Shuck and Jive

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Meaning of Life, Part 54

Thus I face a most painful question: Is the church an institution that I wish to save? Don Cupitt has advocated taking leave of God; is it now time to take leave of the church? Will it remain forever locked in theological contradiction and social irrelevance? Should I leave the dead to bury the dead or remain and fight my corner of the battle? Even if at some future date (and it could be decades hence) my church should, for example, allow gay priests to openly express their sexuality and permit radical theology to thrive again, is it worth the effort? Is it reasonable to give one's life to an organization that is always at least a generation behind the rest of the world's best and latest thinking?

It is an interesting dilemma. I oscillate between depression and hope. I am filled with despair by those who use religion as a force for evil, constantly manipulating it to ostracize or terrorize those who are different. I weep over those who use sacred texts as a battering ram to justify hatred and fear. I am continually perplexed by the hate-filled "lovers of Christ" who divide humanity into "us" and "them" More and more I identify with those on the margins of the church, with those who have left its embrace, and with those in centers, networks, and forums that combine doubt and uncertainty with reverence for life. I find more spiritual wonder in watching the sun set over the West Australian Ocean than in many liturgical services. And yet I have also met many fine fellow Christian travelers who love the Lord even as they share my frustration with a conservative and often narrow-minded institution.

And so I choose to stay the course...

Nigel Leaves, "A Journey In Life", When Faith Meets Reason: Religion Scholars Reflect on Their Spiritual Journeys, p. 37


  1. >>Is the church an institution that I wish to save?<<

    It's a tough question, and I don't really think it matters what we wish for, no matter how many stars we see in the sky. I would argue that cultural irrelevance is getting close to pounding that final nail into the coffin. So, personally, I'm less interested in keeping the institution from burning to the ground, and more concerned about what can come from its ashes.

    I have a couple of thoughts on this. I've posted them on my own blog, so it seems easier to link rather than regurgitate. (Brace yourself, I'm about to spam.)

    First, I think we're dealing with a shift in cultural expectations regarding how power and authority are related. In short, modern institutionalization is not conducive to the postmodern "family romance".
    Podcast link.

    Second, yet flowing from the first part of my argument, I think we need to pursue structures that are more relevant.
    Article link

  2. Thanks for the links! It is only spam if I don't know you! : )

    Please all, check the links and share your thoughts with the irreverent one...

  3. One reason to remain in the church is to provide an alternative view of Christianity to the conservative chuch. A counter weight.

  4. Religion used to be an ever-evolving set of beliefs based on our understanding of the world around us and the influence of other cultures.

    Now it seems that we have halted that progress and even backed up, like a well struck wedge shot onto the 18th Green.

    Christians, et al., will point out that this is because their religion is the "true religion" and there is no need for any other.

    I wonder if anything short of an Alien Visitation or the collapse of Civilization on a world-wide level can get us out of the rut.

  5. Amigo John!

    Not specific to this post, but as a general shout-out to you I'd like to let you know that I really appreciate what you seem to be trying to do. I'm not quite clear on just exactly what that is, but I guess you aren't either, and that's part of what I like about you. You don't hide uncertainty with any variety of contrived or composed assuredness. Strange times we live in, but I suppose that has always been the case. As I gleaned from the National Lampoon in about 1974, "Things aren't as good as they used to be, and they never were!"

    Well, just wanted to give you some props as an invisible member of your cyber-congregation.

    Onward through the fog!


  6. I really appreciate what you seem to be trying to do. I'm not quite clear on just exactly what that is...

    I don't know what I am doing or why I am here or even if either question is answerable, but we keep on! Thanks for keeping on with me!

  7. I suspect that in one form or another the church will outlive us all. The church has been very adaptable over the ages. After all the first Christians got smart and made the celebration of the nativity on a Roman holiday. I've always wondered if they did that so they would get the day off too. It certainly isn't in the Bible

    Oh and BTW my African immigrant friends didn't use evergreen trees for their Christmas trees (those trees being something we borrowed from German and possibly Celtic) religion. There aren't evergreens in Africa so they use palm trees. Interesting yes? Particularly since Christmas trees weren't a custom in the English speaking world until queen Victoria borrowed the practice from Germany where her husband came from.

    Our ancestor Calvinists tried to get rid of all that and just have "Biblical" Christianity. No organs (but what about the instruments played in the Psalms: loud crashing cymbals)? And singing only the Psalms (that didn't last too long). And what was up with that communion token thing? Only some people were righteous enough to eat the Lord's Supper? Then the 12 apostles (including Judas) should not have received the first Lord's Supper. And I would have no right to do so today. I'm a sinner. I'm supposed to stop sinning at least until we finish the Lord's Supper?

  8. The Canonical texts lead us away from Jesus-the-man who freed himself from culture and a cruel religion, an apostate, and said his was the only way, (which it is), to becoming fully conscious.

    This is his prescribed step by step journey in Luke:

    1. "Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
    2. Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.

    3. Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

    4. Blessed are you when men hate you,when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

    Nothing about God but the way to being aware. An attitude of being.

    1. Give up vanity. Repent that your worldly status is a trap, that the priesthood are as much slaves as the flocks, to have to seek the bishop's and their approval to eat.
    2. Look for the truth about yourself, sit still and listen, and you will surely find it,
    3. And the truth will hurt and you will be sorrowful, and then you will be set free and laugh,
    4. And no one will praise you for making Jesus-a-man and taking away their salvation of faith, that pride in believing they are something that they are not.

    It took Jesus forty days and nights to face his demons. How long will it take to separate from your worldly identity?
    Then you will see the lie of male and female egos, overt and invert, that litters the world of religious mind control.