Sunday, March 22, 2009

Debunking Labels

Father Boniface, OSB

Father Stephen

"And there's a loyalty that's deeper Than mere sentiments

And a music higher than the songs That I can sing

The stuff of Earth competes For the allegiance I owe only to the Giver Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise That you will pull me through

And if I can't, let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You

And if I sing let me sing for the joy That has born in me these songs

And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home"

Rich Mullins, If I Stand

Labels. We all use them. We look for them. They help us make associations, a way to categorize. Especially when it comes to religion. I don't know how many times I have heard the question, "What are you? A Baptist? A Presbyterian?" I grew up in a Southern Baptist home. After graduate school I became involved with a non-denominational church, moving later to an Evangelical Presbyterian church. Now, my family and I attend...well, it doesn't matter because being called a Baptist or Presbyterian bothers me. I prefer Christian.

"Yes, but" you may ask, "what kind of Christian?"

"Well", I would have to say, "some days, not a very good one."

Because I was reared in a specific denomination, certain 'other' branches of the vine were viewed suspiciously. And, each branch has its own issues. Like the old joke-

Q: Why do Southern Baptists think premarital sex is wrong?

A: Because it leads to dancing!

Over the years some of my labels have been debunked. My brother-in-law is a Roman Catholic priest. He, along with his friends, have destroyed any preconceived notions I may have believed Catholics to be. In fact, he is one of the best examples of 'Christian' I have seen. He prays for people, on the spot. His generosity astounds me. Whenever we talk he tells me, "I pray for you every day." One day he introduced me to Brother Elijah, a Benedictine monk. I had never met a monk before. Being from Tennessee, I thought monks lived cloistered lives, praying and chanting 20 hours a day (and were all old!). Brother Elijah is young, charismatic, and has written a musical for stage that sounds like Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Then, Brother Elijah introduced me to Father Boniface, who, upon asking me for my phone number pulled an iPhone out of his robe. He is involved with information technology at the monastery.
I am leaving for church in a few moments. Maybe a few labels will be debunked.

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