Monday, 28 May 2012

Put not thy faith in institutions

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I grew up in a world which put faith in institutions.

Leaving aside the church for a moment (since I was an atheist) I was among people who had faith in the United Nations, and the European Economic Community (now European Union), the United Kingdom, England, the Labour Party, the National Health Service, Universities and more abstract institutions such as Science and Education.

Such things were regarded as net good, that is good in essence and on average, good on the whole, tending towards good...

I now perceive that none of these are worthy of faith - indeed all modern institutions are net bad, bad in essence and on average, bad on the whole, tending towards evil...

Yet I have not found any worthy substitutes. 

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This world is one in which people seek institutions in which to put their faith - I do it myself, somehow I can't help myself - yet for honest people this has become harder and harder.

We seek some grouping or activity in which to place our hopes and to which we wish to dedicate our best efforts.

Yet we are thwarted in a search for worthy institutions with which to ally ourselves.

Indeed, it is probable that there are none - indeed why should we expect there to be any?

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The hardest thing for Christians to accept is that this applies also to the official mainstream churches and denominations. If we consider any large, powerful Christian church, we will find that its leadership is driving it away from the Good and into closer alliance with secular hedonistic modernity.

At an institutional level, large and powerful Christian churches are net bad and to support them as a whole is, I am very sorry to say, to support the forces of evil.

(Of course, this has been the usual situation in evil societies - the churches become corrupted - sometimes heretical elements in the churches have led corruption. )

And, conversely, any net Good church - worthy of overall support - will be small and weak.

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Since most of us work (and worship) in large and powerful institutions, we need to get used to the fact that the good elements which we admire and would wish to support are minority, local and dissenting - usually beleaguered, declining or on the verge of extinction.

Our choice is to be one of these dwindling islands within the large and net-evil institutions en route to being swamped; or to work in a weak and tiny institution that is good-on-the-whole.

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This applies to churches and denominations.

Real Christians have a choice: to be a persecuted minority within an overall (on average) wicked and corrupt large and powerful church, or whole-hearted members of a church that is overall good but small and weak (or something quantitatively in between).

If a Christian is a member of one of the larger and more powerful churches, he will either be in an embattled minority or essentially corrupt.

(And, of course, most of the embattled minorities are themselves essentially corrupt! - embattled minority status is of itself no indicator of goodness.)

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We are not on the winning side, and the desire to be on the winning side - and part of something large and powerful - is a force tending towards our own corruption.

What we need to remember, what ought to give us hope, is that everything good we do has an effect.

Not that it might have an effect, but that it does have an effect: not a contingent effect somewhere down the line, but an instant, universal and eternal effect the consequences of which may be obscure and take time to unfold.

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Not that we necessarily know how or where it has an effect - probably we never will know anything of this (at least not while we are in this world) - but that every single personal, obscure and apparently-'insignificant' act of good is in reality of vast import.

The more difficult our own situation, and the more overwhelming the might of evil institutions brought to bear on Christians, the more Christians are made to feel futile: the more clear should be the universal (albeit mysterious) power of individual acts or tiny and temporary alliances.

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