Monday, January 26, 2009

Wisdom from his mother ... dare we listen??


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In his book "The Audacity of Hope" President Obama notes:

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"For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness."

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It's funny, in a very profoundly sad way - but when I read that this weekend I found myself agreeing with that simple and direct statement. It summarizes the experiences I've had in the United Church of Canada ... but most depressing and disheartening of all, when I've spoken out against such things I have consistently been bullied into silence, been threatened, and have been blamed for the problem ... my colleagues - those who should be numbered among the enlightened and the aware will say - "you're the problem" or "you can't change people" or they will simply close their eyes to the problem and continue to be complicit in allowing the toxic behaviours to continue.

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For those who minister with closed eyes there is no room in the modern church for afflicting the comfortable and as a result, the words of the Prophets warning the fatted cows to change their ways fall on deaf ears ... blind and deaf, the Church stumbles towards oblivion under the leadership of those who are enamoured by the ways of the world and who will not speak even a whisper against those who are so aptly described by the likes of President Obama's mother and thousands of others who have no such venue to speak their Church experience ...

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Thankfully God has not given up on the Modern Church, and the prophetic voice is not lost ... Chapter Six of President Obama's book speaks prophetically if we dare to listen ...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What exactly is it that you think your colleagues are doing wrong? And what exactly is it that you think they should do?

shawn said...

What are they doing wrong ... hmmm, it's not so much that they are doing something wrong, nor right - they are simply doing NOTHING.
I had a fabulous conversation with a person today who shared with me the reasons they have left the church - reasons I've heard a million times before - reasons that posit the blame on the complete lack of grasp shown by the LEADERSHIP of the Church ... leadership who are insipid, uninspired, and more interested in political expediency than anything remotely faithful ...

Read through my blog ... I've been beating the drum of change for a long time ... it's a message that is well received by those who no longer feel connected to an out of touch, out of date Denomination that will not embrace modernity, much less the current post-modern age in which we live ...

Instead of just reading books by folks like Wallis, Obama, Butler-Bass, Tolle and others and saying - "how quaint" - my colleagues could try reading the ideas and APPLYING THEM ... a good place to start is Friedman and his view of generational toxicity and scape-goating in religious institutions ...

Oh, and what should they stop doing - that's easy - stop being about comfort and political posturing, and start being ABOUT FAITH ... listen to the words of Jesus and stop using them as a historical anachronism ... they are as relevant now as then!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous has "stuck syndrome!"

Anonymous said...

What examples do you have of colleagues who don't listen to the words of Jesus? What evidence do you have of colleagues who use Jesus' words as historical anachronisms? You trade in generalizations which impugn others and imply that you are the only one who knows what is best - just like "father."

I've used and applied Friedman to do analysis of situations. The most one can do with his work is to use it as a lens and then try to make changes. The major problem with Friedman is that it is just too easy to put oneself into the middle and begin to believe they you are the scapegoat, you are the one at the edge of the analysis when, as leaders, we are often in the centre.

yourownpersonal said...

Shawn, shawn, shawn...
How is beating the drum actually doing anything about change? You might as well be the gentleman on the corner with the placard.

Secondly, how is taking your ball and going home (re: leaving church) doing anything about change? Doesn't leaving a system actually give more power to those that are left, instead of a dissenting voice staying and fighting for change? And you're critical of a Denomination such as the UCC for not embracing modernity/postmodernity/and depending on who you read the current postpostmodernity, and you went to the Presbyterians? Really?

You can blame the leadership of the church all you want, but that's an archaic view of the church to think that the person up front holds all the power. In a ministry of all people, each of us is called to leadership. Each of us is called to being Christ for each other. Each of us is an agent of change.

One of your phrases over and over is that we must dare to listen...but what if we're sick of hearing? What if we've gone deaf to the incessant drone of the drum?What if we want to see change for once?

yourownpersonal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shawn said...

It's funny to me ... above the anonymous poster admits to using Friedman as a lens and seeking to make changes ... then the next comment ends by acknowledging that there is a noticable lack of change, presumably in the Church ...

I take these two comments and think of an email I recieved from a colleague that said blatantly - "your colleagues (presumably lay AND ordered) will not change."

THAT my friends is the frustration point I find in the Modern Church ... people like "yourownpersonal" are among those who do not want to see change in the church. Fortunately there are many who are working diligently to embody and BE change - but many of them end up OUTSIDE of the Church ... and as it was observed previously - many of the leaders IN the church are very much victims of the "stuck syndrome" who look about themselves and like a good Jack Horner say - "oh, what a good boy/girl am I ..." and ride the past "successes" rather than following the spirit.

AM I a "father" who knows best ... no ... I am one who reads widely and comprehends what is being read ... and more than that - I am an observer of humanity. I watch the trends, and listen to the voices that are outside the hallowed walls of our institutions. Voices that are not only worth listening to, but voices that speak a truth that people cowering in the Church are afraid to heed much less hear. My role, one I have long occupied is to share the gleanings from those marginalized voices, and to share the observations and learnings of others ... I don't know best - but I do know how to ensure the conversation is inclusive, open and welcoming. This of course presupposes a setting where such a conversation is welcome in the first place.

In the modern church, the most obvious manifestation of the stuck syndrome is the "over there" approach to the theories and ideas about Church and so on ... Folks like Wallis, Butler-Bass, Friedman and countless others' whose work crowds the books shelves of many clergy offices, are great pieces of creative fiction in the modern church because people approach them as applicable "over there" somewhere, rather than finding ways of applying it locally ... We will fall all over ourselves to listen to folks like Wallis, but when a local voice raises the issue in a personal way we dismiss them and do our utmost to silence them ... so worried about our next pay cheque we dare NOT heed the prophetic presence as a local or intimate reality ... the stuck syndrome, in an unhealthy environment allows the dysfunctional church to blame the outsider and continue on their way. My anonymous poster clearly understands the situation I've been through as a case where I am NOT the scape goat but the problem, and will say I am the one misusing Friedman ... curious!

I can't help but wonder where my anonymous critics would have been in Wittenburg the day Martin stepped up and kicked off the Protestant Reformation ... I have no doubt whatsoever they would have been amongst his critics - identifying Martin as the 'problem' and dismissing him for his ideas because they simply weren't practical, and likely writing him off because he is thinking too highly of his intelligence, and his ability to observe, reflect and suggest alternatives ...

Perhaps anonymous criticism by someone obviously entrenched within the system that is The Church, is proof that I'm on the right track ...

For now, I'll keep doing is posting the bits and pieces I find that support the need for change so that those out there who are being part of the change can continue their journey ... we can choose hope or fear ... I for one will chose Hope ... my anonymous critic obviously choses FEAR.

Their loss ... our gain !!
The Church will die and resurrect itself ... I just weep that is leadership is so hell bent on killing the poor beast ... even palliative care would be more acceptable.