring to tell me that I should follow ‘their (the church’s) rules is crap. It was crap before and it’s crap now.
    You came late. You were not formed and crushed by the church. The first 10 years can destroy you. It still affects my current life even through I try not to let it.
    I don’t believe we need a church. I won’t sign up for anything they say or do. Let them ‘sell all that they have and follow (him)’ not ask ME to.
    Diana B
    ***********************************************************
    At least I’m not alone! And I am certain there are many, many more readers who feel the same way!

    She’s also right on re being crushed by the church! The same happened to me! That’s why I’m an atheist!
    … Frankie II is the kind of guy I’d like to have a beer with! But NO!! I will never lionize him!!!
    Lockhart
    ****************************************************************

    My comments exactly. I was interested in giving Buddhism an opportunity to impress me. After all,it’s not a religion with a god, but it has a heaven and a horrible hell and the way to get to heaven is through giving monks money.

    An old monk at our local temple died and left a huge amount of money hidden in his room.He was happy enough to take it from ordinary or poor people who thought they could buy favor and move up the ladder to enlightenment. .

    The schools are relatively poor here, yet they keep building big temples throughout Thailand , instead of schools and teaching them properly. They, not all, have big egos like a lot of church people.

    Doesn’t anybody follow the teachings of Buddha, Jesus and possibly Mohammed? Ah well!
    Bob D.
    *********************************************************
    I find myself strangely uninterested in the comings and goings and sayings of Pope Francis, although I am heartened by the way he tries to live, Jesus-like, more the way of the poor. I guess I think he is hemmed in as to what he can do.
    Will the Church ever agree to women priests? I have come to doubt it, although I can’t say I understand its opposition. Just as I, even more, can’t understand why priests can’t be married. Not when some of the apostles He chose were.
    Brian S.
    ******************************************************

    Hi Rosemary and others:
    Despite having once worked for the Archdiocese, I’m not much interested in the institutional church anymore. Having been raised as a Protestant, and coming into the church in the 70s (when things were changing) I was never wired into the mindset that the male, celibate hierarchy had any closer links to God than I did. As a woman, all the churches were just beginning to ordain women and accept their leadership.

    When I read this article, I had one thought in mind: some Catholics may be deeply disappointed in Francis because they expected too much. I found this of my American friends’ reaction to Barack Obama. I think the U.S. has some deeply entrenched political values that one President will not be able to change, including issues around income equality, racial divisions and various forms of social programs.

    I don’t expect in my lifetime to see the ordination of women, or the Church to change to change its position on homosexuality – or for most of the hierarchy to change its position on issues like power. We have such a deeply entrenched authority system in this Church that is essentially feudal in nature.

    It will take some time for major changes to take place in the Vatican. I have one small hope that this nonsense about the inherent evil in a piece of plastic called a condom will change the Church’s embarassing disregard for the greater evil of the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa.
    Patricia S.

    I really enjoy your blog and the thoughtful contributions that others usually make – but I’m looking to be removed from this thread for the time being. I hear a rather constant barrage of church-bashing, Christian-based hate already and I find it makes me weary and defensive. I am especially troubled by those among your commentators who benefit from the church’s mission and are happy to take advantage of the generosity of those who see their work on earth as a way of honouring Christ, yet somehow fail to see that connection in the midst of their tirades.

    I mean no offense to you, and greatly respect your efforts, but I realize that I am increasingly less interested in the debate and need to filter out the messages that tear down rather than build me up.

    Thanks for understanding,
    Maryellen
    ********************************************************************
    I am very proud to be a lifelong member of the United Church of Canada. We ordained women years and years ago. And our church was the first to accept the notion that gays could be ordained. That happened years ago too. And today, our Moderator ( the head Honcho of the UCC) is gay. How about that?
    I feel somewhat sorry for Catholics who have a long way to go to climb out of the hole they have dug themselves with all their prejudices. Pope Francis is a light at the end of a long tunnel but he has certainly become a beacon of hope .
    Juanita
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Received August 5
    A hornet’s nest stirred.
    Actual feelings.
    I think that’s good. Isn’t it?
    If Francis were to sell off some things, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it? I wonder. But he’s got that “no women” thing going on. So he’s not the perfect pope after all. Would there be one?
    Your friend in Thailand says the same of the monks, of whom, in my ignorance, I would have thought nothing wrong.
    At least, over here, we have free choice. That’s something. But if we don’t get the whole, truthful picture, our choices have faultlines. And that’s hard to take, when you’re trying to do the right thing and live well with others. Oh, God!! Oh, Jesus! Oh, Truth!
    I admit, I can’t get involved in “doing anything” about anything, changing denominations for the better or unifying Christians. All I can do is my little bit over here. Daily. I hope. Still, I’m very glad for praying for help and getting it. I couldn’t go on without it.
    Roxanne (double care giver).
    ***********************************************

    Greetings Rosemary: It seems that a hive of bees has been stirred up! Thank you for sending the comments, very interesting in their scope.
    I tend to be someone who sees the positives as well as the negatives, so I suppose that makes me a boring middle of the road person in many ways.
    I am proud of what the United Church has been able to do, but I recognize that we have not always been charitable to those who disagree with us.
    Keep up the good work.
    Roberta
    ********************************************

    When I was young, I hoped for a more perfect world.

    I was educated in social work and adult education – fields, I believed, that were altruistic and likely full of compassionate, co-operative people. However I learned that venality and misunderstanding are not only possible but frequent in these professions. So also in the church and other professions designed for the well-being of others.

    As I age I have had disappointments and frustrations, not only about others but even in myself. I have more questions and fewer answers.

    Now I look for inspiration where there is hope, which can come from within the church or outside of it. Most of the people who have inspired me are not well known, and are diverse. Let us find the beacons in our lives, and may we too be a beacon.

    To focus frequently on the deficits of the church, just as the deficits of an employer or government, leads alternately to anger or depression, and ultimately to the wish to run for the exits. It feels as if solace depends upon the other (whatever the other is) changing in the way I need it to change.

    In the words of Sufi Bayazid, speaking about himself,
    “Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is, Lord, give me the grace to change myself. If I had prayed for this from the start, I should not have wasted my life”.

    The fear is this line of thought would perpetuate the problems; but I think that change has to begin with us. But the change that is needed isn’t an imitation of the power relationships that inflame us.

    Work for change; and be the change you want to see. What do we need more of in this world?
    John M
    *****************************************************
    Received August 6
    I live with a love hate relationship with the church. Which means the church is fundamental to my life.
    I love the evangelical church for its love for biblical literacy and expository preaching. I hate the evangelical church when it’s exclusionary and indifferent to the plight of the poor and excludes and persecutes marginalized people i.e. LGBT persons.
    I love the Catholic church because of Saint Francis, Mother Theresa, Jean Vanier and others who flourished at its caring edge. I hate the Catholic Church for its Inquisitions and for its holding women back from places of ministry.
    I love the Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches for their enthusiastic expressions of love for the person of Jesus as though he is the Only One worth living for. But they can be exclusionary and suspicious of anyone who questions, or thinks too much or sounds like doubting Thomas.
    I love the institution of the church in its various forms when it becomes a resource to those in need and as an institution stands against things that are wrong like slavery, apartheid, and child labour as well as the birthplace of universities and hospitals. I hate the institution of the church when it becomes chaplain to the status quo, seeing evil but not speaking out against it, succumbing to those who rule rather than standing with the oppressed.
    I love the church when it’s organic, when it responds to the needs around it simply because it’s there…for its soup kitchens and drop-in centres and its commitment to walk with and advocate with those whom society ignores. But I hate the organic church when it pits itself against the institution as though the institution doesn’t matter.
    I love the church when it protects me and hate it when it alienates me. I love the church because it matters and I hate it when it costs me so much.
    Someone once described the church as the cross against which Jesus was crucified. And although I’m not sure what that all means, it resonates as true for the myriad of my affections and struggles with it.

    If the church didn’t so accurately mirror my own traits, both commendable and worthy of disdain, I suppose I might have given up on it by now. But Jesus didn’t, anymore than he ever gives up on me – or anyone else for that matter – which has me sticking with it and hopefully the church sticking with me.
    John D.
    from the roaming desk of John B. Deacon
    The only thing that matters is faith working through love. Galatians 5:6b
    ***********************************************************

    A hornet’s nest stirred.
    Actual feelings.
    I think that’s good. Isn’t it?
    If Francis were to sell off some things, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it? I wonder. But he’s got that “no women” thing going on. So he’s not the perfect pope after all. Would there be one?
    Your friend in Thailand says the same of the monks, of whom, in my ignorance, I would have thought nothing wrong.
    At least, over here, we have free choice. That’s something. But if we don’t get the whole, truthful picture, our choices have faultlines. And that’s hard to take, when you’re trying to do the right thing and live well with others. Oh, God!! Oh, Jesus! Oh, Truth!
    I admit, I can’t get involved in “doing anything” about anything, changing denominations for the better or unifying Christians. All I can do is my little bit over here. Daily. I hope. Still, I’m very glad for praying for help and getting it. I couldn’t go on without it.

    Roxanne (double care giver).
    *************************************
    The Church is both human and divine, and any and all “crappiness” comes from the former. The greatest human perfection is rich in imperfections. That’s apart from people inside the Church who may be trying to tear it down.
    Brian S.
    ****************************************

    I have been reading all of the posted responses to your blog about the Church. Some are insightful and some are just bitter in my opinion. I do relate to the one that John Deacon posted. I too love the church for all of the good it does and especially for being there in my time of need. I do hate the duplicity but I am hopeful that this is changing especially with Pope Francis as our spiritually leader. Thank you for the discussion! Peggy
    ***************************************************
    And we end with the person who started off the Comments:

    I want to add another comment to the blog, and that is this:
    Jesus never said I need big buildings that impoverish my people. He said, follow me…..I think it means as best you can. Not with buildings and male dominated rules. Just ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. And he also said the most important thing is to love. Well……………..I am a work in progress so I have a way to go.
    Finally, I maintain my position because I do not need an intermediary to my Creator. We are doing just fine as we are. One on one. Or, one to ONE.
    Diana

  2. Diana Buck

    Bitter indeed. Maybe even pointlessly so. Nonetheless, I maintain that all religions should through their leadership, ‘practise what they preach’ before expecting us to do it.
    Always happy to stir the hornets nest. Your welcome.
    D

  3. I had an interesting experience this week on Wednesday morning. And I am wondeirng whether any of the respondents in this “stirred up hornet’s nest” about “THE CHURCH” might be interested in having a smilar experience. I responded to an adverisement to take a survey to advance the thesis development of a doctoral candidate in Pastoral theology & practice. I took the survery early on Wednesday morning in the pastor’s study. The title of the thesis is “STARTING THE CONVERSATION WITH MY CONGREGATION ABOUT THE ROLE OF PASTORAL EXAMPLE IN THE FORMATION OF CHRISTIAN VIRTUE”. If any of you are interested, you could contact the interviewer & the thesis developer at .

    Elizabeth Sherk

  4. elizabethsherk

    WordPress deleted the interviewer’s contact info….So If you’re really interested in helping this thesis go forward, you’ll figure out how to contact me…..Hmmm? Elizabeth

  5. Diana Buck

    Not sorry for the stirring up, not sorry for my opinions based on personal experience.
    Just sorry I still feel that way
    D

  6. Diana

    Why am I not allowed on the new blog?

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