There is still hope, yet hope, room for hope and so reason for hope. The church can learn to see itself as the Wayward Prince, the one all cultures talk about, the fellow who learns to live on the Peak but comes to the Valley to live with the common man as a common man.
You know the story. A man born to privilege, or risen to it, decides to wander. Everywhere he goes, he ignores his responsibility. Much is expected of that one to whom much is given but the Wayward Prince never gives at all. He lives a dissolute life, his every move contrapuntal to the rhythm of the people he could love and lead to life. He is ever on the Peak, self-absorbed, mindful of his own prerogatives, careless of the liberties of others and given to the self-love that is license for all manner of personal unawareness.
He is not the Prodigal. He is that man who never falls into the pig sty to eat the corn shucks the swine will not touch. His money protects his position, while his position defends him from the miserable masses. He lives on the Peak, not spending his inheritance like the Prodigal, but robbing the inheritance of the poor man's family. He is the Uncommon Thief, the one who may steal within the rules of his culture because he and his kind set the rules for their culture.
The Wayward Prince wakes up one day in a hut somewhere, drunk from his own excess. He doe not descend from the Peak to the Valley. Instead, he rolls off the Peak to the Lower Life , aboil in his own meaninglessness. For the first time ever he looks about him. Blind eyes open to see the commonest of human threads: all men hurt.
He is appalled. Who is the man who brought this pain on these people? Who put them down and held them there, never to rise, neither to think they could rise, nor to believe they should rise? Why do the lowly themselves hold no regard for their humble estate?
Not immediately, but suddenly, because all epiphany is of an instant, the Wayward Prince changes the course of his own life. He abandons the Peak, even when his family demands he climb back up above the Valley. He makes his bed in a cave for a time, there to starve self-righteousness out of his system, thence to sweat the man-hatred from his pores.
When he is purged, after he is pure, he is ready for the people. He is emotionally prepared for the disappointment he will feel.
Men who are accustomed to a lowly place do not walk out of the penumbra boldly into the good light. The Wayward Prince, Wayward no more and then a Prince because of his own good works, will now enter into a long educative process, for himself and his new peers. He will teach them exaltation. They will teach him self-sacrifice.
The church, the Sacred Monster not occurring naturally in Creation; the church, the Bully, instantly making all things personal and, thus, trivial; can become yet again, the Wayward Prince, who finds his way off the Peak and into the Valley of the Shadow-People. The Myth of the Wayward Prince is the Savior-Messiah Myth, the meta-narrative that establishes leadership as participatory and masculinity as self-sacrifice.
The church can come down off the Peak, where it belongs only after the Redemption, and live in the Valley, wherein Lost Men live now. There is eternity later, after God is done with time, for life on the Peak. Now is the Valley and the church must live there to be the Church.