The theological hairball

I always get a bit nervous when someone asks me what I’m doing these days…

“I’m a seminarian preparing for ordained ministry in the church,” I’ll say.

As nerve-wracking as this moment is, it’s also exciting. It’s exciting because there’s now an opportunity to talk about something at the root of life — the relationship between the human and the divine.

However… I notice that, more often than not, we don’t quite get there. Instead, the conversation screeches to a halt until, eventually, the conversation shifts to something more — shall I say — agreeable.

I get it. The Christian church has hurt a lot of folks over the last millennium or two. So when I bring up that I’m working to be a minister of this organization, a LOT of assumptions can be drawn about me and what I’m up to.

Episcopal priest/DJ (yes, you read that right — treat yourself to this video), John Zahl, mentioned on a podcast the other day the following nugget of wisdom that I’m putting into my pocket for the future. He said something like this (I paraphrase):

As much as I’d like to tell them (people at, say, a cocktail party that he goes to wearing his clergy collar) how I’m not “that kind of Christian,” I’ve come to realize that everyone has a “theological hairball” that they need to cough up before they can hear anything from me as a minister of the church.

Yes… The theological hairball.
I’d say that we all have one.

I had to cough up a sizeable one myself that snowballed over a couple of decades before I could come back to the Christian faith. It was only when I coughed it up and put words to my deeply held animosity towards the church that I could hear something new.

A lot of times, our grief and pain must be expressed through our mouths before our ears open.

He then proceeded to share his intricate history — both sordid and beautiful — with the church and the spiritual journey he’s now on. Then, he relaxed. And that was it. The hairball was out on the table, I wasn’t in the least bit offended, and we had a great discussion about God, consciousness, quantum theory, and a lot of other things I don’t understand.

This post was published first in The Jonasletter. To get my essayettes in your handy dandy email inbox as soon as they’re published, click here to subscribe.



Not here on Medium much anymore. Head over to my Substack to see the latest: 👍🙏🤙

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jonas Ellison

Not here on Medium much anymore. Head over to my Substack to see the latest: 👍🙏🤙