If there is any religious experience that I could wish for anyone in the world, it would be to be at Taize for a week. Given the depth of experiences I have had recently, that really does says a lot.
But if you have an experience of coming to Taize, you will be left with a problem.
You’ll have to forgive me that I can’t seem to name a specific play, movie, or television show to illustrate the point I want to make. One reason that I can’t seem to pin down an exact quotation, author, or title, seems to me because there are so many from which to choose.
At least in the American repertoire of classic “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best” type childhood sitcoms, and countless morality plays and social commentary movies from the decades of the 70’s and 90’s (the 80’s were a bit egotistical, but I will throw in the Breakfast Club as a movie which will make my point). There is a common genre of story in which children are playing together, and having a great time. They play baseball. They play football. Whatever. The point is that they play without a problem.
And then, the tragic flaw comes, and the unfolding of the real story takes place. The parents intervene and say, “You can’t play baseball any more with Chucky.” To which the sheepish child asks the boldest, and most pertinent question.
The adult is forced to come up with some answer that seems perfectly acceptable and logical within the adult worldview. This is for the safety of my children. This is for their betterment and prosperity. “We can’t have you playing with Chucky because Chucky is… BAD.”
Of course, the genre of story that I’m talking about, you can insert any socially contrived illness that you wish for the word “BAD”. Ones I can quickly think of are “He’s Black.” “He’s a Jew.” “He’s from the wrong side of town.” “He’s a Hatfield.” “He’s a McCoy.” Whatever.
The child is left with a deep sense of injustice that doesn’t sit right. “But we were just playing baseball a second ago and it was pretty fun!” The child is confused because playing ball seems a lot more fun than not playing ball, and the only reason he can’t play ball with his friend is because of some stupid rule that doesn’t even make sense. The unfolding of that injustice becomes the challenging of the parent’s traditional values which (at least in America literature) are often overturned.
It is the same story of being at Taize.
There are so many amazing people just hanging out, being groovy, and celebrating this love relationship that has been given through this guy named Jesus Christ. But sometimes something a little weird happens. There is an uncomfortable conversation that comes up.
“Are you Catholic?”
“No, I’m Protestant.”
“Oh… yeah… um… I’m Catholic.”
And you find yourself feeling like the little kid in the movie. “What do you mean we can’t play/(pray) together? ‘Cause, we were just playing/(praying) together a few minutes ago and it was a lot of fun. The idea of not playing/(praying) together kind of sucks, and I don’t think I like it.”
The conversation becomes uncomfortable, because you realize that at Taize, you have respect for those around you, and others respect you, but when you leave, our parents are going to tell us that we can’t pray together anymore. It is quite unsettling.
And the bold question comes out. “Why?”
Well… we know “why.” Our church leaders have to look out for our safety. They want us to grow up healthy and holy, and not to be distracted by others who would lead us astray. The want to protect us, and… our way of life and… (their power?)
Sometimes, that way of life is good, but we also need to be aware that sometimes, that way of life is in need of change. It is a system based on the logic of human beings, not of God.
But oh… that logic. Why do we need it?
“Because reason is the highest form of man?” they will state, quoting either St. Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle.
So let me get this straight? You’re going to tell me that your logic is absolutely right, by using the same logic, to argue that your logic is absolutely right. I’m glad that makes sense to you, because it seems to me like you are begging the question.
Before I go off the philosophical deep end, which I’m not willing to push too far (because I’m not Emmanual Kant), I know and respect that there is a role and place for reason/logic in religion. I’m really just trying to get to a point. There are these experiences, that the world is having, that don’t fit into the worldview of our “religious parents” anymore, at least in the way our parents saw these experiences in the past.
Taizé is a place for one of theses types of experiences. There are Christians gathering and growing in Christ’s love, and the only discomfort that seems to emerge from the experience, is when we say that we are from different traditions of Christianity.
Another experience might be that there are people who are married to each other, giving their whole life in love, and they are told that they can’t express that love together in prayer, because their traditions are different.
We are encountering religious people from non-Christian religions who are often more successful at the peaceful and loving relationship with God, than the people with whom we are going to church, or leading our country, but we are told those experiences are not valid, because they don’t fit into the limited world view crafted by the minds who, for their part, are just trying to keep us safe.
It is important that they care for us. The rules and regulations are not meant to restrict the growth of love within us but to enable it. But then we have these experiences, which seem to be more and more what Christ was getting at when he told us to “love one another as I have loved you,” and it doesn’t fit into the box we’ve been stuck in. We’re left with the question at the end of the movie The Breakfast Club. “So what do we do when we leave here? What happens Monday morning?”
So what does one do after an experience like Taize? Do we go back and live in our sheltered little cliques, with our isolated groups? Do we deny the experiences that we’ve had? Do we give up, admit that our parents are right, that maybe we can’t and shouldn’t play/(pray) together? Or, as in the movie the Breakfast Club, do we decide to keep our identities, while actively challenging the notion that those identities should never lead us to further animosity? Do we… grow?
The experience of being at Taize this week has left all of us who were here with the discovery of a tragic flaw in our lives.
We’re having experiences of deep love for God and each other, while being told otherwise that we are different.
How we choose to play it out, is the rest of the story.