March 3, 2010 by

Misunderstood Nuns and Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees


Categories: food for thought, link love

Over the past two evenings The Wild One and I watched the classic movie A Nun’s Story starring Audrey Hepburn–first time we’d seen it. (Long movie, so we broke it into two parts watching it from our DVR.) It was about a young woman, the daughter of a famous doctor, trained as a nurse, who entered the convent with a sincere desire to serve God and care for the underprivileged. We watched as throughout the nearly three-hour-long movie she stumbles over the legalistic rules of her order that stop her from making common sense decisions for the people she is treating–epitomized by the requirement that she must leave off treatment of a patient (no matter how severe) when the bell calls her to prayer and communion. Their explanation for such requirements? “Your medical service must be secondary to your religious life.” After years of suffering from inside politics and constantly finding herself guilty of breaking one rule while trying to keep another, she finally decides to renounce her vows and is shunned by the order. The thing is, she is the one who is acting most like Jesus throughout the film. It is a classic example of people missing the point, of not seeing the forest for the trees.

It reminds me of the recent experiences of a blogger friend of mine, Heidi, who is not a nun and has nothing to do with the movie except that her tale is another example of how often we Christians miss the point, and mistake the substance for the form. I urge you to read her story in her own words here.

Both of these stories remind me of something Jesus said:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23, NASB)

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

5 Responses to Misunderstood Nuns and Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

  1. Sarah

    I feel for Heidi. That sucks.

    That is *the* most important rule though isn't it? Even for a lot of 'emerging' or 'missional' types. I remember when TSK wrote that list of 10 types of churches that would no longer upset your grandpa (or something like that). Commentors were in a tizzy about the "not going to church" one. Oh pu-leeze. Are you kidding? Sheesh. Community and fellowship are part of the normal Christian life. Oddly, I found it difficult to find those two elements in any IC. But that's just my own experience. I know that's not the case everywhere.

  2. Anonymous

    Yeah, like getting kicked out of a church called, Into all the World, for going out into all the world, instead of, being in your pew three times a week. Kid you not!

  3. Heidi W

    My husband is glad I'm not a nun. 🙂 Plus having 4 children would probably have gotten me excommunicated by now.

    And it does seem to be "THE" most important rule among Christians… I'm pretty sure it is the number one commandment, and one the first page of the Bible. Attend Church every Sunday morning without fail, no matter what your circumstances in life may be.

    Of course, as jaded and cynical as this may sound, we didn't get much "fellowship and community" in most of the actual churches we have attended, although to be fair, we did find it among the people we met there (mostly because it provided us with a place to actually meet people, not so much because we were provided any opportunity to do so.

    There is one church we really miss, that focused more on the people than the Sunday mornings, but it is no longer around. We moved away, and when we moved back it was gone, and the people scattered.

    Anyway… missing fellowship and community… not missing the rules and regulations!!!

  4. Larry

    As a couple who attends no traditional church by choice right now, I certainly understand the problems of being misunderstood.

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