Sunday 19 May 2013

Pentecost: Fire lights on Babel Tower

Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs...

What emerges from Acts 2 is the original Multinational — founded on absolute Equality, universal in scope, affirming particularity, non-Imperialistic (but welcoming to Roman tourists like anyone else), minimally and functionally hierarchical but inwardly driven by the Spirit. What’s wrong with that?

Sadly this simple vision conflicts with some dirty little habits:
  • Inequality
    usually expressed as the feeling of entitlement you find in racists, bigots and sexual predators of all stripes, mild and strong, ancient and modern. It’s all about power, not sex.
  • Narrow Tribalism
    even the corruption of the Pentecostal Community into a tribe. The idea was that all instincts of particularity that used to express themselves over and against each other should become a symphony of disparates. The Church’s calling was to transcend tribalism, not become a specialist faith group that revels in its habits and routines and, literally, idolises its particularity.
  • Homogenisation
    because birds of a feather flock together. The herd instinct turns in on itself and opts for safety in numbers, the tyranny of the tidy-minded, groupthink and doubletalk. The Institution takes itself far to seriously. The Sprit is subjected to the letter of the law, bureaucratised and neutered
Perhaps the big crises the Church faces are not intractable issues in themselves, but the inevitable result of losing touch with its roots. The outward and inward predicaments the Church faces often draw out instinctive pragmatic love, especially at street level. Difference is no more than an invitation to love even enemies. 

Sadly, the same predicaments also produce flashes of inequality, bigotry and discrimination, imperialism, institutional inertia, complacency and self-obsession. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees says Jesus. “Be watchful of yourselves, whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers!”

We can't fix the problems beyond us, but we can attend to the rot within us and among us. Then, in the light of such repentance, we could look outward in the light of all we had learnt and, in Wendell Berry’s unforgettable phrase, Practice Resurrection. Who knows? Engaging and transformative vision could go viral as it did on the streets of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. 

Starting here. Couldn’t it?

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