Establishment's downfall

~~Sin contaminates God-given goodness.
God-given goodness contaminates sin
.~~

Our guest speaker at church yesterday, Earle Craig, gave us the above sentences. His context was contrasts between individual Christians and the Christian groups they belong to.

I’ve changed the word Craig used – righteousness – to a phrase, God-given goodness. I did so because “righteous” is traditionally a religious term. As Craig pointed out, tradition often keeps those of us who practice religion asleep.

Craig based his talk on a lengthy passage from Practice in Christianity by Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard speaks of “the deification of the established order.” In a masterful piece, as Craig ably helped us see, S.K. describes the timeless face of people who assemble in groups. Quite naturally that’s me.

I am an institutionalized being. (While it’s likely true I should be placed in a home for women of fuzzy brains, that’s not what I’m talking about.) Daycare, public school, Sunday school, and volunteer groups, I’ve done them all. I need community, and that’s okay. I’ve also gone right along when my group settled. Established. Became content. I’ve been first in line lots of times for self-righteousness award ceremonies.

In terms of faith, especially, I’ve wanted to know I had it all down. I then encouraged whoever couldn’t escape listening to join me in my rightness, my purity of understanding.

Even when I broke to a large degree with church traditions, I let my audience know they ought to come along this way. I’ve got it right this time for sure, my winking attitude smugged.

I’ve begun, I think, to notice, as Earle Craig’s message implied, there is a major, good thing going on inside me. Kierkegaard called the good thing “inwardness.” He, as well as Mr. Craig, and I, are reminded this good thing comes not from myself but is God-provided. It contaminates the me who sins, while I am unable, I have to admit, to keep my sin from contaminating the good thing.

This tension exists, apparently, because God chose to plunk each of us in the midst of conflict between the good we want and the bad we are, for the duration. Why? I can’t say.

Kierkegaard’s established order, the same as my institutions, falls for the blissful idea of escape. No more conflict. My group’s got it right. We even codified our exactitude in a doctrinal statement. If you, as a member of my group, dare to question or (gasp) disagree with our doctrine, well… (eyes narrowing) we have to tell you that kind of uppitiness ain’t thought much of ‘round these parts.

So it’s gone for thousands of years, and for my forty-six. I don’t want to see that mussed-up corner in the quilt of God-given goodness covering me. But I can’t quite smooth it down. Honesty admits there’s more to do, every day and for all the days left.

Still, in those moments I nearly smother from the mussedness of the way I’ve mucked reality, I find a stronger hand takes hold and straightens. Not finished, yet, but calm down, now. It will be.

Comments

Cherie said…
It really was a thought-provoking reminder, Earl's sermon.

The idea of righteousness contaminating sin was not only illuminating, it was sort of relieving.
Deanna said…
I agree, Cherie. There's more I could've said, but this was enough brain percolation which likely no one but you understood. That's okay; I'm glad you were there.
Patti said…
And Sam told me about it. It sounds like it was a really good message. It make me wish I could come for he Summer Institute on Kierkegaard. I had gone to bed here in Missouri, but with the warm night and windows open and the attic fan going, there are too many insects buzzing around the house to get to sleep. I'm trying to attract them to a different location with the lights, and then I'll sneak back to bed. Not that you wanted to know all that.
Deanna said…
Patti, I do appreciate hearing about life in the Midwest. I hope you got some sleep! I'm off soon to church, where I'll likely see Sam. :o)