Monday, April 02, 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser ...

In ALL the turmoil and tumult I journeyed through several years ago, one of the BEST resources that was placed in my hands was Rabbi Friedman's book "Generation unto Generation" that explores the profound dysfunction found within Institutions like the Church.

In the depths of this blog are several postings that celebrate the insights gleaned from this amazing book, and the moments I've experienced first hand the very processes that Friedman reveals.

What has struck me though, is the resistance on the part of my colleagues to read Friedman much less listen to him.

I recall on conversation where I cited an example of Friedman's interpretation of Church's scapegoating the 'outsider' to maintain a precarious peace ... I noted the dynamics that Friedman highlighted and pointed to a very clear example of this very process at work in a Church ... the response on the part of my colleague was to poo-poo Friedman, deny the scapegoating at work, and to question my 'amateurish' interpretation of Friedman and Church polity ... I had over 15 years of ministry to their 4!!??!!

It has long bothered me why the reaction to using Friedman to explain a toxic situation was so vigorous and so biased AGAINST Friedman ... this weekend I think I inadvertently stumbled across the reason for this resistance to Friedman and his straight and blunt talk about the Church.

The reason is simple and straightforward. It is motivated by FEAR.

It is NOT a fear we can easily identify.

Instead it is a fear that undergirds an anxiety that most people are unaware they even experience.

We live in a very anxious time with anxiety and stress at astounding levels all around us.

In the Church this anxiety has lead us to seek peace at ALL COSTS. Even if that cost is no longer seeing the reality of what is around us ...

We've lost the courage AND the ability to see dysfunction and toxicity in our midst as communities of faith ... we've whole-heartedly (even if we're unaware of it) bought into the very process that Friedman explores in his second book "A Failure of Nerve".

Today I sat down and re-read the characteristics of Chronic Anxiety in families and in a nation-state, as laid out by Friedman ... I then wrote them out on a piece of paper and noted an example of each behaviour in the life of The Church as I've lived and experienced it ...

The list was both startling and distressing ... The Church - the very body of Christ called and commissioned to live and share The Gospel in the world - is wracked with chronic anxiety, and one of the first characteristics of this being institutionalized is the INABILITY to recognize it!!

Moreover, according to Friedman, in a Chronically Anxious family, system, structure or institution, the voices that are both able, and willing to address this anxiety, are the FIRST voices that will be silenced by that body ... the prophet is the first person flung over the cliff, to cite the example of Jesus' arrival at Capernum.

My colleagues will deny the wisdom and value of Friedman because they unknowingly are living so deeply enmeshed in the Chronic Anxiety that they no longer see nor tolerate voices that suggest there might be another solution ...

In the meantime, I will continue to read Friedman and celebrate that thanks to a trusted and valuable friend, I have in my hands resources that not only help me stay sane and healthy, but that also offer a whisper of Hope in a chronically anxious world ...

Now, if only more would find the courage to listen to that whisper ...

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