Posts Tagged ‘institutions’

Stickin’ to it.

February 18, 2018

In the late ’70’s many of us wandered up to a cool mountain town; we were trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Some had survived the excesses of countercultural lifestyle; others were just there to do the college thing.

  By that time, the ’60’s flower-power revolution that had failed to actuate had been appropriated into the Establishment. Now you could buy faux hippie threads from the JCPenney catalog; that reality was really a bummer, but people were buying the stuff anyway.. The free love thing had been commandeered by Hollywood. It seemed like everybody was “doing it.”

Our little group of wanderers and students found ourselves congregated in the mother-earth lap of an Appalachian river valley. We had gravitated here to, as John Denver had phrased it, “find Jesus on our own.”

“On our own” turned out to mean: apart from the institutional Church, because it was out of touch with what was happening in the real world and everybody knew it was full of foolishness and hypocrites. Haha.

As the gathering developed, however, our little charismatic experiment turned out to be a little more infected with the ways of the world than we had anticipated. Even though we were a bunch of young bucks and does banded together, raising our kids as a sheltered new testament tribe, showing all the local old-school religious folks what the kingdom of God was all about, eventually after about 20 years it flew apart and we all went our separate ways.

But the failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

By the late ’90’s when our little congregation fell apart, our three offspring had gone off to University, where they got a different view of things, different from the churchified bubble they had been raised in. Long story short: it was good for them to be educated, and all three retained their faith.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, some of us maturing saints—shell-shocked survivors of the great postmodern charismatic reactionary push—began gathering in our homes to “on our own” collectively continue our covenantal search to discern the Lord’s will for us. So we were then, and still now, gathering in our living rooms to read the Bible, pray, and seek God.

As for me and my wife, we have walked a middle road between that house-church body of Christ and another church, which is  a more conventional arrangement for presenting and living out the gospel in society.

This has worked well for us.

By ’n by, all three of our offspring became world travelers for one reason or another. Over the years we have done a lot of globetrotting, following them to various fascinating destinations around the world.

Like for instance, Europe. When we went to that Old World, I began to understand that America is the new kid on the block. Over there, they’ve been doing this Christianity thing for a very long time, about 2000 years.

While it is plain to see that there is a huge institutional legacy of the “Church” in the Americas, the cathedrals of Europe can be seen as indicators of a very different religious experience in days gone by.  Every major city presents evidence of some stupendous religious megalith that dominated European society in a big way for a very long time, until the purveyors of human rationalism came along to challenge their authority.

This Church as a human institution, whatever it shoulda woulda coulda been spiritually, was for a very long time the big kid on the block, the elephant in the room, the megalith institution that dominated  Old World society and cultural In a BIG way.

Those 1st-millennium continental Catholics erected a bunch of huge, monumental edifices. You can find them in every major city and small town.  Europe displays an infrastructure of past religious hegemony on a massive scale. The Reformers later did more of the same.

Case in point. Last year, when we were in Prague, Czech Republic, I snapped this pic inside a cathedral:

PChrch

So I’m thinking. It’s plain to see, this Christianity thing is much, much larger than what is represented by, say, the quaint quasi-classical structure down on our Main Street USA. Beholding this magnificent structure presents a challenge in many ways: it’s a theological, cultural, architectural wonder!

Who built this thing? Was it erected through the blood and toil and sweat of impoverished medieval slave-serfs? Was it founded upon the heretical  manipulations of indulgence-selling ecclesiastical con-men? What kind of empire were they building here? A corrupted hierarchy of covetous clergy? Does it give glory to God, or to the works of Man?

Now I could speculate vainly about the motivations and corrupt practices of those who went before me as  constructors of what is purported to be the Kingdom of God. I could judge them as users and abusers who took advantage of clueless poor people who probably could barely afford to pay the light bill and keep gas in the cart and the kids in shoes while they were fretting about their deceased relatives in purgatory or limbo. I could conclude presumptuously that this humongous structure is nothing more than a work of vanity and hubris and systemic abuse that was erected by men who were surely just as guilty, just as culpable, just as sinful and suspect as myself. I could condemn them as robber-baron ecclesiastic manipulators who were no doubt serving  Babylon or Rome or the  Pride of Man.

But, sinner that I know myself to be, I shall not so judge them. Rather, I shall admire the building for being, in an imperfect world, what  it should have been, and is generally in retrospect considered to be: overpowering evidence of the human impulse that strives to glorify God.

Furthermore, I understand that my assessment is considered to be an obsolete way of thinking. I realize, from both my common observations and study of history, that the religious  hegemony of this huge institutionalized Church has been supplanted, governmentally and socially, by the humanistic, democratic and socialistic movements of  the 19th and 20th centuries.

And that’s okay. Shit happens and nobody’s perfect, not even the humanists, who havre proven through their own systemic abuses that human government and politics falls far short of true justice.

We Christians do need reminders that there are other people in this world who have different fixes than we do for rectifying human injustice and misery. We don’t have to agree with everybody, but we do have to, as Christ and his apostles commanded, live peacefully with everybody insofar as it its possible.

What I am seeing now, in the present predicament of our world is this:

That big guilty-as-charged Churchified juggernaut that sought to order human activity and governance in the last sixteen hundred years—it is being challenged and threatened by a newer Religious juggernaut from the east.

And if I must choose between the two, I’ll go with the one that I know to be true, even though it has not always been righteous. In the end, I think it is better to build upon the testimony of the one who died on a cross and was, three days later, resurrected. It is better to stand with Him than with another religious empire whose plan would be to get us kaffirs all on our knees five times a day.

In his final revelation to those he loves, Jesus counseled his friend John to “strengthen the things that remain.”

So therefore and henceforth, I say unto thee: I’m with Jesus.

The failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

That’s my faith and I’m sticking to it.

King of Soul

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From Gutenberg and Luther to Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs

April 3, 2016

TimesChange

About 500 years ago, the new technology of the printing press enabled a religious revolution in the Christian church. The Catholic power structure was subsequently torn apart by the spreading of new Scriptural doctrines that were brought forth by Protestant leaders such as Luther and Calvin.

About 250 years ago, as that printing press technology was maturing, the political world was similarly torn apart by the rapid spreading of new political ideas.  The old monarchic empires of Europe–most notably the British and the French–lost control of their institutions. Emerging democratic and republican movements rendered the old power structures irrelevant and replaced them with new, fledgeling governments. The American Revolution and the French Revolution changed the world forever.

Now those revolutionary movements of the 1700s have themselves produced worn-out overdeveloped institutions which have become cumbersome and must therefore be replaced or radically downsized

I’m talking about our old political parties and our old media institutions. And who knows– even the government itself?

Like the 16th-century revolutionary advent of the printing press, we are witnessing an emerging 21st-century revolution in communications technology: the Internet. This changes everything about how we organize ourselves as different interest groups and cultural movements.

We will also endure a revolution in government institutions.

The powers-that-be, now morphing as powers-that-used-to-be, include not only the government itself but also the media behemoths and two political parties of the old order.

ABC, CBS, NBC appear to be going the way of the buffalo. Like IBM in the 1990s, morphing under assaults at the Gates of Redmond and the Jobs of Cupertino, the fates of these media giants will be determined by whether their leadership can change with the times.

And the old behemoth newspaper dailies–same thing. They gotta roll with the punches. Jeff Bezos bought the WashPo. What does that tell you?

But where this stuff is really hitting the fan now is in the political parties.

Bernie and Donald are tearing the old political landscape apart.

The old tags of Democrat and Republican are becoming irrelevant.

Our new identities slice right through both of those bloated institutions. Bernie and Donald are beneficiaries of this creeping political anarchy.

How can I identify these changes in a way that is descriptive without being simplistic?

Like it or not, the Democrats are now all basically socialists. But they are split between:

Occupiers and Mandarins.

Republicans are now all basically reactionaries (against Democrats). They are split between:

Trumpians and Conservatives.

Although this writer is a registered Republican, that association may be coming to an end. If the Trumpians take the booty in Cleveland, I’ll be looking to find a new American party. It’s dangerous, but I’ve read about some old guys from two centuries ago who took awfully risky chances when they signed a Declaration against King George III and then wrote a Constitution to boot.

Here’s the beginning of my declaration, and the old Constitution will do just fine with maybe just a few updates. And this radical centrist is looking for some way to extend the American Experiment, without it falling apart.

People doing their thing on the Internet cast a plethora of disparate forces that are fragmenting our nation. The new political arrangements will have to reflect these changes or we’re toast when the jihadis figure out how to penetrate whatever remains of our moral fortitude.

Glass half-Full