Friday, October 28, 2005

Give me that oooorganized religion

I just spent an hour on the phone catching up with a dear friend of mine who has a true heart of gold. Definately she's one of the few people who can out-talk me in a given conversation :O!

Anyhow, she's doing wonderfully, but one thing she said kind of disturbed me. She said that she'd considered being a nun, but that she has problems with organized religion in general.


It's always mildly disturbing to me when intelligent and well-meaning people say such a thing. It seems that it's the one comment I can't get used to because I simply don't get it. Sure, we organized religion folk have our issues, but then, what's the alternative?

Who's there to keep the faith? Who's there to teach our ways and pass on our understandings? How is it that God would be so bloody interested in chatting with individuals and so amazingly uninterested in our relations in community?

Have you ever noticed that although every organization has its problems, religion is a singular beast in terms of having to account for them? I wonder if my friend, who is well on her way to her PhD, listens to her own bemoanings about the cut-throat nature of academia? Or should I say, Organized Learning!

Don't all the same critiques apply? Cant I learn on my own through books? Do I need annoying other opinions? Isn't it enough that my heart is in it? can't the parents just teach it? How can we learn truth if so many academics are corrupt and only looking out for their agendas? What about all the different schools of thought - how can one be correct!

Doesn't this extend even to the evils of organized living? Corrupt families...corrupt politicians... etc. But can anarchy be the answer?

It occurs to me, who presumes God as a First Principle, that God is a God who prefers order to chaos - indeed the first 2 chapters of the Bible/Torah are precisely God bringing order from Chaos. It is only within order, when there is a Law be it civil, legal, Natural, or Divine, that true contemplation of the Good and the Bad can even begin. It is only once we have an organization and a structure that we can begin to evaluate the positives and ills of that structure. Ultimately it seems to me that for something to be of any value, to be passed on, to learn from its own mistakes, Order is a pre-requisite. Oftentimes that order makes me want to pull out my hair. Then again, all the good we do is only possible because of these same ponderous and irritating structures and resource pools: schools, clinics, a place for the lost and lonely and marginalize, a place to hold the rich and powerful accountable.

Don't think that I or anyone else deeply involved don't know the evils of massive religious structures...perhaps better than the outsiders who criticize us so much. I do. But I also know how much I owe to that very structure, to those before me, even to those before me and around me who taught me precisely what doesn't work and how not to behave.

I'm reminded of a sermon I gave recently on Matthew 23. Read it sometime, it's a most interesting little ditty. First Jesus tells the people to listen to the scribes and pharisees because they sit on Moses' throne. In other words, they teach the Will of God truly with their words. Then...after establishing their places of honor and authority... Jesus lambasts and condemns these same scribes and pharisees for their hypocrisy and ostentatiousness. I think what's going on here is a matter of responsibility. What's important is the God that the Church stands for and teaches. After all Christianity is not a religion that promises that it's members will all become perfect. Quite the opposite. We're a haven for sinners and for the fallen. We confess every Sunday before taking the Lord's body and blood: We are the "first of all sinners". We who are in charge will be accountable on that day before God's throne for all that we taught and practiced. But since we live in a world distorted by our own iniquities, we are at least an honest faith in that we admit to it up front and don't quit on each other. True Christians do not shoot their cowards and wounded. We reconcile them, we take the pain for them, and we do as the apostle Paul exorted us: Therefore bear one another's burdens. I think it's a matter of authenticity that our faith teaches the shortcomings and non-eliteness of those in the faith. It seems to account for the very shortcomings that are seen and criticized. There is only one Good one, and it is Him who we preach - not ourselves.

Just food for thought. ;)


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