Monday, February 19, 2007

Something to think about

I am reading a book by Spencer Burke called A Heretic's Guide to Eternity. This excerpt is from pages 118-119.

The business of religion is the sacred in all its forms. Christianity's part of that business is grace. The church wants to put a copyright on grace and seeks to hold power and control over it by making itself the only mediator. "Grace is available only through us, and you must come to us to gain access to it," declares the church. Determining who is in and who is out is the primary way that the church as institution tries to control grace.

Jesus told a story about this in the gospel of Matthew. It concerned a wheat farmer who had spent a hard day planting. While he was sleeping, his enemy crept onto his land and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the wheat began to sprout, the laborers noticed the weeds growing, so they went to the landowner and asked him if they should pull up the weeds. "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

This story reflects the tendency humans have to want to do God's business. Institutional religion usually aspires to do the landowner's job-God's job. They want to determine who is wheat and who is weed.

Churches assume their role is about eternity when in fact eternity is God's business. The landowner in Jesus' story is very clear that his workers cannot separate the wheat from the weeds, for they might pull up perfectly good wheat in their zeal to remove the wayward weeds. When explaining this story to his followers, Jesus makes it clear that the task of determining who is in or out is not the responsibility of humans, no matter how qualified they believe they are. I would likewise argue that the church should not be so focused on eternity. The church's task is to help people follow Jesus here on earth.


Blogger Carl Kincaid said...

Very interesting. And the longer I live, the more I see this phenomenon manifest itself-in church and everywhere. . . No matter what "cause" to which humans ascribe, their "job" is to make that cause important, and then to press for resources to support that "cause." Thereby ensuring they have a source of income. The "Global Warming" issue is an excellent example of this. Proponents of Global Warming fear-mongering must make Global Warming an immediate and significant threat. Therefore, the researchers' hypotheses must be taken at face value, they must be funded (ALOT), and anyone who questions them must be money blinded capitalist business causes. Meanwhile, big business, raping the planet for profit, must silence their critics so they can continue rolling in the dough. Both sides have some facts to back up their perspectives. Both sides are probably somewhat correct. But they have to be "right" and the other "wrong" or they face a decrease in funding or profit, respectively. The church, too often, focuses not on the importance of establishing and maintaining a relationship with the creator, but on the things that they can highlight as "wrong." It's all a part of the well-elucidated Donald Miller spin on the "lifeboat theory" where everyone (including The Church) does things to make themselves relevant. Interesting stuff.

8:07 PM  

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