Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Church?

Do you vote? Do you long for a better government? Do you think our country could use a better, more centralized transportation system? What about more universal health care coverage? Do you wish education were excellent across the board?

Without institutions, none of these changes could take place.

And yet, when it comes to religion--that in itself is a "dirty word" among many who call themselves "spiritual"--the idea of an "institution" is akin to the deliberate pollution of pristine waterways. It feels, to many, repugnant.
...the phrase “institutionalized religion” is so often used as a criticism...Yet it’s not a term we seem inclined to adopt as a criticism in other contexts. Few people would prefer we got rid of institutionalized health care or envision a world without institutionalized transportation. Whatever we do with more than a few people requires structures.

In the social structure of the Church, a huge network of local communities is held together in unity, each community helping the others and all sharing a common task while each provides a specific place to recognize and bless the main events in life from birth to burial.

~Touchstone Magazine--Rest for Our Souls: Confession in an Age of Self-Esteem by Jim Forest
Without institutions, society is adrift. Without an institution to guide us spiritually, we are each left to our own devices, to wander alone, without any connection to like minded people, except in the sense that we are all doing "our own thing."

That would be horrifying if it took place within our system of government. Without a governing institution, common laws would be impossible. Without laws, our entire society would cease to function.

When we have a "society"--a group of people destined to live together--we must have groups--institutions--for the common good. The very definition of society is that of people living together.

When it comes to spirituality, mankind was created to live in society. In order to propagate the species, we must come together and try to live in harmony with each other. We must agree upon common goals to raise our families.

The Church is a necessary institution given to us by Christ to help us learn to grow in faith. Much of that growth involves our relationships with our fellow human beings.

Spiritual growth can not be done in a vacuum. Spiritual growth can not be done alone. It is not just between us and God. It is not about us "feeling" good about ourselves.

Life is about how we relate to each other. Religion is about how we relate to each other and to God. It is about holding ourselves accountable for our actions and living as God would have us live.

2 comments:

Cygnus said...

Nice post.

I think what people rail against is not so much "institutionalized" religion, but "organized" religion; why else have Paganism and other religions from your parents' basement taken off? Because they pretty much make it up as they go.

I think also that those in my age group were let down by the "feel-good" religious education that substituted for real catechesis. No wonder they found the Church lacking.

I wish there was an easy answer for how to reach out to those who carry actual or imagined hurts from the Church.

As for your first para, I long for LESS government; how's Amtrak working out?; I like not living in Canada; and excellent education will never happen while teachers' unions run things.

See, some things do have easy answers. :-D

Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

Lol, Cyg! I was actually thinking of you while I was writing my first paragraph! Thanks for seeing the meaning of the rest of the article regardless! I totally agree with you about the religious education that many of us endured--or should I say, the lack of it. I still remember that, after about second grade, all the wonderful Catholic books and such were taken away and our school was basically secular after that. The whole Catholic culture disappeared within a generation.

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"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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