Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Reader Writes: "When Religion Becomes Unbelievably Corrupt . . . The Temple Is Due to Be Destroyed"

On Saturday, I noted on the eve of Palm Sunday that many biblical scholars connect the decision of Jerusalem's Roman rulers to put Jesus to death to his cleansing of the temple, which was an act of outright defiance of the social and religious norms on which the Roman rulers, abetted by the religious rulers controlling temple worship, counted in order to maintain social stability. I pointed out that Jesus's cleansing of the temple evokes echoes of the prophetic insistence that God's house is made for everyone — and, in particular, for the outcast, the least among us, the barren woman and the eunuch — and that it's the accent on "for everyone" in Jesus's revolutionary message and his practice of open commensality that made Jesus so very dangerous to the powers that be that they sought to squeeze him like human junk from their world's operations.

Ruth Krall (who maintains the Enduring Space blog site listed in my blog list here) responded:

Jesus was most certainly seen by his Jewish contemporaries and followers as being in the prophetic traditions of his Hebrew ancestors. The destruction of the temple as actuality and as a literary theme pervades the prophetic writings of Jewish scriptures - for whom the agents of history were Assyria, Babylon and Egypt. In Jesus' time it was Rome who would destroy the temple. The spiritual lesson appears to be this: when religion becomes unbelievably corrupt - which is certainly the case with child sexual abuse and the structures of violence aligned against women, sexual minorities, the impoverished, and people of color - the temple is due to be destroyed - from within or from without. 
The concept of a remnant people of God is an important one here. It is likely, I think, that the remnant people of God must be spiritually and morally and interpersonally mature. They must have integrity. They must be both willing and able to name injustice wherever they see it occurring. The contemporary Christian Diaspora is happening in all denominations as people of integrity choose to avoid complicity with the evil being done to others in God's name. 
As an interfaith world community is emerging, those who are most threatened will continue to up the rhetoric of separation and ritual purity - even in the presence of massive hypocrisy about issues of justice, mercy, and compassion. 
When the institutional church is corrupt, it cannot nurture maturity because it, itself, is not mature. religious bureaucrats who themselves, lack integrity and spiritual maturity cannot teach integrity. Nor can they help their people move towards a confident spirituality that is mature. These bureaucrats may speak the proper liturgical words and doctrinal or dogmatic verities but their actions continue to betray their real faith. 
Einstein's aphorism applies: a problem cannot be solved on the level at which it was created. 
The issues, Bill, that you continue to raise for us to chew over represent interpenetrated forms of social injustice. The signs that this is so are the patriarchal will to dominate and the amount of vitriolic hatred needed to control and titrate the amount of violence and hatred "WE" will tolerate and collude with to maintain our own emotional and spiritual security. 
Jungian psychoanalyst Jean Shinoda Bolen notes that when the interior consciousness of enough people shifts, then world views shift and a new world comes into being. I agree, Bill, you should definitely keep hammering. 
This, Bill, is why this blog is so important. You provide a place for conversation that is theologically grounded and which peers into the future - after the 100th monkey has changed his or her behavior. 

A contemporary Christian diaspora (of the spirit) happening with Christians from many different confessional backgrounds, whose temples have been effectively destroyed as we discover that they have become "structures of violence aligned against women, sexual minorities, the impoverished, and people of color": this speaks powerfully to me. In a discussion here last week, Colleen Baker and I noted that many of those in our own Catholic tradition who rigidly hold the institutional party line seem to have ended up at a position of "practical agnosticism" or "practical atheism" as they talk about what it means to live a life of faith. 

The God in which many believers today appear to believe is removed from and set over against the world in which we live, and seems conspicuously unconcerned about the very people that, according to the prophetic strand of Judaism that Jesus lifts up in his cleansing of the temple, are those for whom the temple particularly exists. For Catholics, the abuse crisis has proven to be a moment of exceptionally dark kairos, because the leaders of our church, who insist on their inerrancy as they guide us through their teaching, are the very people who have slammed their doors in the face of abuse survivors, who have covered up abuse and kept priests abusing children in ministry — so that Father Tom Doyle concludes, in his recent presentation to VOTF (pdf) to which I linked yesterday, 

Perhaps the most far-reaching conclusion one can draw is that there is a sharp division between the institutional Church and the Body of Christ and that the institutional Church is essentially atheist judging by its choice to protect its worldly image, prosperity and power rather than respond to the victims with immediate care and concern.

The institutional Church is essentially atheist judging by its choice to protect its worldly image, prosperity and power rather than respond to the victims: this is the mind-boggling recognition to which many of us have come, after we've watched our church leaders respond to the abuse crisis for over a decade now.

And, yes, this recognition does leave us wandering in a wilderness, the temple of our institutional security and institutional faith having been razed to the ground. Where, as Ruth points out, we discover many others wandering away from the razed temples of their own religious configurations . . . . 

As we wander, I think many of us can agree that the louder and more insistent the voices of those who continue to huddle around the temple ruins become, the more we are determined to distance ourselves from those loud and insistent voices (some of them have been richly represented here in the comments section lately) trumpeting their "truths" and their certainties and their bogus "love" that's all about stigmatizing and controlling others. It's precisely that abuse of religious "truth," after all, that has compelled many of us to walk into the desert and to search for something more authentically redemptive than what our faith communities have tried peddling to us in the name of God, as they align their God with structures of violence that foster incalculable harm to those on the margins of society, including women.

The photograph is from the Flickr stream of Maarten van Maanen, which he has generously made available for sharing through Creative Commons.

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