Thursday, December 20, 2007

Guilt

Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry—none of the guilt.
2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One Reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

Many people have seen the list. Many, including myself, have laughed at it. But when I was re-reading #3, something struck me. If the Episcopal Church is guilt-free, then it must be missing something else as well. As my readers know, I've been pondering Martha Stout's book for quite a while.

All mature humans are riddled with guilt. If you do not feel the heavy load of guilt from time to time, then you have what is known as sociopathy. Only sociopaths are truly guilt free. Being guilt free often sounds lovely to me, but there is a very high cost paid for that freedom. Sociopaths can not love. They can feel love for others or feel that they are being loved. They have an inability to stay on mission and tend to flit from one activity to another, mostly because of tedium and boredom. For humans, we can not be freed from guilt without being freed from love. For most of us, that is a bargain we gladly accept.

Institutionally though, if being an Episcopalian means being freed from guilt, doesn't that disconnect us from love as well? And doesn't being a guiltless church mean it is also loveless?

I know many good Episcopalians. I'm related to quite a few. But a Church with a guilt-free mindset is a Church in trouble. More on that to follow.

5 comments:

Rachael Storm said...

I hate to say that I think you are SERIOUSLY overthinking freedom from guilt. The "guilt free" means that, unlike our cousins, we are not constantly indoctrinated that we are horrible sinful beings - the spider over the flame held up only by God's grace.

We know that, but we aren't constantly being inundated with "You should be thankful that God doesn't reach down and bust your head open".

This doesn't mean that we are to be totally free from all guilt of all of our actions. As it is, I'm going to feel bad for the rest of the day.

Heh, Jonathan Edwards AND Prairie Home Companion in the same comment.

Matthew said...

You're probably right about overthinking. But the current church's retreat from any awareness of sin lends my point some validity, I think.

FrGregACCA said...

Yes, I think you have a point, but then, so does Rachel, so perhaps a couple of qualifications are in order. First, there is the question concerning what one is feeling guilty about; much of what makes many of us feel guilty is a result of social and/or economic pressure; such guilt may actually be counter-productive. For example, it would not be good if I felt guilty for not buying my kid some electronic gadget for Christmas that both she and I know she doesn't really need. Second, some guilt leads to despair, while another type of guilt motivates us to take responsibility for our actions. Also, what seems to be at the bottom of anti-social personality disorder is the inability to feel empathy, which leads, secondarily, to the absence of any sort of sense of guilt. (At the same time, of course, empathy is also a two-edge sword, but is generally a good thing.)

BTW, the original statement read: "All of the gilt, none of the guilt."

Vagante Priest

bogey said...

...and I thought it was Roman Catholics who had the corner on guilt

Anonymous said...

I finally followed your link from Stand Firm and enjoyed reading this article.

TJMacmahon mentioned yesterday at SF that some Episcopal churches have actually done away with the liturgy's prayer of confession.

But when you get rid of sin (and one of its effects, guilt), you also get rid of the possibility of transformation.

I don't know about others who post at this site, but I do not show up at church to be patted on the back and told to accept myself because I'm just fine the way I am.

One reason that I go to church is because I know that I am NOT fine just the way I am. And I want to change.

Or be changed.

And I go to church because I want to worship the living God, which is a transformative act in and of itself.

Kyrie Eleison.

Selah.