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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why The Church?

The question posed by the title can bring a variety of answers depending on who is being asked. We know how many of us religiously conservative Christians would answer the question. We would refer to both the Scriptures and our respective confessions to talk about the Church in terms of the place where Christ is united with His people. The Church is there to tell us about our sins and how to be rescued from our sins by believing in Jesus. The Church is the bride of Christ. And thus the Church is to submit to Christ while Christ protects and provides for the Church.

But the above answer is what one would expect when asking a religiously conservative Christian that question. What if we were to ask private sector elites, such as those who wrote the report The Crisis Of Democracy for the Trilateral Commission (click here for a brief description), why the Church? Would we receive the same answer from them or from the recipients of their report that we would get when asking a religiously conservative Christian the same question?

Before answering the above question, we need to know what the Trilateral Commission is. It is a collection of private sector elites from the three major industrial areas of the world. These elites see a strong need for the leaders of these areas to work together as required by the growing interdependence between these areas. The Trilateral Commission was formed in 1973 and the report, The Crisis Of Democracy, was written in 1975. At that time, some of the future members of the Carter Administration were members of the Trilateral Commission that received this report. 

The purpose of this 1975 report was to comment on the troubles these three major industrial areas of the world saw during the 1960s. One summary that was given for the challenges which those in positions of authority faced during that time was an "excess of democracy." In that report, the purpose of the Church, as stated by these private sector elites, is below along with a little summary of the problems experienced then (click here for source):
In most of the Trilateral countries in the past decade there has been a decline in the confidence and trust which the people have in government, in their leaders, and, less clearly but most importantly, in each other. Authority has been challenged not only in government, but in trade unions, business enterprises, schools and universities, professional associations, churches, and civic groups. In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army.

We should note that along with the family, the school and the army, the purpose of the Church was to act as another institution of indoctrination. The goal of the indoctrination was, and still is, toward teaching young people how to fit in as members of society. In addition, there is expressed a special concern with restoring the declining trust people had in their leaders, in those with authority.

Here we should note a bit of historical context for the lack of faith in those with authority during the 1960s. Our nation was beginning to emerge out of our shameful Jim Crow era. Women too felt the need to free themselves from some of society's shackles. In addition, our nation was fighting an unjust and immoral war in Vietnam and many of our kids were being forced, under the threat of law, to put their lives on the line in this war. For Blacks who were being drafted into the military, they were being told to fight for the freedoms of others which they could not enjoy at home because of the systemic racism that existed then.

So what makes up today's context? We live a way of life that is destroying the environment and the quality of life for our descendants. We live in a period of neoliberal capitalism where wealth disparity is growing between the rich and poor and, in our nation, between the races, and where economic growth is often the result of exploiting workers and/or the environment. We also see an increasing number of wars and a rapidly growing authoritarianism even in those nations that claim to be democracies. And we still see systemic racism in our nation as evidenced by the incarceration rates and even police shootings as well as by our nation's treatment of Native Americans such as those who are protesting the construction of the DAPL on their sacred land and across their source of water.

So the question is this: Is the purpose of today's Church to be merely another institution of indoctrination to get people to fit in and obey those in charge regardless of the troubles around us? Or is the Church acting as the Bride of Christ? From the Conservative perspective of the Church, we should note that the problems most often discussed by conservative Church leaders rarely, with the exception of racism from the past, address the large scale problems that the world faces today. 

The conservative Church has instead focused on the personal sins of the individual. All of that would be good news to those who wrote the report, The Crisis Of Democracy, as well as those who received it. For such would say that the Church is no longer straying from its purpose of indoctrinating the young on how to fit into society and how to obey those in authority.  However, that success on the Church front just might mean more suffering for the world and real failure by the Church. For the Church is there not just to warn the poor individual about his/her personal sins. The Church should also be there to warn everyone about their sins including states, societies and elites. The Church is charged with preaching against all sins as part of the Great Commission, but is that what we see the Church doing today?

So why the Church? What does our observation of the Church tell us?


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