Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lent #3: Religion and Perfectionism

It's about time for me to write something else for Lent and as I was watching a video from one of my favorite YouTube vloggers, I got a tickling of inspiration from what he was talking about. And, as you can see . . . the topic is perfectionism.

(Channeling Jeb! . . . I ask you to "Please watch.")

All done?

Okay. So . . .Wheezy is right. Nothing is perfect. And perfection is not attainable by people in this world. But I see around me--especially in the media--an expectation for perfection. We expect so much of ourselves and we think that others expect so much of us. We live in a prepackaged, airbrushed, edited, softly-light media world in which the successful have got it all together and present their best face to the envious. And the bystanders take in that message and while they might listen to it, they are also subtly instructed to believe that everything is great and everyone else has it all put together and knows what is going on.

This, of course, is so very wrong.

All of us make it up every day, from moment to moment, reacting to the unknown and making decisions as we go. We try to be informed and we try to know what is what. But we often don't. We're often guessing.

But. . . if you listen to politicians and religious figures talk so many of  them speak in such strong absolutes, with such a definitive attitude of These Are The Truths That Have Been Revealed To Me! Can't you see that I have a pulpit from which to speak? Can''t you tell that I know more than you? Can't you understand that I have insight you do not have? I Am Right. And I Know The Truth. And I Have All The Answers.

So, it's hard to accept questions and doubt in the face of that sort of media-packaged certainty. And our American culture of celebrity and authority doesn't allow for doubt and uncertainty. We want our Talking Heads and Authority Figures to be . . . well, authoritative. We want guidance out of the confusion of the modern world.

Maybe that is why so many people are attracted to whatever message that Donald Trump is providing. Maybe that is why so many churches present very simple messages and lists of beliefs (if they even bother to try and teach beliefs rather than simply serve up feel-good songs and safety).

The world is complicated. And we are desperate for answers.

But, perfection is not achievable.

And I like that my faith does not try to tell you that there is only one answer. I like that the Episcopal church says all who question and all who seek are welcome. We are all broken and confused. The Episcopal church says that God and faith and effort can help you find answers and make your life (and the lives of others) better. But, there is no answer key. And we are all travelling down the path to God in a different way at a different speed. If we stay committed and if we keep Christian teachings foremost in our minds and as the guidance to our actions . . . we'll get to a good place in the end.

One of my ministries at All Saints Episcopal Church is helping with the Youth Group. And one thing I always want these middle school and high school kids to know about me is that I don't know the answers. I'd love to hear their questions. And I'll try to give them the answers that I have and that I have heard while I've grown up. But I'm never going to say that I Know What They Should Hear. Because I absolutely don't know. And to act otherwise would be dishonest. I think it is much more valuable for them to see the act of figuring it out within the framework of a hopeful life. Isn't that a much more approachable way of life to demonstrate to kids who have so many confusing things going on in their lives? Why add to it? Give them a break and let them know that it is okay to have questions and it is okay to keep asking questions. Keep searching and answers will come. And those answers will be more meaningful because they have been earned and absorbed, rather than dictated.

Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. We're all searching. Why not search together?.

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