The Great Work before us, the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the earth to a more benign presence is not a role we have chosen.It is a role given to us beyond any consultation with ourselves.We did not choose. We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task.
Thomas Berry, The Great Work
In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung described several days of mental and emotional torment when he was 12 years old, when his unconscious repeatedly erupted with an image of God sitting on a golden throne in heaven over a beautiful cathedral, probably that of his native Basel Switzerland.
John Philip Newell in his book The Rebirthing of God reflecting on this powerful metaphor, wrote that Jung allowed himself to name what he was seeing. “descending from the throne was an enormous turd that smashed into the spire and the walls of the cathedral crumbled.
The author writes,”We are living in the midst of the great turd falling.In fact it has already hit the spire and the walls of western Christianity are collapsing.in many parts of the West that collapse can only be described as seismic.”
This reflects theologian Phyllis Tickles’ idea that,”Every 500 years,the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered so that renewal and growth may occur. Now is such a time.”
I had a ringside seat recently at a funeral of a friend.The priest defined the noun bloviator “A public figure,who makes outlandish, strident statements on issues, thinking that the average man will care about their opinions.” This pompous ass declaimed rather than spoke, was hopelessly disorganized and only got away with his nonsense because he was a priest. Had he pulled this stunt anywhere else he would have got the hook. The liturgy itself was turgid, irrelevant and a deep insult to the fine man we were mourning. Worse it was a journey to irrelevance.
Everywhere church attendance is tanking and fast. We are living in a tsunami of radical change and the Christian church, especially the largest denomination, Roman catholicism has no understanding of the vortex we find ourself.
One major Catholic cleric however did name the moment just before he died in September 2012 was the scripture scholar papabile and rector of the Gregorian Pontifical University Carlo Maria Martini of Milan.
Martini’s farewell commentary echoed what many progressives believed: “The church is a pompous and bureaucratic institution failing to move with the times. Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up; our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,”
In the Corriere della Sera article Martini suggested the way forward: “The church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, a journey of transformation.
The church is 200 years out of date. “Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?”
Maybe the way forward is that suggested by Pastor Fortis who liked the turd metaphor
My metaphor of choice is new wine in old wine skins. There is a new wine fermenting and it’s juices come from the crushed fruits of climate catastrophe. If there is any hope for Christianity it’s to create the new skins that will contain the new wine fermenting in our seas, air, land, wildlife, etc. A Christian response to this penultimate pro-life reality will determine if Christianity has any relevance in our lives.
The late Passionist priest Thomas Berry has in this has led the way in fundamental reorientation which the church ignores at its peril.
The universe is the primary religious reality, the primary sacred community, the primary revelation of the divine, the primary subject of incarnation,the primary referent in any discussion of reality or of value…we have been told that concern for the environment must become “the central organizing principle of civilization” Al Gore.