My wife, three daughters and I have been on a search for a new Catholic Parish. In our 30 years of marriage my wife and I have been members of three different Parishes. This is an average of one new Parish every ten years. For the next decade, hopefully more, we will belong to a new Parish. Luckily, we live in the Detroit area and there is an embarrassment of riches regarding Parishes to choose from.
The struggle with finding a new Parish revolves around our family faith development. We need to find a place that is the right fit. This will not be easy.
I have been experiencing faith deconstruction for more than a decade and the older more traditional Catholic Parishes are holding back the process of my faith reconstruction.
My wife has been traveling on a similar faith journey, but she was always more progressive than me.
My children are from the “none” generation and the old traditional Catholic piety is not something they appreciate. They specifically dislike the treatment LGBT people receive from some of the Catholic institutions and traditional Catholic priest homilies.
The new Parish must be the right fit but like any good relationship it is a two way street. Our goal is to find a Parish where we can fully participate in the community. We volunteer our time in music, worship, and education ministries. We have a fair amount of experience and a lot to offer.
The new Parish we are looking for will need to be closer to our faith experience and help us grow. In order to meet our needs the Parish will need to share many of the faith values cited in the “twelve theses” recently presented by Bishop John Shelby Spong.
The Twelve Theses
Understanding God in theistic categories as “a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to the world and capable of invading the world with miraculous power” is no longer believable. Most God talk in liturgy and conversation has thus become meaningless.
2.Jesus – the Christ.
If God can no longer be thought of in theistic terms, then conceiving of Jesus as “the incarnation of the theistic deity” has also become a bankrupt concept.
3.Original Sin – The Myth of the Fall
The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which we human beings have fallen into “Original Sin” is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
4.The Virgin Birth
The virgin birth understood as literal biology is impossible. Far from being a bulwark in defense of the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth actually destroys that divinity.
5.Jesus as the Worker of Miracles
In a post-Newtonian world supernatural invasions of the natural order, performed by God or an “incarnate Jesus,” are simply not viable explanations of what actually happened.
Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is a victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. The phrase “Jesus died for my sins” is not just dangerous, it is absurd.
The Easter event transformed the Christian movement, but that does not mean that it was the physical resuscitation of Jesus’ deceased body back into human history. The earliest biblical records state that “God raised him.” Into what, we need to ask. The experience of resurrection must be separated from its later mythological explanations.
8.The Ascension of Jesus
The biblical story of Jesus’ ascension assumes a three-tiered universe, which was dismissed some five hundred years ago. If Jesus’ ascension was a literal event of history, it is beyond the capacity of our 21st century minds to accept it or to believe it.
The ability to define and to separate good from evil can no longer be achieved with appeals to ancient codes like the Ten Commandments or even the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary moral standards must be hammered out in the juxtaposition between life-affirming moral principles and external situations.
Prayer, understood as a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history, is little more than an hysterical attempt to turn the holy into the servant of the human. Most of our prayer definitions of the past are thus dependent on an understanding of God that has died.
11.Life after Death
The hope for life after death must be separated forever from behavior control. Traditional views of heaven and hell as places of reward and punishment are no longer conceivable. Christianity must, therefore, abandon its dependence on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12.Judgment and Discrimination
Judgment is not a human responsibility. Discrimination against any human being on the basis of that which is a “given” is always evil and does not serve the Christian goal of giving “abundant life” to all. Any structure either in the secular world or in the institutional church, which diminishes the humanity of any child of God on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation must be exposed publicly and vigorously. There can be no reason in the church of tomorrow for excusing or even forgiving discriminatory practices. “Sacred Tradition” must never again provide a cover to justify discriminatory evil.
No Catholic Parish can agree to all of these theses today, but the closer we get the more opportunity there will be for my family to grow our faith. Growing our faith is the goal.
We hope your Parish helps you grow in faith, as well.