“Seeker” seems to have recently acquired a negative meaning. Instead of “one that seeks: a seeker of the truth,” it has turned into something like “someone who hasn’t found, won’t ever find, my truth” or, more charitably, “someone lost and distracted, going nowhere, or nowhere in the right direction.” At least that’s my take on Stand Firm's editorial decision to lift Mystical Seeker’s “Post-Easter Hangover” essay from his blog and to critique his thoughts and feelings (while, at the same time, sneering that such thoughts and feelings would be very much at home among liberal Episcopalians).
While it is tempting to simply chalk up this episode as another example of how rude and uncharitable so-called Christians can be, I think it goes deeper than the dark humours that permeate the atmosphere at SF. It’s getting to the point where even mention of words and phrases like “metaphor” and “metaphorical truth” – let alone the offending “Christian mythologies” – is enough to bring rampant cries of idolatry and predictions of the end of Christianity. While I commend the efforts of people like Sarah Dylan Breuer to find common ground among liberals and conservatives, an unfortunate consequence may be to silence or at least trigger self-censorship among those who seek, quest, and doubt, those who want to talk to those who do, or simply those who recall the days when they, too, faced Easter Sundays as days of trumpets, pageantry, and hoopla that caused their heads to ache. Those who consider themselves to be “liberal orthodox” have to keep hitting all the “orthodox” words and phrases over and over again in often futile attempts to persuade others that they “mean” what they say.
It’s not that there is discomfort or dishonesty in uttering those words of orthodoxy. It does, however, raise the question of where does the conversation (not to mention the flame wars) leave the seekers and the outsiders looking in? Has it seriously crossed anyone’s radar screen that the numbers of people who don’t know any of the words in the context of any kind of faith are rising, right here in the midst of Western culture founded on the Judeo-Christian tradition? How does one proclaim the Gospel (if necessary, with words) by suggesting that those who do not already “know” that they are seeking the “Risen Christ” bodily resurrected from the dead cannot really be seeking spiritual truth? that those who shudder or are repelled by traditional Christian words and images must be “lazy” or “self-centered” if they think twice about walking through the doors of a local church?
Fortunately, PB ++ Katharine Jefferts Schori, has not risen to the bait. She consistently uses the words she knows and trusts will reach people outside institutional Christianity, never mind the slings and arrows shot her way. No doubt she recalls her earlier years of doubts and questions and those of her colleagues in the scientific community. Why should she or any of us be ashamed of our past or supremely confident that we’ve now got it “right”? Why can’t we shout to the high heavens in thanks for the words, knowledge, and understandings we found in the lab, the classroom, in books of poetry, history, and philosophy, as well as the people and places, both within and without the confines of churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples, who have brought us closer to God?