Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Domesticating Jesus

An observation made by Fr. Chadwick:

"People who don’t have social standing, money, status, etc. quickly find themselves estranged from churches. The idea of going to the marginalised is appealing to the priest who seeks a sense to his vocation. Such people have no use for priests and seek elsewhere for an alternative to cold materialism, nihilism and atheism."

This certainly squares away with my own observations. 

Christianity in principle reaches to the people who lack social standing, money status, etc. Yet, it is clearly a playground for the wealthy. No, it may not approve of material excess, but people with social status play the roll of movers and shakers. One would have to have some pretty strong blinders on to ignore that wealthier parishoners are prone to get more of the clergy's attention and have sufficient pull in the local church.

I suppose this is natural. Much as Christianity may have emmerged as an apocalyptic political insurgent movement (crucifixion wasn't reserved for religious men claiming to perform miracles), religion has a different function. Whereas Jesus may have started a movement that was galvanized in a climate of political turmoil, religion, by comparison, functions on the promise of stability. Churches as such are sustained by the most stable of their members. Often times, this stability corresponds with social standing, wealth, status, etc. I wouldn't say Christainity outright seeks such individuals as representatives.

Yet it becomes tiring after awhile. One notices that the same persons keep appearing for important roles (check books in hand). Indeed, in the Orthodox Church this is turned into bragging rights - one can't help but learn who met over 100% of the annual contribution. Eventually, it seems like there is a certain "simulacra and simulation" quality to it all. None of this is real Christianity, it is simulated Christianity.

Whatever the case may be, people who lack such status find themselves oftentimes uncomfortable in their own skin and eventually leave, moving on to other alternatives that appear inclusive of their lack of social status.

Christianity often leaves people in the dust is, I suppose, the unfortunate moral of this story. Religion is meant, in part, to affirm the status quo in a society. People with status and money are necessary to showcase - they demonstrate that the status quo works. Yet the movement founded by Jesus of Nazareth is oftentimes portrayed as coming to shake the status quo from its self assured position.

In truth, there is a sort of primordial radicalism in the gospels that inspires a defiant insurrection against the mundane, commonplace, and socially dominant status quo. In so many ways, Jesus ups the anti on the status quo, his praxis setting a new standard that human beings can seldom attain. Thus it is not the physical act of adultery, but lust in one's heart that condemns you. Whatever is asked of you, go a step beyond (your cloack as well). Perhaps more germaine to our discussion, the status quo for worship was insufficient, to be replaced by worship "in spirit and in truth."

1 comment:

  1. I was pretty shocked the first time I went to an Orthodox church and heard the priest read a list of names of people who donated to the church and the exact amount of money they gave!