RECOVERING OUR BALANCE

 Can you find out the depths of God? Or find out the perfection of the Almighty? It is higher than the heavens; so what can you do? It is deeper than Sheol; so what can you know? It is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. — Job 11:7-9 The Bible, in its entirety, finds a balance between knowing and not-knowing, between using particular and carefully chosen words and having humility about words, even though the ensuing traditions have not often found that same balance. “Churchianity,” by its very definition, needs to speak with absolutes and certainties. It feels its job is to make absolute truth claims and feels very fragile when it cannot. Then, we followers think we must be certain about things we are not really certain of at all (which is the beginning of the loss of faith)!

This is a similar predicament that politicians experience, needing to project an image of self-assurance and confidence, even though we all know they’re faking it just like the rest of us. As Marcus Borg (1942-2015) and others suggest in The Emerging Christian Way, absolute correctness is the largely impossible task institutional Christianity has taken upon itself. [1] Organized religion is now crumbling beneath this impossible and false goal, it seems to me. I understand the individual egos and the institution’s structural need for clarity, some basic order, and identity, especially to get us started when we are young. Religion then needs a key to unlock itself from itself—but from the inside, which many call the mystical or contemplative tradition. Most successful reforms come from using one’s own internal resources to self-correct. The words “mystery,” “mystical,” and “mutter” all come from the Indo-European root word muein, which means to “hush or close the lips.” We must start with humble, patient, wordless unknowing, sincere curiosity, or what many call “beginner’s mind.” Only then are we truly teachable. Otherwise, we only hear whatever confirms our present understanding. Without such humility, religion has cried “wolf” too many times in history and later been proven wrong. Observe earlier authoritative Church statements on democracy, war, torture, slavery, women, treatment of Jews, revolutions, liturgical forms, the “Doctrine of Discovery” of the New World, the Latin language, and the earth-centered universe—to name just a few big ones. If we had balanced our “knowing” with some honest not-knowing, we would never have made such egregious mistakes. We could always prove whatever we wanted by twisting one line of Scripture. The biblical text was not allowed to change us as much as many Christians who have used it to exclude and judge other people.


I have always felt the need to spread the word of his person and his message. I am convinced that Jesus is the best we have in the Church and the best we can offer today to modern society. Even more: I believe, as many other thinkers do, that Jesus is the best that humanity has ever produced. He is the most admirable power of light and hope available to us as human beings. The horizon of history would be impoverished if Jesus were to be forgotten. So it hurts me to hear him described in vague terms, or in ways that are inconsistent with the sources we have about him. Jesus is slowly being extinguished in our hearts, while we listen to «clichés» that impoverish and distort his person: such a Jesus cannot attract, seduce, or enamour us. It also hurts to hear him described in routine, worn-out language. It does not ignite our hearts or set fire to the world; it does not start a conversation. (Jesus: An historical Approximation, José Antonio Pagola)