Motivation and Guilt

I’ve been a bit negligent on my posts the last week, which of course leads to guilt.  I know that all three of my readers out there are undoubtedly going crazy for lack of of timely, daily insights into faith and life and bartending.  Mea culpa.  In the midst of home improvement projects, it has been difficult to stay on top of this as well.

Fortunately, the world never quits cranking out weird stuff to think about!  Consider, for example, this little ditty about the re-Catholicizing of actress Leah Remini.  Remini returned to the Catholic faith after joining the Church of Scientology in 1979 (if Wikipedia is to be believed).  That’s a pretty impressive return, and I’m glad that she left Scientology and all.  But frankly, her reasoning leaves a lot to be desired.

She doesn’t appear to have left because of the Truth, because she realized that what she was being taught was a lie.  Instead, she’s chosen very self-focused reasons for coming back to her Catholic roots.  Can God use those?  Certainly – but it’s troubling still.

There’s the issue about the prevalence of the Church in her life and her family’s life.  I know that Scientology is very intrusive in this regard, far more so (hopefully!) than any Christian church should seek to be.  But where is the line drawn?  This in and of itself is not a good reason to change a religion, unless there are deeper aspects behind that involvement that are troubling.  In point of fact, the Church in many ways should be our everything.  Not in an intrusive and controlling manner, but in terms of the centering point for our lives.  It is the Church where we receive God’s gifts to us in Word and Sacrament, and these are what ground and center our lives of faith, equipping us and strengthening our family life and our lives in school or the workplace.  You don’t need to be at Church seven days a week by any means, but it should be a central and unshakable pillar of your weekly rhythms.

In that sense we are dependent on the Church.  We can argue whether that is fully necessary or what that fully means, but I can easily argue from Scripture for regular worship with Christian community beyond my immediate family.  I know people who insist that they can worship only as a family in their home or through watching Christian television.  Sometimes this is necessary because of health limitations.  But aside from that, I think such decisions are very, very unhealthy and dangerous, particularly over time.  We go to Church to gather with other Christians and be strengthened in our faith.  We go to Church in part to put our God-given gifts to work.  We go to the Church to be taught the Word of God and to keep ourselves from sliding into questionable doctrine.  Church is not an option for the Christian – you are part of the Church by default.  The question is whether you acknowledge this and act on it accordingly.

Remini’s other reason for leaving Scientology is fear that her daughter might be turned against her through the indoctrination of Scientology.  This is certainly a valid fear, and much has been said about how Scientologists pressure those who walk away from the faith through estrangement from friends and family.  I’m sure that the same thing happens in Christian community as well, which is unfortunate.

But the core question is what is truth?  Where do you find truth?  What risks do you take in order to hold on to truth once you’ve discovered it?  Those are the reasons I’d prefer to hear someone talking about when indicating why they have left one religion for another.  I hope that in time, with good catechesis from their priest, Remini and her family will come to understand these things and articulate them as well.  I genuinely distrust Scientology and think that it can be very dangerous, and I’m grateful anytime someone walks away from it.

But as a pastor and theologian I hope that Remini will eventually be able to articulate the issue of truth as she has discovered it in Christianity and the Bible.  That’s a strong motivation that leaves no room – thank God! – for guilt!

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