Ecumanism Angst

The chagrin for Christians over anti-Muslim outrage due to worldwide Islamic terrorist activities has no obvious outlet. We can’t seem to stop the politically incorrect babble that muddies up the distinct difference between the Muslim faithful and Islamic terrorists. When a proposed vetting solution emerges the politically correct folks cry bias, improper profiling, and fear mongering. When an actual Islamic-based crime takes place, the anti-Muslim contagion riles up the populous. Consequently, our discussions on dealing with terrorism loses direction, and the chagrin remains within the Christian fold, praying for the hand of God to heal.

Rather than focus on the chagrin, we should recognize that this is how God works with us. We have a similar problem as Christians with our ecumenical efforts. When we corral the concept and reality of unifying Christians under the mantle of Ecumanism even the most caffeinated apologists and theologians experience chagrin. Few ministers or lay leaders will bother to sit in the room where Ecumenism tops the agenda. 

Why? Chagrin masks what God wants us to do because it distracts us into intellectualizing our problems. When chagrin has no decent outlet that’s what we do.

Elevating ecumanism to an “Ism” stratifies the necessary fluid nature of ecumenical efforts toward Christian unification. That means, of course, that the mission of ecumenical efforts focus primarily on the unification of Christian forces under one Jesus Christ. Some may have other purposes in mind, but for our discussion that’s the assumption.

To capture ecumenical efforts driven by the Holy Spirit (another assumption) under a totem of ecumenism, I believe, takes the work of ecumenical folks hostage. It’s like coming up behind each ecumenist and throwing a black bag over their head and dragging them off to a secret chamber to explain to them that they can’t operate as rogues. We can’t define the purpose of ecumenism like we do bankers under a regulatory commission. The individual holdings and investment strategies, to continue a metaphor, of both denominational and non-denominational Christian theological vaults dictates each institution’s priorities. The Holy Spirit channels and manages our unification efforts according to the many individual faith expressions, all which by definition fall under the realm of Jesus’ kingdom.

The arbiter of gathering everyone together, especially regarding all things Christian, is Jesus Christ. While the established institutions of each denomination, cult, and Christian operation exact their own interpretation of what Jesus wants them to do, Jesus Christ does not need lobbyists heckling the voice of the Holy Spirit regarding the rules of ecumenism. We Catholics might suggest and even defend a centralized authority for Christianity emanates from our Roman structure. The stage for an ecumenical gathering hosted by the Pope looks very familiar to a family portrait where divorced, banished, revolutionary, out-of-wedlock progeny, and missionary relatives don’t all make it to the picture taking ceremony.

While various missions of the Holy Spirit seem to deserve lofty pedestals and congressional discourse (like biblical studies, liturgical development, and so on), the unification of the Body of Christ takes place through love rather than debate. Turning the disparate breadth of Christianity into a school of study, moderated by an impossible to form governing council, attempts to melt all precious metals into a new singular super metal, akin to a golden calf. Few will get on board, and those that do take a perilous step.

Ecumenism suffers the same fate of other isms, similar to the morphing of communities focused upon the common good into Communist nations; hog-tying the wealth generation of capital investments with exultant Capitalism; or re-distributing the wealth of both earned income and legacy assets to build a system of shared goods and services with a soul eroding Socialism. 

Type A Christian leaders wield loud gavels, and their bellows of love do little to gather Christians together. The same difficulty to gather crowds of Christians comes from the quiet, monastic leaders. Mergers have some success, but they are not the model for ecumenical progress. In effect, there is no acceptable human ruler, prophet, priest, or judge to do the task. Certainly none of these can sustain agreements made by some for all, or to respond to each and every raucous objections.

In less yawning terms, God is the ecumenical force that flows through all of Christianity. Each of us have our parts to play according to the urgings and leadings of the Holy Spirit.

So, in the same way, anti-Muslim sentiments and outright shouting should not be intellectualized because we don’t know how to deal with our chagrin. These are moments for the Holy Spirit to give us the leading. 

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