What is dissent?
I don’t remember exactly when I first began to notice the shift of circumstances, the change in attitudes, but I do know that every day the truth of the difference between past and present religious evolutions got more and more clear for me.
What has for long years been considered “dissent” in the churches by those who want more answers than questions, more clerical authority than spiritual investment may not be real dissent at all. People are not challenging Christianity and leaving the Church. They are not arguing against the need for a spiritual life. They are not denying God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. They are not ridiculing religion and going away. On the contrary. People currently considered “excommunicated” or “suspect” or “heretical” or “smorgasbord” believers are, in many ways, among the most intense Christians of our time. They do more than sing in the choir or raise money for the parish center or fix flowers for the church. They care about it and call it to be its truest self. They question it, not to undermine it, but to strengthen it. They call for new ways of being church together. They do not dismiss the need for the spiritual life. They crave it. What’s more, they look for it in their churches. But they crave more than ritual. They crave meaning. They look for more than salvation. They look for authenticity and the integrity of the faith.
Women, in particular, find themselves with theological questions that will not go away and immerse themselves in the struggle to bring the churches to be what the churches say they are. Men grapple to reconcile what the institution teaches with what the institution does. These men and women do not abandon the spiritual life, however distant their association with the churches that feel so distant from them. If anything, they try harder to provide for themselves the kind of fullness of the spiritual life their churches fail to provide or even deny, for whatever reason. They reach out everywhere to everything that will provide new insights, new awareness of the presence of God.–Joan Chittister, OSB
From In Search of Belief (Liguori) by Joan Chittister