Sunday, February 06, 2011

Guest Voices: Organized religion is big business - On Faith at washingtonpost.com

Guest Voices: Organized religion is big business - On Faith at washingtonpost.com: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Big Businesses famously roll on in this country because we're scared of letting them fail. And if there truly is an American business that's too big to send swirling down the economy's drain, it's the Organized Religion Industry (O.R.I)....The premise of the O.R.I, that you need religion in order to live as a person of faith, is, if you'll excuse me for saying so, unpardonable hooey. It's perfectly possible to live as person of faith without being religious; to live in partnership with God, the great Whatever, without swaddling your relationship in any of organized religion's folderol. It's absolutely fine to, in God's name and in It's company, put your time, energy, and money directly into doing some good for and with your fellow inhabitants of this sweet old world. And to let the sound and fury of the O.R.I. play on without you.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit piled higher and deeper. I worship the Church, I adore the Church, I give thanks to the Church which is the incarnation of God here on earth and love Organized Religion with all my heart and soul and mind because it is my God.

I don't give a rat's ass about living as a "person of faith" whatever that might be or living "in partnership with God, the great Whatever" whatever that comes to. I care about the institutional church--the institution that maintains the buildings and does liturgy. I care about religiosity. It it doesn't survive our lives will be poorer because we won't have those buildings, the sacred space the Church maintains, or the ceremonies it organizes. I worship the Church, I adore the Church, I give thanks to the Church for its greater glory because it is my God. I love organized religion with all my heart and soul and mind.

322 comments:

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MikeS said...

Who says Yanks don't do irony?

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1930s, one of the leading lights of what became the New Age movement wrote:

"All that remains to us of ceremonial in the West is in the hands of the Church, the Masons, and the producers of cabaret. All three are effectual after their kind; the Church evoking love of God; Masonry evoking love of man, and cabaret evoking love of women."

Not entirely accurate even then, but the idea of The Church as the main producer (in both the economic and theatrical senses) of a certain kind of spiritual theater seems entirely valid. I just don't think it's broadly enough appreciated now to keep that kind of Church in business outside certain small enclaves.

Damn shame.

Or perhaps I've misunderstood you?

No One In Particular

H. E. said...

You've understood me perfectly. Now my question is how to publicize it. Surely more people would find spiritual theater on the grand scale attractive if they knew about it. It's would be worth a try in any case. How do you persuade the institutional church to give it a try--to show its good stuff to the world?

Anonymous said...

I don't think one can persuade the institutional Church to show the "good stuff", simply because I don't think they agree with you that that's what's important.

Perhaps I am too cynical, but to me the institutional Church looks mostly like a collection of suburban Pharisees, third sons, petty politicians who couldn't make it in real politics, and our uniquely American brand of entrepreneurial charlatans. I don't mean to denigrate spiritual exercise that you value in itself, I just don't think The Church cares about it (except, perhaps, as an accessory to some other agenda).

If there's any hope, IMHO it would be in like-minded people getting together and putting on their own "show", if you'll forgive the metaphor. Maybe something like Continuing Anglicans without the mean-spirited fractiousness. Look at it just like a small theater company, adding such theology as seems good to the members.

As to theological questions such as apostolic succession and/or valid orders for celebrants, I offer no opinion; maybe something like the (non-theosophical version of the) Liberal Catholic Church (q.v.) might work.

I would like to be wrong about the existing institutional Church, but I don't think I am.

In any case, good luck.

No One In Particular

H. E. said...

I agree that those mainline liturgical churches that have the capacity to put on spiritual theater aren't interested. You think they'd have figured out by now that no one is impressed by their edifying pronouncements about sexuality, climate change and world affairs.

But they do have motivation to try something new for a change since membership is tanking--and contributions are down. Admittedly, there's enough money in the kitty to keep going for decades, and there are churches (particularly back east) with enough endowment to go on indefinitely even if no one shows up. But most churches are beginning to feel the squeeze.

I was inspired by reading Aiden Kavanaugh's description of stational Sunday liturgies in Constantinople and other major cities during the 5th century--processions in fancy dress from dawn until late evening and any amount of fun.

But that takes money, organization and equipment to make a go of this. Small theater companies end up doing off-off-Broadway productions for the cognoscenti in garages--and no one else notices. I agitated for years at my church, but the best I managed was an annual St. Francis Day Animal Blessing. I tried to get ordained, because no one listens to laypeople, but they wouldn't have me.

Anonymous said...

> ... You think they'd have
> figured out by now that no
> one is impressed by their
> edifying pronouncements
> about sexuality, climate
> change and world affairs.

Oh, I don't know. They themselves seem extremely pleased with themselves. I think "prophetic" is the word they use, which has the advantage of implying that the fewer people who are impressed, the more right they must be.

> But they do have motivation
> to try something new for a
> change ...

Something new to be sure ... now that U2charists are finally seeming passé, I think it's apps for mobile devices.

> But most churches are beginning
> to feel the squeeze.

Sympathetic as I am, I don't think that's going to make their managers (which is what they are) think of spending money on what they will see as lavish and unnecessary "entertainments". Unless they can have First People smudgers and giant puppets.

> But that takes money,
> organization and equipment
> to make a go of this. Small
> theater companies end up
> doing off-off-Broadway
> productions for the cognoscenti
> in garages--and no one else
> notices.

The need for money puts one in the same place with everyone who has a Good Idea(tm) that didn't originate with Corporate ... one goes the shoestring entrepreneurial route and hope it catches on enough to start your own "corporation" or have a corporation buy you out (so to speak). If high liturgy can't attract anyone but the cognoscenti, you simply have the same problem as everyone else with niche-market tastes and little disposable income.

Please believe that it gives me no pleasure to say any of this, and that I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

> I agitated for years at my
> church, ... I tried to get
> ordained, because no one
> listens to laypeople, but
> they wouldn't have me.

I recall that, I've read your blog on and off for a while. I'm sorry about how that must have felt, but it's actually a compliment to you.

I don't know your theology (and I'm not asking), but try what you can within those constraints. Don't let them win.

No One In Particular

H. E. said...

Y'know, I might give it another shot. I actually know someone in our theater dept who might be amenable. Being situated at a Catholic college might give me a base of operations, however most of the Powers are unsympathetic to religiosity--at least anything identifiably Christian--preferring to explain our nominal religious affiliation as our being "values-driven."

My theology, if you're curious, is skeptical-orthodox: I believe the articles of the Creed (sans Filioque) but without any high degree of conviction. And I don't believe that believing them is a matter of existential importance.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll report (in a couple of months probably--my day job is pressing) if something happens.

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