Father Gregory Jensen thinks as he drives, apparently. “Sectarian or Catholic? Thoughts From Another Long Drive” is a recent result. (His use of the adjective “Catholic” definitely is not limited to “Roman Catholic.”)
[A] sectarian approach limits itself to what is wrong with others. Whether from the right or the left, sectarianism is an ideology masquerading as Christian theology …
Life as a disciple of Christ necessarily places us in a tension with not only the fallen world, but also with ourselves. As the late Fr Alexander Schmemmann never tired of repeating, it is this fallen world that God loves and for which His Son suffered and died on the Cross …
The pastoral–and spiritual–failure of sectarianism is that, unlike Christ, it fails to balance “harsh sayings…with the easy and appealing words so that watchfulness is encouraged” (Venerable Bede, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.8 quoted on ACCS, NT vol XII: Revelation, p. 361). Underneath this, indeed underneath all my willingness to judge, to condemn, to withhold forgiveness, is a watchfulness that is not encouraging but suspicious and distrustful. If in the immediate this is directed toward my neighbor it ultimately finds its roots in my own lack of faith in God and trust in the providential working of His grace in your life and mine.
He links to an editorial that cautions against the creep of a sectarian spirit into relations among the diverse Orthodox in North America (not between the Orthodox and the surrounding culture), and that caution is timely for reasons I’ll not go into here.
But the sectarian spirit also can taint the relationship of believers to the surrounding culture. Think purse-lipped Church Lady.
I don’t think that surrounding culture, especially in North America, is without it’s own secularized ideology and sectarianism, but in the spirit of Catholic/Orthodox self-criticism, it’s good to be mindful of the need to balance “harsh sayings…with the easy and appealing words so that watchfulness is encouraged.” “Love the sinner while hating the sin” is a pretty lame effort, as it misses a true call to watchfulness.
It may be even better to apply some of the harsh sayings to our own scotomatous contributions to cultural decadence. I’m not giving the cultural left a free ride by any means, but let’s grant, for just one example, the legitimacy of this question (which I’ve distilled from multiple SSM advocates):
“To date, which has more damaged the institution of civil “marriage”:
- Same-sex marriage; or
- Heterosexual cohabitation, fornication, intentional conception and birth outside marriage, and intentional avoidance of conception and birth inside marriage (i.e., marriage viewed as a license for heterosexual ‘religious’ people to engage in sundry intentionally barren erotic acts)?”
I’ll even grant the tiresome Frank Schaeffer (who, by the way, is a former religious right leader – at least in his own mind) 0.5 points (on a 1000 point scale) for pointing out, inside a tirade meant to tickle the ears of his liberal audience by insinuating sexual license, that Churches full of fat people (gluttons) might want to be circumspect about the stridency of their condemnation of loose and gay sex.