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STUCK IN A SUICIDE PACT

Are we totally asleep?

We must be! For we’re turning our backs on totally inescapable history. Today’s best thinkers point to an epic shift in reality—a tectonic change in life—a point on our planet so precipitous that we can no longer call it "civilization."1

Their predictions are not mere make-believe. Their intent is not mere hyperbole!

Our old world, after all, is passing away, and we are living in a time of explosive change. Things are happening faster than at any time in the history of the world. Futurists predict that—in this century alone—we’ll witness 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate of change).2

But the oblivious and the blind dismiss all this. They say, "Society has always changed, so what’s the big deal?" The "big deal" is a shift in the structure of knowledge—not a mere shift in content.3 Runaway advances are outstripping our comprehension. Past knowledge and past experience are becoming useless guides to the future.4 Thin crusts of old realities are weakening in their support of new realities. If the future world has historians, they’ll call it a "singularity" moment.

The way we see the future is not the way the Lord of History sees the future.

Meanwhile, we breathe the brief interim between "then" and "not yet." And, we’ll never go back. Still more alarming, we’ve just a moment to respond. And, if we fail—as some believe—"we will very likely perish."5 Poetry puts it this way:

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To Flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.6

In short, we face either the greatest promise or the greatest peril in the history of the church. It can go either way. Don’t say, "God will pull the fat out of the fire." Both Scripture and history prove "mercy and anger are alike with Him."7

"Why can’t you read the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:3)

Unbendingly "Religious"

Yes, why? The answer to Jesus’ question requires uncommon honesty. And that honesty begins here: The church is in love with "religion." I love the Lord’s church, I’m not so certain about "religion."

Religion is simply the form spirituality takes within a community or culture—or cult. It is a shared consensus. It is supported, in other words, by the goodwill of those who share it. Religion, in turn, gives legitimacy to the same culturally constructed "world." And, as it becomes "official"—as it rules worldly realities—Christ morphs into "Christendom."

Christ becomes "Christianity."

Yet, Christ is the savior, not Christianity! So watch out! Religion doesn’t always embody spirituality. Styles, traditions, and cultures don’t always maintain pristine visions. Creeds, doctrines, and dogmas don’t always provide added glory.

Too often, in other words, we put our trust in a mistaken salvation:

It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, can’t get too much faith and obedience, can’t get too much love and worship. But religion—the well-intentioned efforts we make to ‘get it all together’ for God—can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us . . . we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish . . . we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.8

Perhaps, we could be forgiven for "getting in the way," but we find a far greater danger than our foolish interference. In the realm of "religion," seraph and snake abide side by side. Once we’re lured into imagined "sanctions" of our pet projects, anything goes. The stories of religion-fueled hate harbor unbearable memories. Repeatedly, these stories prove how easily religion shifts from a consensus of salvation to a delusion of destruction.

Nazi Germany, after all, was seriously "religious." And, today, 70 percent of the world’s population is still ethnocentric—unbendingly "religious."9 Yet, little of this "religion" resembles anything close to spirituality.

"Jesus Is Just Like Us"

Let’s face it. Our "civilized" world has always put culture before religion. We’ve never adapted culture to Christianity, we’ve always adapted Christianity to culture. And it’s hard to imagine a more difficult or distorted fit.

As a result, the way we see religion is not the way Scripture sees religion.

These distortions began in earnest when the Roman Empire turned a pristine, grass-roots movement into the "official" religion of the Empire. Overnight, everything under the control of the Empire became "Holy." Eventually, though, we replaced our Roman "eyeglasses" with Ancient Greek lenses. Even today, our schools remain more Greek than Judeo-Christian.

Even our seminaries!

The Enlightenment, of course, gave Greek minds a renewed argument against religion. And the resulting bias in modern (now old) science and politically correct scholarship has nailed the coffins of many churches.

Even Eastern mysticism got into the act. First in the secular world—then in the sacred—a "blending" of East and West became the calling card of "sophisticated" Christians. Some "blending" was done in ignorance, though, like today’s "Christian" meditation which in no way mirrors the spiritual reflections of the Ancient Hebrews.

Finally, today’s church also chases "youth culture" in a last-ditch attempt at relevance and significance. But the latest street jive turned creatively to the profits of master merchandisers promises a narrow religion of overnight clichés.

In the meantime, "What would Jesus do?" That’s easy. "Jesus is just like us". . . .

Constantly Transfigured

. . . a make-believe Jesus. An illusory Jesus. With these typical distortions, religion too often incarcerates its own ingroup inmates. It imprisons them within their own realities, and provides them with their own "thought-police." Its captives move within a closed, concrete world, and they are often belligerent, arrogant, and harshly intolerant.

Then—within these "prisons"—different "cell blocks" create clashing civilization blocks. And nothing proves these conflicts more than today’s Liberal/Conservative Wars. Each group considers the other intolerably wrong. Each group secretly plots the other’s destruction.

Yet, these great wars are great illusions. Both groups have already been rejected by the postmodern world. Both groups claim dogmas already refused by the Lord of History. Both groups—simply put—have failed the test.

These "either/or" wars are suicide pacts.

If churches are to survive, they should not claim either camp. They should not get stuck in either dogma. They should not get frozen in any time. For we worship a God of the future—"Who was and Who is and Who is to come."10 His world is not so much a "creation" as a "creating." His realm is not so much an accomplished reality as a non-present reality—an evolving reality, an ongoing reality.

More to the point, His revelation is always larger than our understanding of it. So we must return over and over to our Source. We must continually try to make sense of our inner and outer worlds. And, in doing this, we must move in an oft repeated cycle—an always open dialogue—a continual interpretive rhythm.

Our concerns are not "liberal" or "conservative." They are not either/or. They are both/and.

All of us . . . are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another.11

Something More Important

So—in addition to what the conservative church usually does—it must also welcome new revelations—receive new discoveries—and willingly mature and grow. And—in addition to what the liberal church usually does—it must also preserve our memories—ground our experience—and anchor our understanding in what we believe. . . .

Further, the conservative church must also release us from mob mentalities—free us from religious blindness—and liberate us from hidden slavery. And, the liberal church must also protect society from the anarchy of the mind—defend our spirits from wayward "logic"—and shield us from rampant individualism. . . .

Finally, the conservative church must also honor the unknown—prize theoretical visions—and welcome abstract mysteries. And, the liberal church must also bridge the esoteric with the cognitive—connect the heart to the mind—and nurture the necessary securities and sanities. . . .

In short, both groups must grow up! There’s something far more important than the adolescence of being either liberal or conservative.

Like Ezekiel, who knew God’s presence without the Hebrew temple and in "a strange land," today’s church must also know God’s presence without our "religious" bias and in a postmodern land.

Maybe, then, we can "read the signs of the times."

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

ENDNOTES

1. Thomas Berry, quoted in Gene Marshall, Fresh Wineskins for the Christian Breakthrough: Fragments of Visionary Brooding on the Sociological Future of Christianity, (Realistic Living Press,Bonham, TX, 1999) p. 50.

2. Ray Kurzweil, "Accelerated Living," PC Magazine, Vol. 20, No. 15, September 4, 2001, pp. 151-153, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,32901,00.asp

3. William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality, and the Origins of Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981) p. 3.

4. Bruce Sterling, "The Evolution Will Be Mechanized," WIRED 09/2004 p. 102.

5. Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, quoted in Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality (Boston: Shambhala, 2000) p 104.

6. Omar Khayyam, The Rukbatyat, http://tehran.stanford.edu/Literature/Poetry/Omar_Khayyam.html

7. Sirach 5:5-7, The Apocrypha.

8. Eugene H. Peterson, The Message//Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2003) p. 2183.

9. Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality (Boston: Shambhala, 2000) p 118, 123, 134.

10. Revelation 4:8, AMP.

11. II Corinthians 3:18, AMP.



Future Church Administrator