Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flipping the Coin

I'm guilty. It's easy to point out the flaws of religious institutions but let's be aware of the good side they can exhibit and the truth they attempt to embody.

I graduated from a Baptist seminary. Some Baptists are notorious for elevating themselves at the expense of Catholics. In a class on church history I was amazed -- and pleased -- to learn all that Catholics had done in this country: schools, orphanages, hospitals and other humanitarian efforts. Groups of Catholics accomplished goals that were impossible for individuals. Sometimes, institutions are necessary.

Religious institutions are not necessarily corrupt but they are creations and will follow the course of all creations -- people, buildings, societies and environments. Created things go through an aging process. They flourish, grow old and die.

Let's compare religious institutions to a building, a public school. A school is constructed to educate children but as the years pass the building ages. Additions are constructed, walls are moved, plumbing and heating systems are replaced or updated. In the end, the school building outlives it useful life and is demolished. It's the same with religious institutions. They begin because a group of people see a need, have a goal and are filled with passion and determination. The institution flourishes for a period of time before a transition occurs. The purpose or mission becomes secondary to maintaining the institution. "We must do something to increase attendance." "These young people are trying to change things." The mission is forgotten as those in authority struggle to maintain past glories and their authority. Slow death has begun.

In the midst of aging and struggle and slow death we need to remember the original purpose of religious institutions. They educate people, motivate people, consolidate efforts to accomplish goals, provide help and comfort, provide one means of corporate spiritual expression and do much more.

In the end, let's be cautious about destroying organized religion. Let's point out the weaknesses but let's also point out the strengths. Let's focus on successes while not ignoring the excesses. Let's not demolish until we can offer a replacement.

I don't attend church. Sometimes, I miss it. I wish I could find a group and join with them in celebrating Life. If this happens, I'll do it knowing it's temporary. Soon, too soon, age and decay will begin and I'll be on the move looking for new life -- because I don't know how to resurrect the dead.


Blogger Bonita said...

Religion is an organic process, like you say, and we would do well to honor the natural processes of it being born and fading. But, traditions and attachments hold us to antiquated belief systems - imagine the dilemma of trying to inspire a global age with beliefs initiated for a tribal culture or a city-state...we have to learn to relinguish the old, and bring in the new.

11/15/2005 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger dragonfly183 said...

Hi :). i just found your blog through Earth home garden. I plan to link to you next time I get a chacne to get online :)

11/15/2005 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I thought this was an incredibly eloquent post, mirroring my own sentiments but with the right articulation.

Thank you.

11/15/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Red Bark said...

Much more objective.

11/15/2005 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Gaye said...

I stopped attending church many years ago until recently--why?--because I missed it; just as you said. I tried to find a place that reflected my wants and needs from the spiritual experience. I haven't been going long enough to know if I succeeded. What I do know is that I feel better when I leave than I do when I enter the doors...that's a good sign...

Still weary though...church politics leaves a sour taste in my mouth going back to age 10. I'm re-entering the Institution with eyes wide open this time; realizing there will be no perfection; but compassion I will not compromise on; not this time...

11/15/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I have no desire to destroy organized, or disorganized, religion. Okay. That's a lie. There are some I would like to see disappear.

My major desire is to be left alone. I don't want their message shoved in my face. I resent that they think me ignorant of the bible simply because I'm a non believer.

Last, but not least, they seemingly want to force all to act and believe as they at least pretend to act a believe. As I recall the god they worship created mankind with free will. How arrogant is it for man to take away what 'god' gave?

11/15/2005 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

Good post, Paul. I, too went to a Bapt. seminary (although a life long Methodist). I gave 8 years to the parish ministry, then happily got into what seemed to me more creative work.

As a pastor I really pushed small groups. I believe that is the best avenue for church life. You cannot be intimate with 100 or 1000 people; you can call it the church, but it doesn't meet the needs of many of us for close communion. For that 8 or 10 are a good number.

I can be intimate with 8 or 10. I can confess to them, hear their confession to me, affirm them and confirm their ministry, etc. etc.

For me this is the true church. And there are no professionals.

11/15/2005 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Red Bark said...


I don't attend church but it occurs to me that it may be that God gives us church politics for a reason. Pehaps such things are an opportunity to learn how to put the words spoken into action.

11/15/2005 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger Red Bark said...


Sure they(I guess I should include myself) are irritating. But remember that they just trying to help. Compassion feels much better than resentment.

11/15/2005 11:07:00 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

I returned to church five years ago after staying away for 25 years. It was personal pain (addiction issues and a broken heart) that lead me to seek a reconnection with a Higher Power. Church has given me supportive friends, and lent purpose to my Life. Although organized religion has a shameful history, I will continue to support anything that has, as a central tenet, Love, peace, and caring community.

11/16/2005 08:24:00 AM  

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