Saturday, December 24, 2005


An excerpt from my end-of-term Ekklesia colum on The case for disorganised religion. It incorporates, by happy accident, references to other material I have written throughout the year.

Jesus may well have caused division, kicked up a bit of a fuss. He certainly wouldn’t have found himself on trial before the ruling authorities if his only crime had been to be too blandly reassuring. However the real shock of Jesus was not that he rudely pushed forward his own interests and his own tribe through his confrontations with authority – but that he didn’t.

Instead, in words and actions that disturbed the comfortable and comforted the disturbed, he showed that God’s ‘weapons’ against wrong are disarming love, unadvertised truth, difficult peace, costly forgiveness and indiscriminate table fellowship.

None of these Gospel gestures is undemanding or un-political. But the demand they make is not for recognition, influence, privilege and power on our own behalf. It is for transformation, starting with us. The tough virtues which Jesus exhibits are ones which dis-organise and re-orient our natural human disposition towards self-interest. The movement he creates is not an Imperial guard, it is an odd group of misfits and unfortunates (described in the Beatitudes) who are prepared to see in one another, and in the God who loves without favour, the hope of a new world coming.

The church is supposed to be made up of those who recognise Jesus’ transformative agenda and are willing to implement it – not by seizing power, but by redistributing it and turning it into something that gives rather than takes.That is what I mean by ‘disorganised religion’ – a movement among God’s people which resists what doyen US economist John Kenneth Galbraith called ‘institutional truth’: that version of events which makes sure that ‘we’ end up being the winners. [Continued]

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