Basic Moral Courage: The Religious Assertion-I Return, to Thunderous Applause

  Since we cannot know the purpose for which Holy Writ is prescribed we must often depend upon our religious experiences as readers to explain and then justify our religious impressions. This we call "interpretation," and we bend it to the right or the left depending on our own needs and abilities. All the while, inwardly, we desperately search for what we hope will be a true (real) center.

   That is, "we" interpret Holy Write according to our own subjective standards, those few of us who have any interest in something so non-verifiable and malleable as religion. There are fewer of us, taken as per centage of the overall population,  with each passing generation.

   Most of our surmising on the ancient records of our faith-strain is either religious imagination (some would say "fantasies) or scholarly projection (some would substitute the word "fiction" for "projection").The theologian is the only fellow who, when locked in a lightless room, arms tied behind him, blindfolded and told to find an inert black cat, immediately announces he has had it all along. The world stands, mouth agape, at his audacity, since they can seen neither the room nor the cat in question.

   The common fellow who wishes only to believe (or not) must row mightily, arms straining, nostrils flaring, between two equi-distant shores, each with a current a-tug against his tiny craft. The secular world demands he come to their shore to live well in this life. The sacred world insists he can find meaning for now and hope for later only with them.  Each requires he paddle to their shore and there give his total devotion. The exercise proves too strenuous for him. Soon he succumbs to one or the other, simply so he may rest somewhere.

   More and more find their rest on the secular shore. Apparently, they are not so adrift they cannot tell a good thing when they see it.

   Religion must make a better case for itself. The listless religion of our day is not so powerful to attract persons outside its immediate cultural group in a generation less bent on conformity and business type controls. There is a need for real moral energy from the religious world, the kind that sweeps away the detritus, restores the peculated funds, voids the mind-numbing ukase and opens the religious mind to flower.

    The moral energy our culture requires will probably come from small religious groups if it comes from the religious at all. It is a curious fact of the religious life that religious institutions are the only ones that lose strength as they gain in size. Think of it: when the overarching urgency of the institution is to provide for its own survival, the sacred must lose primacy to the secular. Power cannot be derived from imitation. The religious institution becomes a caricature of its secular interlocutors and finds the secular friends offer what the sacred might and does so without pretension.

   The religious paradigm shift in our day is from the consumer/spectator to the missionary/servant. The missionary/servant (forget the word missional; it means nothing) exactly fits a secular culture undergoing its own paradigm shift from modern to post-modern, with the post-modern emphasis on sustainability and community.

   Imagine building your church-house at the point where the mass transit lines come together just across from the recycle center. You start to understand the end of sprawl, the death of the fossil fuel car, the end of isolation and insensitive individualism. You are in danger of making a moral statement, of acquiring moral energy.

   You are in danger of making connection with community builders who look for a an honest (real) center. You are in imminent peril of being burned at the stake because you wish to translate Holy Writ into the hands of men who may then interpret it according to what they need rather than what you have been taught.


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