Archive for July, 2013
“In the Biblical tradition, the power on the Right and the power on the Left are symbolized by the kings and the prophets, respectively.” Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
Fr. Rohr brings up a thought-provoking truth. The Jewish prophets were mainly engaged in acting as agents of God to communicate with his people. This communication came in the forms of prediction of future events, criticism and indictment of native and foreign domination systems, and energizing and encouraging the people to faith and hope. The prophets didn’t just know about God, they knew God in a direct and experiential way. This gave them great authority, passion and confidence. They cared about what God cared about. In the words of theologian Marcus Borg, “the strongest passion of the God of the Bible is the transformation of the humanly-created world into a more just, compassionate, peaceful kind of world.” The prophetic voice echoed that passion.
Because Christianity has been in league with the secular “kings” of this world (discussed yesterday in the post “Christendom: 1,700 years of sleeping with the enemy”), the institutional Christian Church silenced its prophets and lost its prophetic voice and authority early in its history. In fact, so thorough was this purging, the ministries of Apostle and Prophet virtually disappeared from the institutional church (cf., Eph. 4:11). All this in the face of the advice and direction of St. Paul to the individual members of the body of Christ to “strive for the greater gifts”; specifically, “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers”, in that order (cf., 1 Cor 12:27-31). Oh well, “Christendom” did indeed require the institutional church to compromise some core values, didn’t it?
The point is, that when the institutional church suppressed and abandoned its prophetic tradition, the only prophetic voice left on the field was that of secular liberals. The obvious problem with that situation was that these secular prophetic voices often had little or no grounding or authority past the limitations of their own human intellect and passion. That can be a very dangerous thing indeed, as history has amply demonstrated.
The fall of Christendom, starting after WW I in Europe and a little later (post-WW II) in the U.S., marks the breakdown of the unholy alliance between institutional church and State. The universal Church (read: Ekklesia, Body of Christ) now has the opportunity, for the first time in 1,700 years, to reclaim its traditional Prophetic voice and authority. We have the clear advantage over secular prophets in that we know God experientially (some still do, praise God!) and thus can again speak with the authority, passion, and confidence of a loving God who calls us to restore ourselves and the world to union with him.
This is truly an exciting time for the Ekklesia, Body of Christ. Just think, we might even grow some Apostles…
I was recently reading a piece by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, on history’s habit of fluctuating between extremes of the “Left” and the “Right”, between Liberalism and Conservatism. Rohr made the interesting observation that, “It is interesting that these two different powers took the words “Right” and “Left” from the Estates-General in France”. What he said next really caught my attention, “On the right sat the nobility and the clergy (what were the clergy doing over there?) and on the left sat the peasants and 90 percent of the population”.
It struck me that the image of the clergy sitting with the nobility is a good working definition of “Christendom”. The term “Christendom” applies to Protestants as well as to Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox starting in AD 313, when Roman Emperor Constantine I ended the persecution of Christians and made Christianity the preferred religion of the Empire with the Edict of Milan.
The institutional “Church” does not acknowledge the fact that although the “Clergy” has been sleeping with enemy (i.e., the “Nobility”) for a solid 1,700 years, both Jesus and Paul have been sitting on the opposite side of the isle with “the peasants and 90 percent of the population” for that entire period.
I have often said that the demise of “Christendom” in the late 20th/early 21st century offered a great opportunity for the universal “Church” (the Ekklesia) to become more closely aligned with Jesus, Paul, and the peasants and away from Nobility and Empire. Although this would appear to be a short-term disaster for the contemporary institutional “Church” as it exists today, it would provide an opportunity for the institutional church to repent and “change its mind” (cf. Rom. 12:2). The alternative would be to continue to fade into irrelevance. I believe that the institutional “church” must do corporately what it continually calls its laity to do individually: confess and repent. Were this metanoia to happen, a whole lot of existing “tradition” would instantly disappear, “Poof!”, and the local church might start doing a better job of leading the saints to union with God (theosis) than it did under Christendom.
Unfortunately, I think that the contemporary institutional “Church” is far too proud and far too arrogant to admit that it has been this wrong for this long. I anticipate that it will continue to fume and bluster in denial of its own sin and carnality. At least for now.
Like any worldly institution, the “Church” will ultimately do whatever it has to do in order to survive, even if that means violating its own existing core values; like it did 1,700 years ago.