Last Saturday night, J and I were out with a couple of his friends, one of whom is a faithful and believing Catholic. Talk turned to religion and J, who was raised Mormon, asked her, "So, you believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church?" She looked at him as if he had asked her the question in Lithuanian. Then she looked as though the question had never crossed her mind.
Having spent the last year attending a church where no one is invested in whether or not it's the one and only true one, the question seemed odd to me as well. But I also understood that it made perfect sense, as I have sat through many testimony meetings in my life (not to mention Sunday School lessons, priesthood lessons, and sacrament meetings). Belief that the LDS Church is the only true church is integral for Mormons, and for many of us who were Mormon it is hard not to think about religion in other terms. So it is often surprising to realize that many people of faith and spirituality do not think in those terms at all. For our Catholic friend, her faith was not in a church that she considers to be the only true one or the guardian of ultimate truth. Rather it is a vehicle for cultivating spirituality and compassion.
I know many Mormons who are like this as well, to be sure. Indeed, I think the Mormons with whom I always have always felt most comfortable, both when I was a Mormon and since leaving the church, were those who don't seem particularly invested in the idea of a single true church at all. They practice their faith as though the Mormon Church is a right way rather than the only way. But J wasn't like that and even now in the post-Mormon phase of his life he couldn't really understand why anyone would be committed to a church they didn't think was God's True Church. For him it had always been the Mormon Church or no church. Always, that is, until our friend gave him that puzzled look and talked about her faith with us.
The next morning, J and I went with a group from my church in New Jersey to Sunday services at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. J had been to services with me in New Jersey before (reluctantly, though he has since admitted that he liked it more than he wanted to), but he seemed to approach this experience with a new found openness. As he let go of the idea that there is or should be a single way or that churches themselves should proclaim such a thing, he seemed to discover that perhaps there were ways for him to connect to his spirituality that he thought he had rejected--that is, sitting at church on Sunday morning. I think it was a remarkable experience for him.
It reminded me of my first visit to Union Congregational, where I felt a sense of divine love and acceptance and connection that had been sorely lacking in my life to that point. I don't want to toss the baby out with the bath water as I move forward with my life. I'm still much more of a Christian-y agnostic than any kind of true believer, but that does not preclude me from embracing the support and meaning I find in church community and the sprituality I find in the beauty of Christian worship. I also am still deeply moved by the compassion and concern for the downtrodden that I find in the teachings of Jesus. The United Church of Christ, to which my congregation belongs, proclaims that God accepts us all where we are. I can't believe in things I don't believe in--and I am grateful to have found a reason and a place to to worship God in a setting where I'm not expected to.