Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go ... Exodus 9:1
Since it first appeared, this blog carried the banner ‘Religion fails whenever it sees itself as a necessary intermediary to God.’ Although it was originally aimed specifically at the dangers of ‘institutionalizing religion’ I also realized that we have a personal responsibility to ensure that God’s gift of faith is constantly fed and nurtured within the greenhouse of our being. St. Paul calls that our spiritual temple (1 Cor. 6:19). It cannot simply continue to grow if we limit or compare our spiritual growth to others. Each one of us is a unique individual, with a unique role to play when we pray for the bringing forth of ‘Thy kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.’
For some time now it occurred to me that God’s gift of faith can be easily thwarted if we do not challenge our understanding of God’s unconditional love. How do I limit that gift if I surrender my obligation to an intermediate? Or should I surrender my obligation directly through the Creator who lives within the depth of each human soul? Before the ‘institution’ was ever built Jesus simply said “follow me, I am the way”! Accordingly, the role of the institution, as I see it, is to lead us to Jesus, and then let us go to be part of an all inclusive community.
Is it possible that the institution would collapse without our support? If so, what will it be replaced with? The familiar aphorism “Nature abhors a vacuum” will no doubt apply in such a scenario. Who and what would fill that void? One thing is for certain God will not suspend his grace upon the world. Does Christian scripture not remind us “that we are ALL children of our Father in heaven? That He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”? It is our personal response to God's grace and sharing that gift with others that really matters.
The basic problem with institutional religion is that it seems to be pre-occupied with competing with other religions. Just consider the various Christian denominations. It is estimated that there are more than 41,000 Christian denominations in the world today. If these communities cannot agree upon which group holds the exclusive rights to ‘Truth’ then how do we ever hope to understand another 42,000 denominations of various non-Christian religions and spiritual beliefs? Is this a problem for God, or is it simply a problem that ignores the unique understanding of each human being?
One of Pope Francis’ first homilies, to his flock in May of 2013, warned that “some Christians establish the eighth sacrament “of pastoral customs” when they insist on protocol instead of seeking to meet spiritual needs” . He concluded his homily by asking everyone to think about “the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill ... So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace.” Surely this God given grace must apply to all people and all of the world’s religious institutions?
There is little question that competing religious institutions continue to divide people and communities. And, to the extent that it continues to bring much misery and suffering among humankind. Is it simply because religious institutions seem to demand a common and fixed understanding rather than a shared diversity? Should religious institutions remain as expressions of an exclusive and competing faith institution rather than that of a universal community reflecting the unconditional love of a Creator who accepts All people were they are – not where others would have them be? I know its probably a silly dream. But a dream we will ALL come to realize sooner or later.
In the meantime perhaps it is time for all of the world’s religious institutions to introduce a brand new vision of what it means to love God, our neighbour and especially our self, in the form of a Sacrament that allows people to discover their unique God given diversity rather than any false conformity – so that ALL may become as One! I would call that, in Roman Catholic terms the 'eighth sacrament'
‘To Let my people go, and let thy Kingdom come,often seems like a bit of wishful thinking but let us together consider the alternative.