Editors' Note: Guest blogger Father Tony is a perpetually vacationing Roman Catholic priest partnered for 25 years and dividing his time beween homes in Manhattan and Fort Lauderdale. He spent four years in Rome where he improved his tennis game, worked in the Vatican Ceremonies Department and occasionally studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. His blog, "Farmboyz/Perge Modo" can be found at http://farmboyz.blogspot.com
I suppose it's time to get down to the business of assembling the ingredients of a new Christian religion. We need one. That's clear. The Protestant varieties, so refreshing several centuries ago are now stale and disappointing. The Roman Catholic Church, a squandered franchise, has knit its own straight jacket.
What to do. It shouldn't be that difficult to make a recipe that will bring us back into the presence of the fabulous Jesus. He is really quite accessible and friendly if you are not afraid to enter that part of town in which he lives, where he has dinner with "those kind", where he speaks out loudly without the benefit of costly amplification. On a hillside. In someone's boat. Before the furious judges. He's so easy to find.
I don't know why I bother with this. It's not like I personally need a religion. I just can't shake the task. The errand has fallen to me much against my will. I'd really rather be cruising the Ramble, but let's have at it.
#1) In this new Christian religion, how you share your penis or vagina with consenting adults or with your left hand is your business. If you're pretty and you want us to watch, fine, but really, I just wish the whole business of sex would become a great big mainstreamed yawn. Friction based on nerve endings, and sometimes (often, if you're lucky) an expression of love and devotion. Let's get over our skin. What's inside it is so much more important.
#2) Let there be freedom to subscribe to the particulars of God as you see them. You know, he's really been rather invisible for some time now, so your image of him is as valid as mine. Let us seek to hear his voice together. That is what is meant by "revelation" and is really the only reason for religion. Epiphanies are best had in groups,(so we can blog about it!) so we may honor the memories of our conversion as witnessed and supported by our friends and fellow believers.
#3) Let there be abundant forgiveness. Let us never close the door on anyone. Let us be outraged by sin but let us become irresistible to sinners by dint of the joyful quality of our lives. That wins over the enemy. Make him want what you have in your heart. He knows that killing you is the last way for him to get it.
#4) Let us become disciplined and skilled in the pursuit of happiness and peace. Let's learn how to shed anxiety and cynicism and mean-spirited behavior.
#5) Let's each have money or no money, but let our church own absolutely nothing. Let it not even be incorporated. Let it not even be a 501c3 or any kind of a not-for-profit or any kind of a legal entity at all. If you are rich, and you want to build a temple, and you want to invite us into it to celebrate, terrific. If you have a living room and you open your doors to other believers to celebrate together in your home, Terrific. If you gather at a bar or at the beach or in a park, or at a nail salon, terrific. Keep this new Christian church free from that millstone of money. If you make a pot of spaghetti and share a meal with other believers in the name of Jesus, terrific, just do not ever take up a collection, for that is the road to disaster.
Remember the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes? The crowd was so bent on hearing Jesus preach that they would not leave to go and eat. They kept with him, hungry but fascinated. The disciples, ever fixated with issues of crowd management, felt the need to feed them. They did not go out and try to weasle a donation from a fish market owner or a bakery. They simply started handing out all the resources they had. My reading of this? I really don't think it is a miracle in the strict sense of the word. It's just what happens when people share what they have. You get more from less. During my poor years, my penniless room mates and I made some miraculously excellent soups from the meager leftovers in our fridge. The Roman Catholic Church is all about control. Metering its assets, whether it be gold or grace. What a sad waste of time. In a new Christian church, my hands would hold no money. No fiscal responsibilities. They'd be open to embrace you. You think this is naive? Think again, and review the earliest history of Christianity.
#6) Let us not care about whether this church has five members or five million members. Jesus is not Mary Kay.
#7) Regarding leadership, let the leaders of the new Christian church announce themselves. If you are a transexual who can play the accordion with your inner thighs and also feel called to the priesthood, go for it. If no one follows you or listens to you or is inspired by you, take the hint. But, if folks do follow you and you become a conduit of the Holy Spirit, why should we restrict your leadership because of your genitals or your age or your color or sexual preferences or your marital status? It seems so obvious to me that real church leaders are discernable by the flock.
Got more? I'm open to suggestions. This is one soup that cannot be spoiled by too many cooks.