December 2008 Editorial
Tony Fitzgerald - The Touchstone
The Newsletter of the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton
This issue of Touchstone is rather thin and there were not a lot of articles that had to be converted to the markup language I prefer for typesetting the newsletter and I have some time to put fingers to keyboard. In another article(1), written by a visitor, which gives an interesting view of our community from an "outsider's" eyes, the phrases "Christ-like" and "Christ in the midst" are used to describe us.
Until that point, I was reading in a yes, that is interesting and now nice frame of mind, but upon encountering those phrases, something rankled. Something in the arrogance that when people are nice to one another, somehow, Christ must be involved! I was also minded of an old cartoon. The patient is saying "good morning" to the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist's thought balloon contains the response "I wonder what he means by that?" What means "Christ in the midst"?
A search through Google (2) found a number of references, from the literal bodily resurrection of Christ who was now physically in the midst of his followers to more allegorical references. One very poignant reference by a lesbian to the trepidation with which she approaches congregations in the faith of her birth, a conservative fundamentalist sect, and is never sure how she will be received. In her reference, "Christ in the midst" are good people who are reviled as was Christ for being who they are. And many other references, a few well worth browsing.
It seems then, that like so many religious references, "Christ in the midst" is one of those slippery meaning shifting phrases that can be thrown around and everyone can be happy with their own personal interpretations and only the "trouble maker" will pause to ask "and... exactly what does that mean?"
As an atheist and a secular humanist who (as I like to say) has found a religious home among the Unitarians, I find my explanations without reference to Christ, so I suppose I should not be surprised that a devout Christian would analyze the world with references to Christ. It makes sense from their world view even though I consider it a needless complication at best and possibly disingenuous at times. Homo (self-styled) sapiens is a social animal. Social animals all share certain characteristics to varying degrees: altruism, loyalty, trust, sociability, dedication, love. As pre-industrial hunter/gatherers we evolved in a natural state wherein we lived in tribal groups of up to a hundred individuals, about the size of a Fellowship. More than that and we become overwhelmed and lost in the loneliness of the city, the anonymity of the crowd.
Call it "Christ in our midst" if you must or if that makes sense to you. I call it community, the natural environment of human beings. A community within which even I, a reprobate and heretic if ever there were, can feel welcomed and respected. No community of human beings will be perfection and utopia, but through our foibles, aws and failings we generally try to do what is best for our community because we understand instinctively the importance of community. Thank you for being a community which accepts me, accepts my contributions such as they are and makes me want to be a part of it.
Blessed be, Namasté, So be it