A commenter at T19 says: “Yes, the Eucharist is a sacred meal: it is not sharing a table at Burger King or IHOP.”
For many years, my wife and I have belonged to a New Covenant Group. Two Fridays a month, after a Bible study, we take our families to dinner at Skeeter’s, which has been called ‘a sports bar for kids.’
Personally, I’ve had a greater sense of spiritual communion, and of giving thanks to God, at our Skeeter's dinners than I think I’ve ever had at a formal church Eucharist.
We welcome friendly visitors at these Skeeter’s get-togethers, incidentally, of whatever faith or none. Sometimes we have visitors who are invited by one of our group. Sometimes they’re friends of one of our families who happen to wander up to say hi, and end up staying to eat with us.
If I were told I had to give up either formal Eucharists or our Skeeter’s dinners, and were forced to choose between the two, it’d be a no-brainer.
There is way too much theological mumbo jumbo that surrounds the Eucharist. It seems to me that Jesus was too busy eating with the sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors to have invented a convoluted eating sacrament that contradicted his meal inclusiveness. In my view, the real way to celebrate Jesus's life and teachings is to emulate what he did and share the table with others, not to create a closed and esoteric sacrament complete with mysterious mumbo jumbo surrounding its significance.
Posted by: MysticalSeeker | February 14, 2007 at 10:58 AM
Well, why bother with the church, in that case? Why not just go out to eat with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors? If religion is useless, why be involved in it at all?
Jesus didn't celebrate the Eucharist, or go to church, either.
Posted by: bls | February 14, 2007 at 07:57 PM
Bls, if you question is directed at me, I would point out that there is more to going to church than the Eucharist, and certainly more to it than having a closed communion. Many churches have open communion and thus are more consistent with Jesus's life and teaching than those who invent a theology of closed communion. Many churches that have communion don't celebrate it every single week. Quakers don't do communion at all. For millions of Christians, there is more to Christianity than eating the body and blood of Christ. They go to church for a lot of reasons that involve communal participation in the worship experience, not necessarily in order to be participants in an elite ritual that you have to have engage in an initiation rite in order to partake.
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 14, 2007 at 11:03 PM
Well, then: why not just belong to one of those organizations, rather than getting worked up about churches you don't like? Must we all do things the same way? If you don't like a particular church, nobody will force you to go, I'm sure.
I don't understand, frankly, why anybody would go to church if not for the cultic practices. Churches are terribly closed-minded in general, and very cultish and cliquish. For me, the only remotely rational reason to go is for the mumbo-jumbo - i.e., the theology behind the Eucharist, for instance. The cult is the only thing that can possibly get people to expand themselves, in my view; without it, the church is either a bunch of people preaching-to-the-choir, or else a group organized to fight some sort of scapegoat and keep themselves pure. I'd rather just go eat with prostitutes.
Church by itself is a crazy place. I can't imagine why anybody would be involved if not for the Eucharist. I believe in open communion, but I don't care if other people don't; I just don't go to those churches.
Posted by: bls | February 15, 2007 at 09:21 PM
You begin your comment with a plea for diversity by asking rhetorically if we all must do things the same way, and then you turn around and go on to argue how there is only one reason to go to church and that you can't imagine why anyone could see the value in worship in any way that differs from the way you think it should be done. You should have stuck to your original position--we all don't do things the same way and we all get value from different aspects of religious worship. That is one reason why people are attracted to different denominations and worship experiences. Different kinds of worship have different paradigms. That's the way life works. I know it must be frustrating to live in a world where people don't all want to do things your way, but there you are.
I have explained my own position on what I value in worship. I don't care much for the Eucharist and I don't buy into its theology. That is my right, and I choose to act according to my beliefs. I don't expect everyone else to see things my way, but I have every right to express what works for me and what doesn't work for me. Christians are often interested in these sorts of issues. It is called "dialogue".
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 15, 2007 at 09:39 PM
Except that I didn't start criticizing the way other people do things - you did that. You called other people's beliefs "mumbo jumbo," and ridiculed them, remember?
I thought it might be nice to give another point of view; that, by the way, is what's called "dialogue." What's amazing to me is that you're already telling me what I "should have" said and done - simply because I don't agree with you. And at the same time, your argument is all about how much you dislike rigidity, isn't it? Bit of a contradiction there, don't you think?
Posted by: bls | February 15, 2007 at 10:00 PM
(I think you misread my comments, BTW. It wasn't a "plea for diversity." It was a simple statement that your way is not the only way. We don't have to "plead for diversity"; diversity is fact of the universe.
The rest of the post was simply trying to get you to realize that "one person's meat is another person's poison." I'd absolutely hate your version of church, and would never be involved in it.
Don't see why you should get offended, since that's your expressed view of my version of church. Sauce for the goose, etc.)
Posted by: bls | February 15, 2007 at 10:13 PM
Claiming that "The cult is the only thing that can possibly get people to expand themselves" is hardly expressing just another point of view. On the contrary, it is telling other people that their own means of spirituality is invalid. It is one thing to say that I consider something mumbo jumbo (which I do--that's an expression of my spirituality). It is another thing to claim that others cannot possibly benefit from another type of worship paradigm than what I like (which I do not claim, but which you did state.) I have stated my personal reaction to the Eucharist--that it is bolstered by a theology that I don't care for and that I consider mumbo jumbo. I have written in my own blog a discussion of worship paradigms, in which I discussed the fact that what doesn't work for me (like the Eucharist) works for others, so the reality is that you jumped to a huge conclusion about my views based on little evidence. I will point out that you, on the other hand, claimed that your own preferred mode of worship is the only legitimate one. So please spare me the BS about "getting me to realize" something. I am well aware of the fact that different people are attracted to different forms of worship, something that you explicitly denied in your earlier comment. If you want to modify your statement that "the cult is the only way that can possibly get people to expand themselves", and thus if you want to say that there are in fact many ways for people to expand themselves, then perhaps your claim that "one person's meat is another person's poison" would make more sense. For example, if you want to say that "the cult is the only way that I can possibly expand myself", I would say great, wonderful for you.
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 16, 2007 at 12:49 AM
Claiming that "The cult is the only thing that can possibly get people to expand themselves" is hardly expressing just another point of view. On the contrary, it is telling other people that their own means of spirituality is invalid. It is one thing to say that I consider something mumbo jumbo (which I do--that's an expression of my spirituality).
I see. So you can say whatever you like about other people's worship practices, but God forbid if somebody else does the same thing.
And in addition, we must now say things in a particular fashion - using our pronouns in the right places - in order to be acceptable to you.
How tedious. And BTW, please read more carefully. I've never said people couldn't benefit from another form of religious practice; I said there wasn't any way they could get a certain type of benefit. (And FYI, I did say "in my view." That should make you happy, given your rules and regulations, shouldn't it?)
If you have problems with making distinctions like that, I'm sorry. But it's really not my fault, and furthermore I'm not interested in hearing any lectures today. The only reason I'm here is to discuss interesting ideas; your attempts to control the conversation so it can proceed according to your liking is definitely not one of those.
Posted by: bls | February 16, 2007 at 04:36 PM
Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 16, 2007 at 06:40 PM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 16, 2007 at 06:40 PM
You know, I hate to tell you, MS, but this conversation is an absolutely textbook demonstration of why religion-without-cult (or without ritual, as in D.C.'s latest post) is hopeless.
When you have cult and ritual, on the other hand, you have people's attention focussed outside themselves, on the physical enactment of an idea or ideas. Each person is able simultaneously to admire the precision and grace - the beauty - of the drama, and also to contemplate the meaning behind what they are seeing.
No one is telling them how to react to or understand what they're seeing; it is an inner and wordless journey that nobody else can control. Gesture is far better for opening up that third eye than words - with their almost purely propagandic value, particularly in a religious setting - will ever be. When a baby is baptized, the water is an "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" - and the individual seeing it can take an interior psychic trip to consider what it means. This is why Quakerism - whose one ritual is the direct use of silent contemplation - is the exception.
Words alone are about manipulation and control; gesture is about contemplation and freedom. We are sacramentalists, and what we're doing is very deep and about as far from "mumbo-jumbo" as it could possibly be.
Anyway, again: I certainly don't care that you think it's "mumbo-jumbo"; you're completely wrong, but it's no skin off my nose. Don't get so offended, though, when other people tell you exactly what they think in return. That's what these kinds of boards are for, after all.
Posted by: bls | February 17, 2007 at 12:55 PM
BLS, I did in fact wonder whether it's inconsistent to like our ritual to be solemn but our Eucharists to be casual. I don't think it is inconsistent.
Posted by: D. C. | February 17, 2007 at 01:09 PM
Bls, thank you once again for sharing your thoughts.
Posted by: Mystical Seeker | February 18, 2007 at 03:41 AM