The thing about Christian community, is that it is hard. I’m beginning to think it may well be harder to live than non-Christian community.
There is a reason why St Benedict tells his monks not to punch each other in his monastic rule… there will be times when the temptation is very great indeed.
Why is it so hard? because expectations are so high, and people expect everyone to be nice all the time. The emotionally sensitive, and indeed the emotionally wounded are drawn to the Church, the Church is the place for the sinner and the broken to seek redemption. Its not for the person who has never questioned their own righteousness.
As for expecting people to be nice all the time, if you ask me sometimes that isn’t the spirit of truth and charity. Forcing people to communicate like preschool teachers do to their charges in an effort to avoid offending anyone creates a kind of “cake or death” emotional fascism that is often quick to dish out judgment.
Better that we are more honest with each other and give genuine encouragement, constructive criticism and forgive acts that really call for it, rather that dish out judgment as soon as our tone of voice ceases to coo and cluck all the right noises.
Christianity also attracts nutters, let’s not beat around the bush. Those with a manic gleam in the eye, the people who corner you and talk at you like a conversational freight train. This is one reason why I think I wouldn’t have a hope as a priest, I’m not good at deflecting the crazy rays, and the distinct niggling worry in the back of my mind is that the craziness rubs off.
Even worse there is ogreish behaviour in the Church hierarchy and petty politics amongst bureaucrats. Perhaps why the church is so sensitive to criticism is because I’ve heard some truly grim stories of spats between clergy.
The Catholic bloggosphere is abuzz with the all too believable story of James MacMillian, who composed the first (that I’ve heard at least) musically interesting congregational mass setting in English. (though technically that’s not difficult, I’ve only heard a handful). It’s very good in places and everywhere else its exceptional! Just goes to show that liturgical committees don’t know a good thing when they see it. Yes committees, those places where good ideas are quietly strangled.
So then, how is it that we can survive these trials and tribulations and come back for more? because the goal is so worthwhile, that narrow gate into heaven, and there are always moments of ecstasy and peaceful contentment just around the corner, they arrive unannounced and are often quiet and just as fleeting, but they make Christian community a kind of drug, to which everything else pales in comparison.