To worship and argue

But this much I know. Baseball remains a great game because people still worship and argue about it and they’re going to games in record numbers.
[Yogi Berra, Foreword, 34 Creative Nonfiction (2008), 6]

Yes, that’s a baseball quote, which means, no, I’m not warriormare. I’m maplestar, her fiancé, and warriormare invited me to use some screen space here from time to time. If she hasn’t already, I’m sure she’ll give me more of an introduction, so I’ll leave her to that, and get back to the thoughts that sparked my writing today.

I was sitting in the bathtub, which is such a relaxing place to read. (To digress, it pains me so much not to be able to read library books there, for risk of damaging them, in the unlikely event of a drop into the water). But this morning that Yogi Berra quote struck me.

Maybe it was the use of the word “worship,” but I started thinking about parallels between the church and baseball.

It “remains…great…because people still worship and argue about…”

Worship and argue? The worship parallel is obvious, but for somebody who is as averse to conflict as I am (shoving my head under a pillow at even the thought), it’s hard to see anything positive about arguing.

But as I thought more, it became clearer to me that this wasn’t about arguing being good per se. The question that came to mind was: Why is it that people argue?

In the case of baseball, it’s easy to see that those arguing have a passion for the game, the players, the teams, the history. Sure, there might be the odd guy who argues about ball just to be difficult or because he has something pathological against the game, but the vast majority of those arguing are those who have a deep devotion to baseball.

Of course, the church has its fair share of arguing, too. On the international scene, I probably read more than I should about the conflicts within the Anglican Communion. And I find in watching others (and when I’m honest about some of what’s in the darkest corners of my own heart), it’s very easy to take those with whom we disagree and ascribe to them all sorts of malicious intentions and character defects.

And as anybody who’s spent any time around a church realizes, there is no shortage of conflict in congregational life either. And sometimes it can be even easier to make those ascriptional leaps, when somebody is doggedly arguing about the start time of the church bazaar or the number of candles in the sanctuary or the proper tune for one of Sunday’s hymns–OK, that last one I can understand. *grin*

But rather than grumbling that so-and-so is a perpetual grump who wants the church to remain the same as it was in 19xx (or muttering stronger language under my breath), I think there’s an opportunity that we too often miss to celebrate something wonderful that can be at the root of their behaviors (even if we find them annoying).

And it comes back to a word that tends to be scary for many of us: Passion.

Even if they’re wrong and I’m right, they are far more likely to be arguing strenuously about something because they care deeply about it. And “it” is usually not just their side of whatever is at issue. Because they usually care about it because they care about the church, they care about the congregation, they care about any number of positive things.

It’s kind of exciting to try to think of what the passion is behind people and positions that we find frustrating. And when the rubber meets the road, and I next face a deep but sincere disagreement with somebody, I hope that I can take a step back from the annoyance I feel and search for a passion I can treasure in the one with whom I disagree.

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6 thoughts on “To worship and argue

  1. This is a very deep and moving reflection. I think that perhaps one of the reasons we can avoid passion in church is that revealing our passion for something makes us vulnerable. It is risky. Others may not share our passion – “Why on earth would you feel so strongly about THAT?!?” – which is a form of rejection, or they may disagree with us just as passionately.

    Of course, there’s a reason why the trial, torture, and execution of Jesus is called The Passion – so perhaps we are called to bear our own passions in the same way. Passion *can* feel painful – you can love something (or someONE) so much it hurts – especially when it makes us vulnerable. But Jesus made himself vulnerable and suffered THE Passion.

    So I guess, love, that next time we sing the hymn text to the WRONG tune, perhaps that means you’re called to bear that suffering and agony like Christ? 🙂

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  2. We’re definitely vulnerable when we reveal our passions, because I think it’s our passions that reveal who we really are, what makes us unique and unlike any other person.

    I don’t think your parish would appreciate it, though, if, every time they sing the wrong tune, I was to shout: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME? 🙂

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  3. I loved this piece. Oh and hello warriormare 😀 I’m a person maplestar knows pretty well. You met me once.

    Anyway, this piece brought up two things that are both deep subjects for me. One is, I am a very spiritual person. My beliefs go beyond the church, and I was raised in the church. My mother is High Anglican and my father was a non-practicing Catholic. He had been a choirboy and several things in the church turned him away, but he drifted back off and on and we as children wound up going to both churches (and schools, here in Ontario we have a Catholic public school system and a public school system, in both English and French, lol) depending on which way the wind blowed.

    The church has been something I’ve tried to embrace but sadly it is these very same passionate people that have driven me away. I come back now and then because there is a lot I do love about it, especially the music (I was in the choir) but I just can’t face the “blue haired church ladies” and their determined dominance.

    The thing is it goes beyond that. I have a sister who is more Catholic than the Pope, and her unwavering biddance to church doctrine means that she holds no compassion for those who don’t hold her beliefs.

    I am the black sheep, I go against all her black and white pronouncements and so I can’t go near her without either accepting horrible things said to me and especially to my sweetie. She has even gone so far as to try to get my daughter to go live with her, which she has no desire or intention to do. You see she wants to show her the “right” way. In my view, there is no “right” way.

    The world is divided by such negativity cloaked in the guise of belief. I cannot fathom any God condoning such behaviour but people use it to start wars and it divides countries as much as it does families. Is this compassion? No.

    Arguing is to a certain degree healthy, it helps us grow though in the Anglican Church it is divisive.

    Oh how I wish they would preach compassion towards all things, not just those who toe the line. That is where all churches should go, and if ever it does what a wonderful world it would be.

    Passion channelled into love, people viewing all the peoples of the world with the eye of love and acceptance of differences. That’s when we will truly see God’s hand at work.

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  4. Yes, Cathi…

    The church is far from perfect. And that vision you describe in the last paragraph is exactly what I see in the church when it lives out its best. Certainly isn’t all the time, and I probably couldn’t say it happens most of the time.

    Maybe I’m just grasping at straws, but I’m hoping to find that I have common ground with those in the church who don’t see things the same way I do and hoping that common ground can lead to mutual understanding and perhaps there’s something I can learn from them and something they can learn from me.

    Yeah, I guess the world hasn’t beaten idealism out of me completely.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen yet, but warriormare commented on some of the ideas you raised in her latest post.

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