Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another another Journey

little and I have been exploring the Church thing together over the past couple years. My self-conception religion has evolved, kinda, from my angry Atheist self in high school-early college (thanks Ayn Rand!) to my Atheist/Agnostic self in mid-late college with Aristotelian and therefore slight Catholic sympathies (thanks Ayn Rand!) to my more Aristotelian-ish and agnostic self now. My experience at Gonzaga has given my a generally positive view of the Catholic church, and I enjoy the liturgical style.

The church we went to for a while was the Whitney Methodist Church on Overland, and the pastor there was great (Pastor Matt). He was an old hippie, clearly, but his sermons were all interesting. I sat down with him for coffee at one point before he was re-assigned, and he recommended me some C.S. Lewis (which I had already read) and Philip Yancey's What's so Amazing About Grace? which I am currently reading.

Matt left soon before I did, and we tried the new pastor but didn't like her as much. We also tried the Cathedral of the Rockies and their Blue Jean service, but we weren't terribly impressed (as I said, I'm fairly attracted to liturgy, and this service included the songs 'Our House' and 'Yakedy Yak.') Combined with a sermon that seemed cheesily woven around a 'Spring Cleaning' subject, little and I were not particularly compelled to go back.

little started to go to St. Michaels Episcopal Church while I was in Fairfax (I went to an ELCA church within walking distance, once). I went with her a couple times (or just once?) to St. Michaels, and I wasn't a huge fan of the priest, though given a small sample size. He seemed to be a little condescending for my taste, and he gave me the impression that he wanted you to know he was well educated (not a bad thing, but obfuscation is one of the biggest sins academia can commit, in my opinion). There were other little things that bugged me about it too, but none too much.

In preparation for our wedding, which will be at the Cathedral of the Rockies, little and I went back for another service. We chose the traditional service this time. Much to our surprise, it was super awesome. Steve (the pastor who will be marrying us) gave a great sermon, which is available here, starting around the 30 minute mark. I highly recommend listening to it. It capture what I most like about methodism, at least the brand I have seen, which is that each individual has a ministry, which means each individual has to interpret the world for him or herself.

The most important moral point for me is that each person has the capacity to interpret the world and morality for him or herself. Philosophies or religions that deny people that capacity; either by claiming that morality is dictated to us by a book and it is our duty to obey, not interpret (as many 'Bible Churches' seem to do); or by claiming that only certain people are capable of interpreting morality (which particularly authoritarian churches may claim) or philosophies that say there is no morality or that it is completely relative; do not attract me.

Ethics, Morality, and Faith, can all replace humor in E.B. White's quote: "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." I think that, more than anything, is what has happened in our culture as of late. We have delved into the innards of faith and morality with the surgical tools of reason and logic, and have found that they're dead. But it's stories that can truly convey the nature of these things. Everybody had their own experience with Truth and Morality - it's not completely relative, but it's only communicable by stories, and it is up to each and every person to find it by being a listener of stories, a teller of stories, and a liver of their own story.


  1. I really enjoyed this post Ryan! (no surprise, right?) ;)

    I've enjoyed sharing, listening, and learning as you and Anna both continue your religious journeys. You both come from very different religious backgrounds, but I have gleaned that you two have found a healthy place for the religious side of your relationship. I continue to look forward to watching you two evolve in your religious life. And not as some objective observer, but as your friend, a friend who shares in this uncertain and constantly shifting religious journey.

    I'd actually be interested to hear more of your thoughts (both of your thoughts) on how you two believe you have impacted each other religiously. While I like a lot of what you say here, I think that your very relationship illustrates that religion is a much more relational event than your somewhat individualistic account allows. Obviously you two are a very special case, and I think you are right, Ryan, that in the end, we are the only ones that can make our own choices. Still, the source material we use to make those choices is immensely communal - even lovingly relational. :)

    So how do both of you see your own religious journeys as interrelated over the course of your relationship so far? And if you were to play the prophet, where/how do you see it developing?

  2. I agree about stories... stories ensure attention because they're entertaining and they convey more information than you'd think because they are packed with contextual subtleties. They're trickily tough to pin down though, as their meanings can change with time, with each telling, and with each listener's own context.

  3. Drew: Probably the biggest impact Anna has had on my view of religion is that she has made me reflect on it more. It's something that I naturally want to put on the back burner, but that can't happen when it's important to someone so important to me! She has pulled me out of my shell, a bit, and pulled me out of the house on Sunday mornings, sometimes. The places we've gone together and our conversations have made me think about religion, and what it means to each person, and watching Anna reflect on her beliefs has been inspiring to me.

    As for the each individual making their own decisions: yes, of course it's communal; life is communal. Watching people live their own lives, how they treat themselves, how they treat other people, and how people's beliefs contribute to that, plus the experiences we have with each other and the interpretation we give them are all important in shaping your own belief system. I'm Randian (Aristotelian?) enough to believe that, if there is a group of people who hold certain beliefs and are systematically unhappy, the belief system probably doesn't promote human flourishing; this is why legalistic belief systems don't appeal to me.

    As for where it will go? No clue.

    Erin: They're very contextual, but any story that makes you reflect on ethics should ultimately lead to similar conclusions. We're all people, and we all want to be happy, and there aren't an infinite number of ways to live and be happy in a social world.