Why must our churches embarass us so?

Like most people my age, I spend a lot of time obsessing about myself, and particularly about my 'identity'. This morning, self-absorbed as I scrubbed hair off of the toilet which Angel and I have neglected to clean for several weeks, I hatched the theory that one can pretty clearly define their religious identity by monitoring their own feelings of embarrassment in relation to religious propositions and associations.

I, of course, present myself as a test-case for the theory. Because of my chosen career path, I move in a variety of religious circles, and find that some are more embarrassing for me to publicize than others. I'm really not embarrassed at all to admit to you that I'm religious, and that I work at an organization called Multifaith Works that deals frequently with a variety of religious communities and issues. To say that I'm a Christian is generally okay as well, as long as I'm given the time and space to define what that means. I'm a little bit embarrassed to tell you that I'm an Episcopalian, with the denomination's historical associations with wealth and privilege and the hypocrisy thereof, and it's present ties with this sort of thing. I'm not, however, embarrassed to tell you that I'm an Anglican. I am a little bit embarrassed to identify myself as liberal, and a little bit to identify myself with the emerging church. I generally don't mind letting people know that I'm doing discernment at St. Mark's Cathedral, but would be a little embarrassed to invite some friends and family there, primarily because of the white-wealthiness of the place. I'm not terribly embarrassed to be associated with COTA or St. Margaret's, but in both cases I'm a little embarrassed by the stereotypes that they can be seen to represent: COTA the church for liberal urban creative types, St. Marg's the church for suburban SUV owners. So, I can pretty comfortably identify myself as an Anglican Christian with an openness towards other faiths, but an aversion to the trendiness and white-wealthiness associated with some of my communities. And, by the way, I'm very embarrassed to admit that I've become a serious blogger.

Comments

dave paisley said…
Hey Tim, I have to say the general grubbiness (esp interior) of St Mark's puts a serious dent in any perception of its snobby wealthiness.

And surely Episcopalians are now equally renowned for gay bishops as they are for snobby wealth.

It's certainly not "the Republican Party at prayer" any more.
wes said…
associations are embarrassing. limit them best you can. look at me. i'm not embarrassed...
Tim Mathis said…
Still contemplating losing (or at least loosening) the associations...

Great quote in an old book about the founder of the denomination I grew up in, D.S. Warner: "To join a sectarian denomination is never by divine prompting, but is urged from human source."

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