A just community distributes commonly the things it most prizes. Most communities prize power, rights and wealth. The earthly church is not different from other Man-stained organizations that apportion the treasures of earth, justly and unjustly.
As the Church becomes Religion, Inc., it more efficiently sacrifices spiritual influence for the sake of the corporation. Right and wrong scarcely matter, let alone the deep things of God. Treasures in Heaven are fine for the earthly powerless. The greater good of the corporation is paramount.
What do believers actually owe to Religion, Inc., and why?
Not long ago, and not for the first time, a bulbous, blustery fellow told me, "If you think your money and time could be better used somewhere else with some other cause, you ought to just go."
Now, I seek to persuade others to go with me.
I am not interested, as you might see, in adding another level of bureaucracy to an already crowded slate. I am interested in completely replacing the powers of the present with the hope of the future. I have a distinctly future-preferment modus vivendi.
This change will be the winner in the future. The dinosaur corpse in the parlor already takes up too much room and stinks to high heaven.
Buffoons, the mendacious, the nostalgic, the inexperienced, protect the old way. Buffoons take too much effort, liars too much care; the nostalgic and the inexperienced, ah, there's the crowd for us. The future beckons.
What can we do, pipsqueaks as we are, in the face of Religion, Inc.? We can relearn how to distribute our prizes.
Now, we think we distribute our prizes on the basis of necessity, or what some would call welfare. This is why we meet annually to hear heart stories of someone helped by a local representative of the larger whole, in order to explain why the larger body (in only the most minimal way related to its local representative) needs our support.
The necessity is so great, the welfare needs of real persons so acute, we are compelled to continue. We must distribute prizes because people have need. This is an unanswerable argument, until one stops to ask, "Is this the better way to meet needs?"
In fact, can we actually meet needs this way, or is this tokenism of the lowest kind?
Or, we distribute our prizes on the basis of freedom, what some might call individual rights or empowerment. Freedom must be respected, the story goes, so the rights of the individual must be paramount. Large government interferes with personal freedom, so some graft and corruption must be accepted as the price for lax regulation.
People who want to argue necessity tell us of the greater good, so argue we must maximize the welfare of the many. Those who argue for individual freedoms mention respect of the person, so to fend off the cloying hands of encroaching central powers.
They are both right, but both limited. The future belongs to those who figure out how to distribute goods according to virtue, what some might call justice.
I am gone from where I was and good riddance, they say, never to return. I am now asking others to go to the future with me. The future is laden with a need for virtue, of which I have little, but plan to start with justice and learn virtue.
If we distribute our prizes by measure of virtue or justice, prize giving is dependent not only on the need of the recipient (the poor you have always with you), neither on the right to succeed gloriously nor to fail dismally (if he does not work, let him not eat) but on the purity of the distributor (for by grace are you saved, through faith and that not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one boasts of it). We cannot be good but we ought to try.
I will not be around to see it. Yet, I do want to say, you younger folks who are floundering around with your emergent church thing, here is what you want. You want to find a way to distribute the prizes of the Faith without becoming just another corporate bully. You want virtue, not necessity, justice, not a deistic/laizzes faire Region, Inc., that reduces God to a five point proposition and an offering envelope.
Your success/failure/peace/serenity will be determined by how well you learn to distribute the prizes.