A few days ago I attended liturgy at a college chapel I had not been to in a couple years. I say “attended” because from the moment I walked into the recently “renovated” space I realized I was an observer more than a participant. The altar which used to be at the center of the community is now back against the front wall. The old “sanctuary” – now elevated above the rest of the chapel – has been restored as a place reserved for the ordained. It is strictly off limits for lower-class lay people.
I will not spend much time on the “art” in the refurbished chapel… Suffice it to say that it looks like the conservative chaplain and his student helpers bought-out a couple flea markets specializing in 1950s plaster renditions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The liturgical language and the language of the young homilist bothered me more than the sappy-sweet statuary. Totally gone today, in contrast to a long tradition in the place, is any form of inclusive language. Everything was “he… him… his.” Those gathered that day for a special liturgy were about one third women. Yet the young fellow who addressed us began his reflections with “Dear Brothers!” Downhill from there…
Healthy and unhealthy religion… My examination of conscience for people at all levels in the church.
Does a particular form of religious thought and practice:
- Build bridges or set up barriers between people? Does it create qualitative classes of people?
- Strengthen or weaken a basic sense of trust and relatedness to people and to the universe?
- Stimulate or hamper personal responsibility?
- Is its primary concern for surface behavior or for the underlying health of the personality?
- Increase or lessen the enjoyment of life? Does it encourage a person to appreciate or depreciate the feeling dimension of life?
- Handle sexual feelings in constructive or abusive or repressive ways?
- Encourage the acceptance or the denial of reality?
- Does it foster magical or mature religious beliefs?
- Does it encourage intellectual honesty with respect to doubts?
- Does it oversimplify the human situation or face its tangled complexity?
- Emphasize love (and growth) or fear?