Holy Fools: Ushers of the next generation in the church

I shared this idea “Holy Fool” as part of my Father’s Day message today. This article Holy Fools: Ushers of the next generation in the church would be a good follow up (with a good specific application to the church). I’ll pick out some highlights and see whether I can enter into a conversation with them 🙂

“If we perceive our problem today as one of antiquated structures, patriarchal control, centuries of scandal, single-issue obsessions, and moralisms instead of humility before transcendence, then one can probably create a good rationale for leaving the church institutions. In fact, with the information I have acquired, I might even hurry you out the door.

But I don’t think this is a correct diagnosis of the sickness we are experiencing. It goes far deeper, I’m afraid, than current perpetrator-victim typologies. I am convinced that we are up against the real disintegration of the Western psyche. To compensate for the loss of control and meaning, we find a rigidity of response on both sides of most questions and issues.”

I agree with Rohr on this one. And I feel too much energy is being drained into blame reactions, or self-defeating prophecies … which after a while becomes excuses for in action. I’ve heard rigid responses from church leaders.  And I’ve heard equally rigid responses from the unchurched. The same goes with religious church goers and irreligious atheist.  After a while, it all sounds the same .. the words are different. But basically, it’s the blame game!

“The function of healthy religion and church is to provide individuals and society with a collective container that carries the objective truth of reality for individuals. The Great Truth is too grand and transcultural to be entrusted to the vagaries of individuals and epochs. Otherwise, society becomes a massive runway for unidentifiable flying objects—each claiming absolute validity and turning their subjectivity into the only sacred. The ground for a common civilization and shared values is destroyed if our religious experience is basically unshareable or without coherent meaning. We end up where we are today: pluralism without purpose, individuation but no community.”

Healthy religion and church … I’m working on that, in fact the past 7 years has been an uphill struggle to see this become a reality. It’s more manageable in my own spiritual journey. But the challenge is multiplied when I’m trying to invite others along the journey. The temptation to be locked into “reactionary” mode seems to be one of the most paralyzing factors. In short, we seem to be stuck (often unconsciously) battling the “unhealthy” religion and church experiences we’ve had. But is that the only way to go? I don’t think so .. but it requires discipline to avoid slipping into default “reactionary” mode. I do speak as someone sympathetic and tried very hard to address what I see as problems in our religious understanding and practices. But, like what Rohr highlighted getting stuck in “perpetrator-victim typologies” seems to be getting us no where.

“we have a whole new set of questions to ask about church, about justice, about survival. The present preoccupation with “rights” language will have to evolve into an equal or even stronger language of responsibility. The present fascination with the individual and his or her individuation process will have to be severely tempered by the demands of community and universality. The secular definition of freedom as the “freedom to make choices” will need the biblical, Buddhist, Islamic, and Taoist mandate of freedom from ego and freedom for truth.”

I feel this even stronger in the Malaysian context these days.  Especially after trying to be sympathetic (even though I may disagree) with those who hold on to different religious ultimate commitments.  There is a legitimate concern over the mere “rights”-framed discourse.  The place to talk about “responsibility” is needed.  And it starts at the place where no one is looking.  It’s both personal and public.   I’ve tried to listen to those who emphasize “Freedom” as “freedom to make choices”.  Somehow, while I think that “freedom to make choices cannot be taken away but there’s something missing in this way of thinking … those around us are not brought into the equation enough … the facts is our choices to not merely affect ourselves, and this is where the language of responsibility needs extra support. So in this tension is where creative responses is needed. Of course,  cynicism is always knocking on our doors.

“It will be “holy fools” who will lead us into a new future and the next generation of church. The holy fool is who the Bible and mythic literature have always presented as the “savior.” Holy fools are happily, but not naively, innocent of everything that the rest of us take as self-evident. It is the last stage of the wisdom journey: Jesus in his parables, Francis in his patches, and Dorothy Day obedient to petty churchmen for paramount reasons. Reasonable people will always be able to criticize such fools, but they bring to every exile a whole new way of imagining—and thereby usher in the new age.”

Holy Fools .. may more of them emerge.

 ”I stay in the church because all the new patterns are really old patterns. I stay because everybody else can only address the symptoms. I stay because it continually clears new ground wider and deeper than mere ideology. I stay because Jesus alone creates a lifestyle that can’t be bought off, an ethic that refuses power, position, and possessions, a vision that is subject to no judgment or vested interest less than God’s plan for the whole. Nobody is possibly going to do better than that.

I know! I know it only happens in a small percentage of Christians and in an even smaller percentage of congregations. But it does happen with some regularity; it is in the training manual, and we even have full permission to keep talking about it, no matter who is in charge at the moment.”

This is where I want to focus my energies on even if it’s a small percentage.  And this is where I want to give my support and encouragement on.  I was told by implication that church leaders might not support those who want to fulfill a meaningful vocation in the “Secular” arena.  I think there’s  some truth in that.

But the flip side  (at least from my view) needs to be heard.  I’ve been trying to support and encourage those who “seriously” see this as their calling to either be in the marketplace and even in NGOs … or even social activism – of course, with a healthy spirituality and humble theology undergirding their efforts.  I feel this is the least I can do as one connected to the “church” or “leadership” (however one defines it).  There has been a small percentage of encouraging responses .. with some struggle of course.  I know many have not gotten the due support and affirmation needed.

But where encouragement is given and even spiritual support/guidance offered (note: not in a I-know-it-all way but genuinely!),  why is the supportive churches or leaders are then shoved aside by these “socially-engaged” or “enlightened” Christians?  why must the church be sidelined when she wants to fulfill her role albeit a smaller scale and is making small steps for that to happen? Is that not what we all hope for in the first place?

I wonder is that part of the journey of the Holy Fool?  My daughter is calling me to bathe … ah …all this has got to start at home somewhere. 🙂

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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