Rational Christians are people who take the four gospels which contain the teachings of Jesus, as a basis for their religious, moral and ethical beliefs and practice.
They also believe that God has given them a mind or intellect with which to reason and think and a conscience to assist them
in putting their religious beliefs into daily practice.
They see it as a duty to apply their god-given powers of reason to the religious teachings which they have received in order to have an informed, responsible conscience.
This leads them to disagree, from time to time, with the teachings or practice of the religious authorities which have been the source of their religious formation.
They are not uncomfortable with this situation, regarding it as the natural and healthy product of a mature, questioning, Christian frame of mind.
Rational Christians sometimes wonder why, if the teachings of Jesus are the bedrock of the Christian religions, the Christian churches do not devote more time and effort to enabling their followers to immerse themselves in His teachings so that ‘thinking like Jesus’ becomes almost as instinctive as breathing in and breathing out.
Being a Rational Christian is not the same as being a regular church goer. The two have no essential connection. They just don’t necessarily go together. The one is not a sign of the other.
So where does that leave you and me? Is there a bit of a Rational Christian in Each of us? Could it do with a bit of nurturing? If so you might want to read on.
The Christian Churches
I don’t know what it is like to be a member of the Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, Lutheran or any other of the many Christian Churches. I was brought up in the Catholic Church.
You might therefore think that what I say applies only to Catholics and not to non Catholic Christians. But it needs to be remembered that the form of Christianity from which you rebelled was created by the Vatican. How much of that ancient baggage might you still be carrying?
Rational Catholic Christians make a clear distinction between the Vatican and The Church. We never use the word Church to include both of those elements. Why? Because they are quite different entities both in their role or function and in their practice.
The role of the Vatican is to govern. In order to govern it needs power. Power must therefore be acquired. It must be defended against attack and finally it must be extended when ever an opportunity occurs.
In other words the Vatican is a political entity which exercises its power within a religious context. The Vatican has had 1,700 years of political experience. Its structure is that of a monarchy, and, as far as possible, an absolute monarchy.
When Rational Christians use the word ‘Church’ they mean the ordinary people going about their daily lives and trying to live, as best they can, a Christian life. Some priests belong to this group and spend their lives helping, supporting, encouraging and serving the people.
Some priests belong more to the Vatican, at least intellectually and possibly in reality by exercising their role as priests with an eye more on the Vatican than on the teachings of Jesus. Thus the power of the Vatican is not confined to Rome. It reaches down into every parish in the world.
As a result many committed Catholics are, perhaps without realising it, more focussed on the Vatican’s rulings than they are on Jesus’ teachings. They might get a surprise if they spent as much time listening to Jesus as they do listening to the Vatican’s messages transmitted to them by their priests. So what are the Vatican’s messages at street level…?
The first wordless message which the Vatican communicates to all who come into contact with it is: all priests are male and all priests are unmarried. What conclusions can one draw from this? Perhaps that women are unsuitable to be priests and so is sexual activity in male priests.
The Vatican might reply that Jesus did not choose any women as apostles. True. But all his apostles were married except John. You can’t argue from what Jesus didn’t do and then ignore what he did do.
The second Vatican message is much more explicit. Do not disagree with us openly on any matter of religious theory or practice. If you are a layman we will ban you from teaching in all Catholic institutions. If you are a priest we will expel you from the priesthood.
Fr Roy Bourgois was a priest of the Maryknol order in which he had served faithfully for half a century. He began to speak out in support of a group of women and nuns who were campaigning in favour of women priests.
His superiors ordered him to stop. He continued to follow his conscience. He was expelled. In his 70s, unlike St Paul having no trade to earn a living, how was he supposed to put bread on his table or a roof over his head? Not the Vatican’s problem. Actually, he was lucky. Five hundred years ago he would have been burned alive at the stake.
To be continued