What continues to disturb me…. is the church. How do we live with it and not grow cynical and tired… particularly in an information overload age? The institutional churches are massively top heavy with self-interest and professionals who don’t seem to be able to comprehend that God may not need them as much as they think. The Catholic Church is currently weaving around regarding rampant abuse to a degree that many have grown weary of even trying to trust anymore. Listen to the words of a columnist in the British Times a few days ago (India Knight):
It is simply not possible, having read the papers or watched the news over the past couple of weeks, to stick with the programme. Like many of my generation, I could hardly be described as a good, or even decent, Catholic, but I’d managed to hang on in there, in the vaguest way imaginable.
Vague because it’s hard to pay lip-service to a faith that you feel hates you; a faith that would rather let you die in childbirth than have an abortion, won’t let you take the contraception necessary to prevent said abortion, hates gay people despite having many homosexual priests; a faith that talks ignorant nonsense about HIV and Aids, that would rather watch people die in Africa than let them use a condom; a faith that is unbelievably slow to say sorry about the fact that some of its members are habitual rapists of children.
I mean, you know, at some point you just give up. Not one of these things is defensible taken individually. Collectively, they are beyond comprehension.
A faith based on central authority and infallibility must understand that failure immediately to condemn the rape of children — in Ireland, in America, in Austria, in Germany, in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Brazil, so far — is essentially to allow it.
History repeats itself because corporate humanity contracted severe Alzheimer’s long ago…. It’s the week before Easter, the most significant historical event in human history – I would advocate for that status. Jesus Christ is the only historical figure to claim identity as the Son of God in a manner that did not cause him to be locked away as a lunatic with severe delusions. His revelation of the character and nature of God was stunning…. God the Father of whom he spoke and whose will he said he always obeyed was revealed through this man as compassionate, kind, powerful, tender, non-religious, loving, forgiving, desperately concerned for the weak, the lost, the down-trodden, and the abandoned….. He was everything anyone would ever dream God could be. You would have thought his arrival and revelation on earth would have been met with rapture and indescribable joy and popularity.
Such is the nature of human beings, such is the irony and paradox of life – we cry out for freedom and crucify the one who comes to set us free. Yes of course it was the church of the day who closed ranks when this intruder with a messiah complex began to operate outside of their religious boxes and more importantly without their authorization. The common people did give Jesus a resounding welcome as he lived among them and revealed the common touch of a God who loves authentically and humbly at a grassroots level… It was the institution and professionals who were threatened and despised his unorthodox approach. Never mind his impact, or the changed lives and transformed characters of those around him, the healed lepers, the blind seeing, and the lame dancing.
I witness the struggles within the Anglican Church and even the current attempts to revitalize a ‘new model’ in North America and it’s hard to be inspired. Instead of a creative new beginning almost all the religious and institutional clutter is being re-assembled as quickly as possible because it’s inconceivable to imagine God wanting to be resurrected from a dead religious tomb. In the non-institutional models dysfunction is equally rampant with self-proclaimed gurus telling us God wants us to be successful and wealthy, please buy our products online, name-brand ministries everywhere. Unlike the institutions these sleek machines have God on their boards and Jesus appears to have jettisoned servanthood and humility and now attends conferences and mass meetings to endorse those who have risen higher than he… apparently. See how easy it is to become cynical? The obvious answer is to stay at home as we’ve said before…. self-righteously seeing through all the crap, worshiping God on our own…. but in effect using the dysfunction of others to justify our own. Truth is we’re all a mess…. and it’s only the God revealed in Jesus who provides any hope….. as he pours out ‘grace like silk’…..
The good news is that despite our ability to exercise our democratic right to choose…. God has never been about relinquishing ownership and ultimate authority or control to any of us. We just don’t have the capacity and history continually supplies evidence of the futility of our attempts to ‘be God’ and to live ‘as if he didn’t exist’. Easter is also about the reality of a God who will do whatever he wants whether we like it or not…. fortunately for us he is not vengeful or as vindictive as we are…. When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning he revealed the extent of His mercy, the depth of His love, and the breadth of His power over the entire cosmos – way beyond the grasp of our understanding, comprehension, or imagination.
My daughter recently pointed me in the direction of Food Inc. the very disturbing documentary about how a very few major corporations are running the food industry in North America. The methods of farming and barbarically cruel manner of raising and harvesting meat products – so that we can have cheap and plump chicken breasts… makes the many global atrocities we have been shocked by and demanded action about pale in comparison. The documentary advocates for change and once again encourages those at the grass roots to do something. If every individual takes responsibility eventually the mass move that results will impact what seemed at first to be too big ‘for me to make a difference’.
I wonder whether a similar approach is not overdue in the renewal of the church? Perhaps we need to encourage ‘organic Christianity’ – which means building communities within ten miles of where we live…. and being part of a solution rather than cherry picking and ‘being entertained’ at the large circus where no-one really knows us, or online – what kind of substitute for authentic relationships is that!? Maybe we would benefit by paying attention to our relationships with one another – seeking to be empathic, supportive, transparent, and sacrificially giving. Encouraging one another in the primary relationship with God the Father through Jesus and instead of looking for short cuts and spiritual pesticides…. return to a more organic, natural, and wholesome life of faith. It’s a challenge tho’, because as I wrote in the previous article…. religion is deeply embedded…. but it’s still worth a try don’t you think?
Hallelujah anyway, Jesus is risen!