Friday, April 13, 2007

Threats Real and Imagined

I have to confess a somewhat masochistic streak: I lurk on Stand Firm far more frequently than is healthy. I recently came across a comment on a post there that reiterated the tired rhetoric of the religious right, to the effect that the "gay agenda" constituted the greatest threat ever to the Christian religion and its institutions. Now, this would be funny were it not so commonplace. It betrays a remarkable ignorance of the extent to which gay men and lesbians historically and presently have been crucial to the maintenance of Christian religious institutions, particularly male clergy. And organists.

Seriously though, I think there are any number of real threats to Christianity and creation that cry out for our attention. Global warming and climate change is probably number one on the list. While some on the right wing of the Church decry our commitment to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, what they fail to realize is that this commitment comes from a recognition of the real threats to Christianity, Christian institutions, and, more importantly, the human project on this planet: the poverty, disease, and oppression that destroy the people of God and the earth that sustains us.

If Christ is the Savior of the world, then his Body, the Church, should be committed to Christ's project of saving (healing) that world, no?

Sebastian Moore has identified what I take to be the real threat we face, that which undergirds the maintenance of all the other death-dealing forces arrayed before us: the loss of hope and of community. "The world to which the Christian story no longer speaks," writes Moore, "is a world in which individualism has deadened the nerve of a common hope that has been unforgettably quickened, traumatized, and re-enlivened with the joy of God." (Jesus the Liberator of Desire, p. x)

The is surely true in the West, where our growing consumerism, social mobility and consequent isolation, our very "success" has reduced our world to what we can make, sell, buy, and control. It is a small world indeed, without connection, without mystery, and without hope. Community, and particularly the memory it carries, is the source of hope. The Church, if it is to be about the work of saving, healing, must create communities capable of memory and therefore of hope: the memory of the Forgiving Victim who sets us free from our isolation and fear and obsession to be for others in healing community.

Just yesterday I found myself in conversation with a young man, Sam, after our Taize worship service. He had become interested in contemplative prayer and was looking for a place to practice silence in community. He intuitively recognizes and longs for what we need to counter the real threats we face: a willingness to acknowledge the mystery at the heart of things, to give up our quest for control, so that we can be present to others in their vulnerability and need. He wants to know Christ, to die to self so that Christ may live in him!

Sam is pointing the way forward: compassionate service grounded in contemplative community. He understands the real threat. This is the way forward for those of us "who are suffering a double oppression: of a worn-out but still discouraging secularism, and of an ineptly resumed ecclesiastical tyranny." (Moore again) So, let us ignore the comic attempts at control exerted by Pompous Primates and patiently awaken the latent hunger for mystery and meaning within the secular culture that finds us curious if not frightening. For it is the loss of hope that is the real threat we face.


R said...


Marvelous, and right on target. I have posted a link and an excerpt, as you sum up our present challenge so succinctly.

Love and God's peace.

Chuck Blanchard said...

I think that you are absolutely correct in identifying the real threat to the Chrsitain faith--the lack of community, and the notion that our faith life is only an individual experience.

We if approach our fiath as only our business, we are unwilling to listen to or tolerate those who disagree with us. If we try to live and worship in a community, we find that there is far more important aspects to our faith than doctrinal agreement.

sharecropper said...

Okay, I confess my theological ignorance, but I don't even understand the quote from Sebastian Moore, ""The world to which the Christian story no longer speaks," writes Moore, "is a world in which individualism has deadened the nerve of a common hope that has been unforgettably quickened, traumatized, and re-enlivened with the joy of God." (Jesus the Liberator of Desire, p. x)

I was doing okay until I finished the word "hope" and discovered that the quote did not end. Would you please explain more about the last clause of that quote for me.

And, I do agree about living in community. I have respiratory problems that have kept me from almost any community since our move two years ago. But, I have found community online with wonderful bloggers. Without each other, we would be impoverished. We help each other sustain that hope and sense of community that our capitalistic culture (and perhaps others) have tried to crush with the individualism, exemplified by the 70s "Search for the self."

So help me out a bit here with the syntax and meaning of the quote, please. Thanks.

I came to your blog via "Caught by the Light."

Fr. John said...

Dear Share Cropper,

Moore is referring (obliquely) to Christ Crucified and Risen, whose life, death, and resurrection is the source of our hope.

Thanks for visiting: come back soon.


Anonymous said...

If you are interested see Sebastian Moore's new blog at: