Over on the blog of my cyber-friend, Allan Bevere, I've been ranting a lot recently about what I call "the institutional church". This evening, I came across the quote below by Richard Rohr.
I'm prepared to own these words, but I didn't write them - I wish I had. I'm happy to dialogue with readers (if there are any of you left) about what these words mean to me. Sometimes it's just good to know that you haven't totally gone off the deep end. (Please, no comments from the Peanut Gallery!)
The three great things that in my opinion we have to let go of are the following. First there is the compulsion to be successful. Second is the compulsion to be right - even, and especially, to be theologically right. That's an ego trip, and because of this need churches have split in half, with both parties the prisoners of their own egos. Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control. I'm convinced that these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness. And so long as we haven't looked these three demons in the face, we should presume that they're still in charge. The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, practically, spelling out just how imperious and self-righteous we are. This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.From "Simplicity: the art of living" by Richard Rohr, (Crossroads Press, New York 1992) p.44
That lesson also has many social and political implications and leads us to letting go of our political mythologies: for example, that we're the best country in the world, as many Americans believe. Pretty soon we've got to overcome nationalism - there isn't a lot of time left. We also have to give up the compulsion to possess so many thing and to have our own private stock of everything. The fact that not every one of us needs our own auto or washing machine would naturally make a good argument for physical community.
I'll just briefly say that I think the church goes wrong when it buys into the ideas of being successful and powerful and when it pushes congregations and clergy to be these things. I think the point about being theologically correct is self-evident.