Our personal experiences invade all our perceptions of life. It is who we are and how others see us to be. I want to spend this post talking about personal experiences and how that relates to Christian outreach. What do our perceptions have to do with religion. Let’s face it we are a product of our experiences.
I just finished watching a program in which a couple of members of the discussion group were a Catholic priest and a nun. I was struck by how differently they view things of the world than I do. The discussions were about what they called pelvic issues in the Catholic church. That is priest pedophiles, birth control, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and those sort of things. There is no doubt that these issues have taken a toll on the Roman Catholic church in recent times especially when related to pedophilia. I think that is one of the major reasons we are seeing the first pope resign in six hundred years. The clergy guest on this particular show got into how Catholics are supposed to revere and trust their bishops and cardinals as they are ordained by God. They couldn’t understand why many Catholics don’t do that today. These two participants and much of the clergy as a whole live totally within their religious communities. They seldom look at or experience anything outside their current environment.
I have always found it strange that a big part of a Catholic priest duties is to be a marriage counselor when they themselves have no experiences in those matters. Yes, it is possible to learn the terms and techniques for any subject matter but until you have personal experiences in a subject you will never really understand it or its problems. It is kind of like someone who has never been in the military counseling soldiers fatigued from battle or of policemen who has had to take a life in the line of duty.
That is one of the things I admire so much about Mother Teresa and Gandhi, they lived in the world that they were witnessing to. A young cleric by the name of Shane Claiborne is presently doing the same thing in inner-city Philadelphia. When we Christians sit in our pews week after week instead of getting involved in the world we are losing credibility with those who we are trying to teach about Jesus. They just don’t see how our world or its beliefs relate to theirs.
I know when I went deaf more than twenty-five years ago until I found others who were deaf no one seemed to help me to cope in my new silent world. The doctors who had been treating me just didn’t have a clue as to what I needed to do. Until you walk in someones shoes you just can’t understand their problems. Until we Christians get out into our communities with love for all our brothers the outside world will never fully accept us no matter what our message is.