Surrender the Church...

After reading "A Brief History of the Catholic Church" by Hans Kung, I am left to puzzle over modern Christianity and its formation from Catholic roots.

We share an ugly history, to say the least, but Kung says best in his introduction: "Those who deliberately step in all the puddles should not complain too loudly about how bad the road is."

Although I am sure one could write a long account of good works by Roman Catholicism, (and though I am by no means anti-Catholic) there are MANY puddles on this road. In fact, there is often more pond than path, and issues of theocracy, hierarchy and supremacy ring truest for me.

But before I go any further, it’s important to identify a key point: Catholicism and Christianity have been synonymous in the world for a far greater time than they have not. It would be wise to take any charges against the Catholic Church as charges against ourselves, the Christian Church as a universal (root word: catholic) community.

There is almost no need to list the sins and atrocities committed by Catholicism through the last two-thousand years since they are so widely known: tyrannical governments, racism and anti-Semitism, sexism, inquisition, torture, massacre, and more recently Nazism and sexual crimes. It could be argued that since the 3rd Century Church, Christianity has been on a moral downward spiral in spite of its exponential growth.

An important commonality through the Christian time line is standardization. In fact, since the governmental sanction and ultimate promotion of Christianity by Constantine in the 4th Century, Christianity has been continually striving to normalize its belief system – to place its ideologies into linear reason and rationality – essentially, to despiritualize natural spiritual movements and inclinations within the body of believers. The Catholic Church is an ultimate example of the modernist struggle, but today’s Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Protestant churches strive equally hard to normalize faith and stamp out divergences in theologies – to take away the opportunity for individual, experiential interpretation (this in spite of seemingly endless new denominations). Granted, even a Christian conscience can be perverted as personal experiences, cultures and prejudices subvert Gospel teaching. This is exemplified in many famous religious figures, notably Pope Pious XI who personally endorsed Adolph Hitler.

Kung, the author of this history, is himself an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest and professor. Since speaking out against policies of John Paul II in the 1980s, he has written much on needed reformation within Catholicism. His efforts, though noble and commendable, lead me to the following question: why keep trying?

Martin Luther’s own efforts at internal reformation are testimony enough to the impracticality of change from within. For real change to take hold, Luther’s contemporaries established a new church outside of Catholicism. So what leads men and women to be so afraid of releasing the establishments we ourselves have created, for the sake of Christ? We have the gospel and we have each other... isn’t that all we need? When something doesn’t work, throw it away and find something that does. I know it sounds harsh, but isn’t that common sense?

This is not a Catholic problem. It is not a problem of orthodoxy. It is a tendency in mankind to deify the things it creates. Even things created for God.

God is not the temple.
God is not the Jesus fish on the back of your car.
God is not the word Christian.

If these things are unnecessary stumbling blocks, can’t we let them go?

I have no desire to save the Catholic church or the Assemblies of God or the Lutherans or the Methodists. My desire is to invoke an essential, uncompromised, uncomplicated Christianity.

What do we need to give up?


Gin said...

I was thinking about what would happen if last year was this year and we were just two people, wondering about what the other person was doing every once in a while....maybe one of us would occasionally wish that we could see what the other person was doing, what he looked like, how he occupied his days, what his quiet thoughts were...thoughts that he didn't mention to matter how close the "anyone" might have been to him.
And I thought that I might "google" I had done in the past...once or I was not obsessed. ;) I wonder if I would have somehow found a link to this site...
And if I had found this site, I think I would have felt like I had a secret window into your thoughts, and maybe I wouldn't want to keep reading your postings because that would make me miss you more. Or maybe I would just keep reading, silently...smiling, because I felt like I was watching you walk down a private path. Because I felt connected to you..again...finally.
In any case, I would have enjoyed reading what you were thinking about. I would have been excited to be challenged by what you were thinking about, the ideas you're struggling with...the theories you're developing.
This is good writing. The postings individually are beautiful bubbles of thought. As a whole, they form a landscape that gets more and more appealing with each glimpse.
Someone is going to see these and snatch you up. Publish you and make you wealthy & famous. :) Just don't forget that I was one of the first persons to predict your fabulous future.....
I love can delete this mushy post :)

Scooper said...

The Church is simultaneously the Body of Christ and a collection of us Sinners. It has one Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, and many buttholes. Or one could say that despite the Church's mission of proclaiming and doing the Good News, it still has the same Jungian Shadow as all human organizations: the Nazi Concentration Camp.

Ooh, that was too heavy. For a little comic relief, I invite you to try the Virtual Church of the Blind Chihuahua.

HCJoel said...

It's one of those funny paradoxes. We can try to dismantle the churches we have, destroying every denomination and refusing to engage in any organized effort to follow Jesus. But that would be wrong and misdirected. However, so is trying to hold tightly to our sects and groups, believing that one is better than another. That means all are better than the Catholic church, if you're not Catholic, and there is only one true church, if you are Catholic.
What to do? Get to know Jesus. Simple and complex at the same time. Again, a paradox of sorts. We'll get there eventually, if only in eternity.
To 'the pooper scooper', thanks for making me laugh out loud. The Church has one Head, Jesus, but many assholes (I'm okay with cussing). That's killer!

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