Holy cr** must go


Walter Russell Mead on getting rid of things that block the church from moving into the future:

Almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. There’s no doubt that a lot of serious prayers were prayed and good sermons preached in the Castle Church where Luther posted his theses. But over the years a lot of holy crap had collected there: by 1518 there were more than 17,000 ‘holy relics’ in the church, including such treasures as the body of one of the babies Herod had killed in Bethlehem, straw from Jesus’ manger, a piece of Moses’ burning bush, a sample of the milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a set of the swaddling clothes she used on the Christ child. If you visited each relic and prayed the appropriate prayers, you could knock more than 125,000 years off whatever time you were expecting in Purgatory.

Martin Luther understood something very important about the Castle Church: the holy crap had to go. There might have been a time when a vial of the Virgin’s milk would connect the peasants with the story of the first Christmas and remind them both of the dignity of women and the awesome presence of God on earth. The brutal knights of an earlier day might be terrified into honoring their oaths if sworn on one of the 35 pieces of the True Cross lying in various reliquaries and altarpieces at the Castle Church. But that time was no more; if Castle Church was to play its part in the great changes on foot in the world, old ideas would have to go, and once-treasured relics be accepted as frauds and cast aside.

That’s a pretty good description of where the American church is today: there’s a lot of holy crap on the premises, and it is long past time for a good housecleaning. The American church is staggering under the burden of a physical plant that it doesn’t use and can’t pay for; it staggers under the burden of dysfunctional and bloated denominational and professional structures that it can no longer carry; and it is crippled by outdated ideas about what it needs to do its job. All these buildings, bureaucracies and assumptions may have been holy once, may have played a real part in advancing God’s work, but for a lot of them that time has passed.

Read more here.

h/t to Susan Russell at An Inch At A Time

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3 Responses to "Holy cr** must go"
  1. I'm sorry to say that I think Mead is right. Without the author's background and knowledge, just from looking around, I've said pretty much the same thing. Folks tell me I'm too gloomy and of this parish growing and flourishing and that diocese thriving, but the trends are in the other direction. In the end, we may be the better for the changes. Back to the basics.

    As Mead says:

    Radical restructuring is coming; the only question is whether people actively work to shape and embrace it, or whether they huddle together like turkeys in November, telling each other that Thanksgiving isn’t on the way.


    June Butler

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  2. Regarding holy Cr**, It’s wise to evaluate this article by reading the entire piece and links. The author writes ‘There’s another parallel structure: the seminary system. Peter, James and Paul didn’t have any degrees or professional training, but that is not good enough for us today.” This perspective is itself romantic cr**. It is important that preachers and teachers of the faith have a comprehensive academic education. Tent making ministries may occupy a growing place in Christian communities; but they are not a substitute for scholarship and learning. Confronting fundamentalism, dialoguing with other faith traditions, providing helpful and insightful counsel to people facing increasingly complex decisions around end of life, engaging conversations about issues of sexuality and social challenges, requires the gifts of learning and scholarship. Second, we live an inter-disciplinary world. The current muddle over human sexuality in the church, in which fundamentalists and self proclaimed “traditionalists” frequently dominate the field, is indication enough of the need for more inter-disciplinary work. Interestingly, Roman Catholic female religious (nuns) are one place where a commitment to both learning and interdisciplinary work may be found. Perhaps it’s why they have come under the gaze of the Vatican as of late. Finally, as an aside, I notice the link disparaging the “blue model” carries a photograph of F.D.R. The new deal included major public works programs to counter the scourge of depression era unemployment. We would be so fortunate, in the wake of the recent recession, to have similar leadership today. Politicians in Canada and the United States seem disappointingly content with shoveling money to bankers, and gutting the civil service, while remaining tolerant of a “jobless” recovery.

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  3. These Jeremiads are ridiculous. I'm tired of reading all these stupid pontificals that are trying to read the future, and give us some control over what to do next. There IS NO CONTROL POSSIBLE that can be imposed from intellectual ideas and head-nod-inducing essays. Let the parishes die, close, whatever. The hungry will starve, the musicians will be silent (and starving too), the deep thinking about God will cease because the message CANT get out of a few self-congratulatory house churches that NO ONE cares about. Do any of you think the status quo about GLBT people would have been so challenged if Gene Robinson were a wandering bishop of a few house churches? NO ONE WOULD CARE because that has already happened and NO ONE NOTICED. I know any number of Old Catholics who have church in the garage and have had openly gay and partnered bishops for decades now, but until The Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire did it, no one noticed and nothing got any better anywhere else outside said garages.

    Is this what you want? It's already there, has been for nearly a century now. I'm sure the Old Catholics, and the Liberal Catholic Church, and the Eglise Gnostique, and what have you would LOVE to have an influx of all you Episcopalians who don't want to pony up the $$$$ during hard times and instead find intellectual Jeremiahs to give the excuses not to.

    The Church has got to change, and some old growth has to go. But this cr** is the Baby with the Bathwater. Next.

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