Friday, June 20, 2008

WHAT IS THE CHURCH FOR?

As many of the inherited institutions of Christianity struggle or crumble, the temptation to take on a new role as a kind of ancillary social service agency to society at large is huge. I wouldn't wish to condemn the pastoral activities such agency might involve -- far from it. But if a social concordat between church and government starts to reinvent the old, tame 'civic religion' in a different guise, then the church's "social curia" (as Ken Leech once described its army of advisers and practitioners) is in danger of becoming less and less about deep personal and corporate transformation, and ever more in danger of losing sight of the core message of the Gospel. Some of the church's most politically engaged thinkers, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Simone Weil, have been among those to realise this acutely, not least in moments of crisis when something more substantial than "caring" or a social compact is needed: resistance, in fact. These are some of the concerns which, combined with the lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, produced my reflections on A real agent of transformation (Ekklesia, 20.06.08).

2 comments:

Singing Gardener said...

Have you read Prof Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion' or Christopher Hitchens 'God is not Great?'

Having been involved with the church since I was 5 years of age - am now, after all these years, questioning religion as I approach the end of the conveyor belt . . .
No longer makes any sense. Wish I had your blind faith.

Simon Barrow said...

"Blind" faith? I take it that you haven't read much of my stuff! Yes, I'm familiar with the the books you mention, and more from the same stable. Important moral protests against bad religion, but also sad examples of 'fact mining' and weak philosophy. Try: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6962 Good wishes for your continuing journey.