Monday, May 21, 2012

Dis-Organized Religion

"I have a problem with organized religion," he said to me.  They were sitting in my office, this couple preparing for marriage, when he said these words.  They were doing the pre-marital talks, it was Sunday morning right after worship, I was wearing (you know) the outfit that identifies me as a member of Organized Religion. 

Not that I'm defensive or anything.  And I don't claim to know always what a person might mean when they say "organized religion", but I have a couple of ideas (or suspicions).  Possibly they might mean "organized religion" that is designed (it seems) to judge people unworthy and keep them out.  Or they might mean the "organized religion" that seems to serve to protect the powerful instead of caring for the vulnerable, poor, hungry and lonely.   (For example, systems that give people in collars power and turn a blind eye when they abuse the power given them.)  Possibly they mean religion that organizes to try to impose religious values on people who don't share those values. 

Or, they could mean something else.  I'm open to suggestions.

Maybe they mean religion that organizes to get together on Sunday morning and sing some songs.  That's organized, too (although some churches are more organized than others).

So anyway,  it was Sunday morning, and I was tired, so when he said he had a problem with organized religion, I said, "How do you feel about dis-organized religion?" 

I've been thinking a bit about this since then; I think I might feel comfortable with a sort of dis-organized religion (well, except for the Sunday morning part; I would like to know when we are getting together for worship).  Maybe a little more dis-organized religion is what people need.  For example, maybe we need a faith with fewer answers and more questions, with more room for exploring, changing our minds, adding a new insight.  Then when we recite the creed, we can consider that our statement of faith is supposed to make God bigger, not smaller.   When we follow Jesus, we can consider that instead of cleaning up our lives and making them orderly, he's really dis-organizing us by giving us a new center.   Maybe we need some dis-organized religion, because (maybe) what people hate about organized religion is that it makes us sound like we have God all domesticated in a box.

I remember a professor in seminary once talking about progress in the Christian life.  He was talking about Augustine, I think, and he drew a straight line with an arrow on the board.  Then he said, "Luther believed in progress in the Christian life too, but he thought it looked more like this"  -- and he drew a squiggly line in the middle of the board.  I think there was an arrow in there somewhere.

I remember thinking, "I guess I'm Lutheran, then."

Dis-organized religion.   Religion with with room for people who don't agree with one another, where progress in the Christian life is messy, and where there is room for repentance.  That's what I'm looking for.

Join me.  We meet at 10:00 on Sunday morning.  Or thereabouts.


Fran said...

Your words are a balm to my weary soul this morning. More questions are always better than more answers, especially the ones that say things such as, "how do you feel about disorganized religion?"

Thank you Diane.

Fran said...

Oh - and that line about the creed, brilliant.

Curtis G said...

It is hard for any church to claim to be "dis-organized" when nothing gets done or recognized unless it is first approved by the Church Council. Unnecessary bureaucracy and preventing people to pursue their own initiative is the greatest impediment to a living church.

Diane said...

Curtis -- another reminder of the ways we too often serve as unnecessary "gatekeepers" - both theologically and practically.

more food for thought.

thank you!

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I'm way behind in reading your blog and I'm glad I read this. My son recently said to me that he has a problem with organized religion. I guess I should have asked what he meant by that or asked your question. We recently visited him and his wife in a south eastern state. We attended the church that his wife has chosen to go to. My son says that he doesn't want to attend a church that seems like attending a rock concert. But we all went. No symbols of the faith anywhere. No participatory anything. But the service was highly organized. One thing that surprised me was that it was VERY time orientated. The screen showed a count down to when the service would start. And there was a big clock, like a scoreboard, in front of the pastor, that I got a glimpse of when we went to our assigned seats (yes, as we were guests that they knew were attending.) The sermon was near the end, and then the pastor abruptly said, "You are dismissed." Clock orientated, obviously. Where would be the leading of the Holy
Spirit? My pastor-daughter said that services in churches that have multiple services are usually highly choreographed. That certainly makes them "organized religion" in another sense. My husband's question after the service: I wonder what is the Biblical or theological underpinning for what they DO do at that church?