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?"
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
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
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
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
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". . . .
. . . 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
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
Maybe, then, we can "read the signs of the
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
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,
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,
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.