The Earth spins at nearly one thousand miles per hour and we seek to hold fast to one spot.
The temperature changes, for millions of us anyway, from ten degrees in winter to ninety degrees in summer and we strive to keep the thermostat at seventy.
Christianity gets absorbed into an empire and churches get built to look like the castles that housed earls and kings, and half a millennium later we still cling to the same mold – and like those old castles Christianity is moldering and decaying.
The financial and industrial sectors have been morphing elastically in order to adapt to globalism but Christianity is resisting tooth and nail postmodernism. Medicine and the delivery of care are crumbling and broken but the massive resources, sometimes competing and sometime combined, of insurance, government, and the medical infrastructure are poured into identifying solutions. Institutions of education are fraying and coming undone under the pressure of new and changing economies of scale as well as rapidly transforming commercial and social needs while school boards and teacher unions cling to the same old models. Institutional religion is acting much more like the institutions of education than those of finance and medicine.
Physiologically human beings are built to adapt, but socially we often seek the point of buoyancy where we can rest in comfort and then desperately try to remain there. Enterprises and institutions that are adaptive survive and often thrive, while those that try to hold their ground against the spinning motion of relentless change, die. If they are really good at holding their ground the reward is a slower more painful death.
I feel like an irritating crow screeching its caw mercilessly from a spikey perch in a naked spruce tree, but perhaps that is what I am.
Some of those castle churches will survive the winds of change sweeping through us now, and there will always be those that love to walk through costumed re-enactments of historical villages of the past. But a living religion is one that adapts to the changing Earth and the movements of time and mind.
Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism were such winds that are themselves giving way to change. The mega-church movement is another adaptation, more economic and commercial than theological, but likewise being sculpted by the forces of change. Yet The Episcopal Church, like so many other Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, has mostly raised the drawbridge and manned the turrets hoping the moat and stone walls will protect us from the fierce wind blowing through. It will not.
Postmodernism and secularism will not abate.
Modernism, including Enlightenment religious thinking, will continue to fade into the rearview mirror just as opera and classical European music will continue to lose more and more of its audience. Yes, pockets of resistance will remain just as pre-modernist thinking stubbornly holds on even as modernism melds into postmodernism. But postmodernism will eventually takeover completely, and then blow like smoke into the past as some new atmosphere of human thought takes the room.
Original interpretation is not the substance of Christianity, nor is the earliest forms of worship and piety, nor fixed creeds that tried to hold the fort like a primal Maginot Line. No form of architecture, no style of music or instrumentation, no language holds the substance of Christianity. Yet we have mistaken all of these things for Christianity and held to them as if the mast of a sinking ship. All of that is culture: the embodiment of human form in a particular time and space. Interesting, often beautiful, worth viewing as in a museum but after all is said and done, only culture.
The substance of Christianity is the wind of prophetic wisdom blowing from Moses through Ruth to Isaiah to Micah to Jesus. It is not a fixed point, nor in a particular language; not a doctrine nor a priesthood. It is a wisdom made known in the practice of love in community. It needs to change and flow and move and grow as human thought does, and it must not be constrained to the form of a particular time and place.
So let’s get on with it. Let’s quit resisting the change and embrace it. Let’s do a trust fall into the arms of the Holy Spirit and see where the wind takes us instead of holding onto the castle wall for dear life. Let’s do this, damn it.