In my recitations of the Lord's Prayer, I had, in the years leading up to my apostasy, found myself rushing through Kingdom and Power to get to the Glory part, the only part of the concluding doxology's triad that I could stomach.
I understand the paradoxical usage, the subversion of the temporal structures that Christ represents. But "kingdom" is still foreign and "power" still utterly rankles, all the more so when one looks toward the ecclesial world and finds monarchical structures and hierarchies of power that closely mimic and are, in fact, in league with, the secular world's.
Do this, Jesus said, for the remembrance of me. And, before you know it, there are structures of kingdom and power and wealth that rival nation states in their ability to exclude and wound. Even when not established, religion cozies up to the state (and vice versa) to create Machiavellian synergies of dominance. From Ratzinger to Rick Warren to Fred Phelps, various dudes want to tell us what's what, who's who, and where to go, and, because things "of faith" sell, the assorted bullying pulpits of the media are always forthcoming.
Let's face it: God's a hot commodity, and the market has been effectively cornered. Oh, sure, the shareholders (usually at pledge time) receive their yearly slick prospectus, and get to cast a token vote now and then, but the power lies deep in the corporation. It's ontologic, see, conferred with ordination -- the particular change in one's being that allows one to channel the Holy Ghost into the unleavened bread to change its substance into the Body of Christ. And without the high power transmission line that is the apostolic succession, it's just broken bread no matter what pretty words and gestures surround it. Absolutely null and utterly void.
There is little keeping of silence anymore. Speech sells. Broadcasts move from hard news to the subsequent long wallow of commodified, voyeuristic infotainment with every fresh catastrophe. The heart sinks farther than it ever thought possible, and the corporate armies, laden with cash, rush into the breach.
If ever there was a time for custody of the eyes, it is now.
It's time to tell the long joke that begins like this:
Henry David Thoreau sat down next to Rev Lillian on a plane, and, noting her collar, said
ministers who (speak) of God as if they enjoyed a monopoly of the subject
would sometimes come to visit him at his cabin at Walden Pond.
And her pastoral reply ?
Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead?
So, carefully balancing her laptop and martini, she sidles down the aisle and sits in an empty aisle seat next to Papa Ratzi himself, the Bull Goose Looney of Those-Formed-By-A-Mighty-Cloud-Of-Witnesses -- who proceeds to remind her that, lacking a penis,
you, Madame, should not be sporting that clerical garb, and, moreover, your employer, in spite of calling itself the United Church of Christ, is not in fact a "church" but rather an ecclesial community, offering a most defective path to salvation ! The only True Church is The Roman Catholic Church !
He glares at her, blows his papal nose on a silken handkerchief especially blessed for the occasion, then returns to his breviary.
The joke goes on for hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles, undoubtedly including how gorgeous Monsignor Ganswein looks in his cassock, and never quite gets to the punch line.
It's a wintry afternoon, the last of the long slide toward the solstice. Mist, maybe sleet, is blowing sideways and I've already drunk too much coffee. This year I received a splendid, animated Advent Calendar -- Jacqui Lawson's Alpine Village -- that is a long marination in nostalgia for a Christmas-That-Never-Was. Nonetheless, I appreciate it like a fine confection -- a thin cookie dusted in sugar, a sugarplum -- and consent, for a few minutes a day, to its sweet dream.
Maybe I should learn to look at the church -- in a broader sense than Ratzi's -- as a sweet dream, a play upon the world's stage, an epic poem, a musical comedy, a tragedy in far too many acts, an opera bouffe -- oh, who the hell knows. Maybe just admit it's an acquired taste that I tried and failed to acquire, in the end just not my cuppa, Rev Lillian notwithstanding. Who is, after all, as invested in the survival of her Ecclesial Community as the Pope is in his One True Church.
Jesus (take, eat) is somewhere beyond this fray, over the rainbow maybe, or maybe off in the cloud of witnesses or the cloud of unknowing.
Or maybe he's hiding in the dead tree on the grounds of the shuttered asylum, or under the finely woven skirt of a mushroom on a rotted log. It's all the bread of heaven, all God's body,
and it doesn't take a man of the cloth to make it so.