A few weeks ago I ran across this quote from Richard Rohr:
“Historically, religion has more often been a belonging system or a belief system, than an actual system of transformation. When belonging and believing is your primary concern, you do not really need healing or growth, or even basic spiritual curiosity. All your homework is done for you and handed to you. If you let the group substitute for your own inner life or your own prayer journey, all you need to do is attend. Church for several centuries now has largely been a matter of attendance at a service, not an observably different lifestyle. Membership requirements predominated, not the “change your life” message that Jesus so clearly preached.
“Membership questions become an endless argument about who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong? Who is worthy of our God and who is not? This appeals very much to our ego, and its need to feel worthy, to feel superior, to be a part of a group that defines itself by exclusion. The Country Club instinct, you might say. That is most of religious history. The group’s rightness or superiority becomes a convenient substitute for knowing anything to be true for oneself. Where did Jesus recommend this pattern? It has left Christian countries not appreciably different from other countries, in fact, sometimes worse. The two World Wars emerged within and between Christian countries. We can do so much better.” (I found this here: GP.)
While I do believe that the church, any institution for that matter, does hold a certain level of responsibility for how it cares for its members…the people that walk through the door…I also firmly believe that if you lead all the horses to the water it’s totally up to them if they drink or not. That’s the way freedom works. If we aren’t careful it can be easy to believe the fallacy that if “we” are okay… then “I” am okay. Right? Wrong.
As Josh Wilson points out in his lyrics to “Something’s Got To Change”:
I can’t believe I’m hearing people say that all is well
I think it’s time we all admit we have no good within ourselves
‘Cause we are not okay, we’re not alright, and we need to pray for help
Forgive us for our pride, oh God, oh God please save us from ourselves…
… So God help us
Something’s got to change
(For more: Josh Wilson)
System of transformation vs. belonging system. Whether or not I am okay has nothing to do with whether or not we are ok. The old adage holds true: 1 rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch. There is truth in that statement, but we cannot use that as a crutch. We cannot use that as a justification for exclusion…and we cannot use that as a crutch to tell ourselves the we…I…am okay.
I’ve been attending a mens group at my church. At this specific point in my life I walked in to this group with the full realization that I am absolutely NOT okay. I need forgiveness for my pride. I need to be saved from myself. The thing that is simply amazing to me is that I am not the only one in the group that is ready, willing, and able to say, “I’m not okay at all. I am in need. My heart and my soul are in need of transformation.”
Here’s the point for now: we are not okay. As Rohr pointed out Jesus clearly preached a “change your life” message. If that’s what he’s telling us, what gives us the right to present ourselves as not in need of change? As Wilson points out, why do we say that “all is well” when we are all so clearly in need of help?
I challenge you to examine yourself. Look deep within every nook and cranny, lift every rock, throw every shudder wide open…look in every deep, dark, secret place…then have the courage to admit in the light of day: “I am not okay.” I did not have that courage. I had to have it pulled out of me kicking and screaming. I assure you, that makes it worse for everyone. Have the courage I did not have. Jesus knows we need to change our lives. Pray for help.
WE ARE NOT OKAY | WE CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER | GOD HELP US | SOMETHING’S GOT TO CHANGE