I remember one conversation I had with a Roman Catholic priest. In the course of our talk, he asked me if I belonged to the Church. I replied, “I belong to the one true church.”
“Oh, then you’re a Catholic,” he said.
“No, I’m not.”
“Then you don’t belong to the one true church.”
“I am part of the only real church, the one that isn’t represented by any earthly organization.”
“That would be the Catholic Church.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Church and Spirit
I believe that there are Catholics who are part of the true church, as well as Baptists, Lutherans, Adventists, Unitarians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, humanists, agnostics… Perhaps I need to start defining terms. Bear in mind that these are my own definitions. They do not necessarily accord with those of any religious organization, and they are subject to refinement as I continue to learn.
There are many churches and other religious, spiritual, and philosophical organizations. These are all human creations. The church, the real one, is the coming together of people to work in harmony for good under the influence of the spirit.
The spirit is that part of us that recognizes what is good — confidence, laughter, being faithful, nurturing your children, making sacrifices for others who need help — and that knows when we have done harm. Whether this part of us is human nature, a product of human evolution, or a gift from a higher power is not important in practice.
Shall I dare to try to do what the Bible does not, to define God? I have heard it said that chaos is simply a form of order that is too complex for us to understand. Perhaps among all the creation/destruction going on in the universe, God is that which seems to provide direction, the reason that there appears to be an increasingly complex pattern of development in the midst of increasing entropy.
Or perhaps not. I suppose it is foolish to try to define that which must be greater than anything we can see or imagine, when it appears that we can only describe, at best, 4% of the physical universe.
In Practical Terms
At least we can agree, I think, that there is something that has the power to bring us together to accomplish good things, even great things. Whether we call this gathering “the church” or something else doesn’t matter. The important things are the accomplishments, the cooperation, and the compassion we show.
I don’t imagine my Catholic (or Methodist, or Buddhist) friends will agree with much of this. I do hope it helps them understand a little better where I am coming from.