We set up the board as it should be set up. A place for everything and for everything, a place. You go first. Ah, nice move. The Knight advances. My call: A7…. That’s got to be a hit – the aircraft carrier I reckon, well….Eighteen points for that word? How can that be? Lead-piping in the Library is no match for an attack of infantry and cavalry – it’s going to be a blood bath. Your move: Rats! A geography question – If a Lieutenant attacks the Spy, deep into enemy territory – who wins? Draw a picture and I’ll try to guess who! But do not pass go, there is no £200, but there is a jail. Only three 6’s get you out of that, and you know what the fundamentalists think about that!
This is gibberish.
A Christendom model of Church is equally gibberish in a post-Christendom context, a bit like playing the rules of one game whilst playing another! Trying to keep all these games going in some sort of super-human Robo-Cop-Christian kind of way, is demeaning and dehumanising, a bit like what Stanley Hauerwas in Resident Aliens calls being nibbled to death by ducks (p.126).
In a smorgasbord of ecclesial game-board cross-contamination, “Does the world look at the church and say God is busy?” (Aliens, p.92) – of course – and that is one reason (among many for sure), why they want no part in an already over-crowded, over-worked, under-paid and under-valued life.
When post-modernity becomes what it is actually becoming; when what it is gives way to what will be, to what is surely coming, the old rules will not apply. Even if the games are good, and some of them are, it is surely time to press pause on the modern system that commits the idolatry of (1) Traditionalism by believing it already thinks and acts as Christ thinks and acts – a church resistant to change has already fallen into this unnecessary sin.
We no more need the stifling Traditionalism of authoritarian institutionalism, where “system” trumps “life”, where conformity replaces relationality and is the standard to reach even at the expense of the Law and the Prophets. A place where sin is breach of conformity to that system. This leads to spiritual infancy or infantilisation, and produces the bastadised children called, Oppression, Exploitation and Alienation.
Alternatively, stands another idolatrous stance, that of (2) Iconoclasm, where the idolatry is one that presupposes it already thinks and acts as Christ would think and act. This is not the sin of authoritarian institution, but authoritarian individualism, where individuals shun the system of traditionalism, and rightly so (when it is abusive). But this rebellion often replaces relationality and so self-righteousness sums up the Law and the Prophets.
In the Iconoclast world, sin is not “breach of a conformity to a system” but rather, anything disloyal to me. This leads to spiritual adolescence and self-assertion, and produces the bastardised children called, Denial of Oppression, Denial of Exploitation and Denial of Alienation.
The church will survive of course despite this. And whatever post-modernity produces, will certainly be a judgment of Traditionalism that leads to infantilisation; and Iconoclasm that leads to swaggering self-assertion!
Not all that is labelled “Tradition” is bad. In fact, a lot is very good. Knowing our past, our tradition, is vital. That’s why Rowan Williams asks in Why Study the Past, “Good history makes us think again about the definition of things we thought we understood pretty well, because it engages not just with what is familiar but with what is strange. It recognises that “the past is a foreign country” as well as being our past.”
Thus we expose (1) Traditionalism and (2) Iconoclasm, and opt for (3) Tradition-Refinement, where we recognise that neither the Church nor I yet think or act as Christ would. Thus we remain constantly open and alert to the critique of both institutionalism and individualism – i.e. letting the Spirit speak. We recognise that any “system” serves us, not vice-versa. We eschew conformity or rebellion as controlling paradigms, and are instead refereed relationally, i.e. persons in relation, refereed by wisdom.
We eschew conformity to system and rebellion to system, but opt for the love of God, a love in right relating, that sums up the Law and the Prophets. Here, sin is neither breach of conformity to system, nor sin as anything disloyal to me, but sin as distorted or negated loving. This leads to spiritual adulthood or maturity. Here the gospel alive in us produces Humanitarianism, Liberation and Integration, which is closer in my estimation to biblical Christianity than anything produced by Modernity or Post-Modernity.
Nevertheless, I am in the mix with everyone else, and so need the Trinitarian love of God as much as anyone else.
I’ve got to go – my Bishop is in jail for selling the lead piping to a battleship, or something, and apparently, three sixes were not enough to set him free!