Bridging the Divided

Sometimes Sh** Happens…..

Sh** happens. Succinctly put, albeit a bit crude. Sometimes one has to call it like it is, don’t mince words, state clearly and unequivocally. 

As I sat on the sofa binge-watching a series on Netflix, little did I know within hours I would be helping tear out a wall in the basement. A pipe cracked, likely it has been cracked for some time and finally achieved critical mass. The carpet will need to be torn out. We will assess the extent of the damage this evening after work, determine how much wall will need to be torn down and replaced. For now, the pipe is fixed. 

Was I upset? Definitely. During the years I identified as a Christian  I would have analyzed why the pipe had cracked, and what I had done to prompt this latest adversity. Outside the walls of the church, my response is to roll up my sleeves and pitch in. Maybe not everyone within the church acts as though upset or adversity in life is a product of lack of faith or transgression, but the churches I attended, without saying either outright, left one with that impression, otherwise known as a guilt trip. 

Fundamentalism is predicated on faith and confession of sin. I’m fine with faith, one must have faith in something or someone, right? Admitting fault, taking responsibility for our actions is the right thing to do. But extremes to the point believers point the finger at themselves if their lives are not paradise on earth is, well, extreme. Extremes in anything are dangerous. Sickness, divorce, job loss, financial ruin, even death is seen as a lack of faith or the result of unconfessed sin in many congregations. 

In the early days of my walk with Christianity, a young mother in the church had been diagnosed with cancer. This young mother had several well-behaved children, a husband who adored her, their bank account was more than a little adequate, and then boom, she is diagnosed with cancer. What had been the idyllic example of a Christian family thrust the church into a tailspin. What on heaven and earth had gone wrong? They lived by faith, walked the talk, and yet adversity had befallen. The church gathered around, held prayer vigils, laid hands, and anointed over and over to no avail. The young mother died and a family and church were devastated. 

Tragic as it was, the low rumblings of what went wrong were discussed at the local coffee shop, in Bible studies, and anywhere two or more were gathered. I was a young Christian, still learning the ropes of fundamentalism and found myself wondering what this family or the church had done wrong. Could it be as simple as not enough faith to move the hand of God to heal, or was it more insidious, a hidden unconfessed transgression? Collective guilt settled upon the congregation and eventually brought division, the number of faithful dwindled and the sermons were even more focused on faith, or the lack thereof, and unconfessed sin.

I’ve heard it called “Catholic guilt”, but the Catholic faith does not hold an exclusive on guilt. The tragedy is not the lack of faith or unconfessed transgression, the tragedy is assuming fault for the trials and adversity that come into everyone’s life, Christian and atheist alike. Sometimes we are at fault, and sometimes sh** happens…..

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