Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Church - The Great Alienation - and Church

I was thinking more about that quote yesterday from A Tale of Two Cities. I read that part of the book again this morning before I started my long walk on the Jacksonville beach.

I think there is a fundamental difference between how I see the Church (and a few of us) and the mainstream views (both protestant and Catholic). This is where I feel so much tension.

In my view, God's work in the world is all about redemption. Total redemption. Redemption of our souls is the epicenter but not the place of completion. From there it goes out to touch all of what is.

Dickens described so well that great alienation between people. Where, in those clusters of homes, lies people who hold secrets in their beating hearts that they can't even share with those laying next to them. The books are all closed. This is the shadow of the fall and the great alienation . . . one from another.

Most people see the function of the Church as a continuation of Old Testament Temple. Even that was a man-made notion. But it was all about what we can do "for" God. But like God Himself said (in such words) what does He need from us? Does He need our "worship" as if He would feel blue if His ego wasn't constantly stroked? Isn't the earth His footstool?

No, just like the sabbath, the Church is God's gift to men and women and part of the great social redemption.

It is so hard to accept free gifts. I always want to pay-back.

So good Church is where that great alienation is reversed. It shouldn't be a place where more secrets are kept. In my experience, there are more lies told in the vestibule of an Evangelical church than about anywhere else in society. But the Church should be, as that act of social redemption, be a place where the lies are turned back and honestly prevails and the secrets within each heart begins to come out and the springs on the books become broken and the frost on the lake begins to thaw.

But why do we lie? We lie because there is a myth that we can be "good" and that everyone else really is good (because they are lying). So we can't reveal the truth about ourselves if we don't look good, because we will be alone. Being alone terrifies all of us . . . to the point that we do become alone. But when we all acknowledge that we are not good . . . but that we are human . . . we can all start to come out of our holes together.

So that is why I am often disappointed in the Church. I don't care for "temple." I long for social redemption.


Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that the Victorian Social Gospel was "a Gospel without personal salvation." The 20th Century reaction to that was a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

And the Navs, the Wretched Urgency Evangelicals, and the church circles you run in are firmly out-of-balance in the latter direction. Redemption is individual, not social. "Christ as MY PERSONAL LORD and Savior," Redemption Personal to Me and Me Alone. As for the others...

"Let 'em all go to Hell, Except Cave Seventy-Six!!!!!!"
-- The First National Anthem, according to Mel Brooks' "The 2000-Year-Old Man"

Vertical Only, No Horizontal.

Now you'd think that a church that's just an accidental grouping of such atomistic "I'm Saved"s would be completely anarchistic, right? With no link at all between all the Solitary Saints? Each to his own Personal LORD and Savior, with no horizontal connection to other mortals?

Yet that type of Independent church is often THE most Utterly Conformist and Forcibly Controlling of all, on a level with North Korea or the Taliban. (Remember the Navs, JMJ?) The only anarchy comes on the macro level, as these One True Churches go for each others' throats in constant anathemas and "DIE, HERETICS!"

And Redemption becomes something to be hoarded inside the four walls of your church, in your own Personal Relationship to your Personal LORD and Savior and nobody else. "Us Four, No More, Amen."

Headless Unicorn Guy

You've read my stuff; you know how spacy I can get. I even have a burden for imaginary critters, of all things. Why can't Redemption be extended to these imaginary critters? Such as a Unicorn guillotined as unworthy of existance in The Age of Reason? Or an elegant Cobra in a White Dress whose artist/creator couldn't think outside the box of his own sexual fantasies and turned this Daughter of his Imagination into just his personal imaginary sex slave?

Becky said...

Have you ever read William James' Varieties of Religious Experience? I'm on thin ice here, because it has been many years since I read it, and I didn't make it all the way through at the time. James (early 1900s?) was writing about (American?) religious expression in general ... not Christian in particular... and, if I recall, I don't think he identified himself as Christian. (I think he was a psychiatrist? And brother of the James (Henry?) who is a famous novelist.) But, I remember that the first 2 chapters (or sections) set up two basic approaches to religion that he observed. As I recall (all this is a paraphrase based on reading it years ago), the first approach was that if you believed/thought the right way, then life would turn out. The second was an approach that said "But that obviously isn't true! Life is complex! There's suffering, pain, grief, death! The meaning of salvation has to be much deeper than just believing the right thing hard enough." To which the first way of thinking would reply "The problem is you. You obviously aren't believing the right things or aren't believing them hard enough. Once you see the light, all your angst will go away."

Personally, I'm definitely temperamentally in the second camp (what about pain, suffering, grief death?) At the time I was reading the book I was at a church that had developed an infatuation with prosperity/word of faith thinking (definitely the first approach.) So I was very interested to read this 100 year old book that described some of the tensions I was feeling.

Sounds similar to the dichotomy you are describing observing, as well.