Out with the Old, and In with the New

I.

Challenging the status quo can be lonely and painful. Most of us are not terribly comfortable with those who refuse to conform to societal norms to the degree we have decided to do. And, yet, but for nonconformists, nothing would ever have changed, would it have?

 

status quo

 

The only religious movements in the world would be polytheistic, and there would never have been an ounce of scientific progress; nor would there be, in all probability, this interesting approach to governance that we call “democracy.” Marketers around the world use as a foundation for their success, the desire—sometimes the need—any number of people have to change in order to be like someone else, especially if the someone else is rich and/or famous.

Students in junior high and high school who don’t fit in with the mainstream group—for whatever reason, any little reason—find support and acceprance hanging with other misfits like themselves, however small the group. Even so, sometimes the alienation the nonconforming students feel grows into anger and resentment, and we end up with a Columbine tragedy or at least a culture of bullying.

I sent out an e-blast this week to share an article I’d stumbled over in the Huffington Post online. The writer made the daring proposal that for the first time since who knows when, fundamentalism in the United States might be losing ground to more liberal expressions of faith expression and religious seeking. I now have one wall in my office plastered with copies of this article!  Wrote its author:

 

There has been a largely unnoticed but radical movement over the last decade during which the spiritual fire has shifted to more progressive Christians and that has the potential to change both the political and spiritual landscape of America.  I had a feeling this was happening but was shocked during the past few weeks to note the extent to which the more progressive Christian leaders are speaking out and being heard in their effort to impact the public square. Pastors and priests have spoken out on blocked Medicaid expansions, gun control, and climate change.

 

I nearly fell out right at that point in my reading, but there was more I had to take in!

 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continued their push for immigration reform by celebrating a Mass on Capitol Hill, building on the powerful Mass they celebrated weeks earlier at the U.S.-Mexico border. The United Church of Christ continues to push, claiming that their religious right to perform gay marriages is being infringed upon in North Carolina and protesting the FCC’s proposed new rules on Net Neutrality, while over a thousand clergy wrote a letter urging Congress to change drug sentencing laws…..Who could have foreseen that Pope Francis would follow immediately after Pope Benedict?….None of this is to say that the hardline religious conservative voice and influence has vanished. There are many on the religious right who still find traction on issues such as the contraception mandate, rallying against science and climate change, and perceived threats on religious freedom….Perhaps the change is as simple as the pendulum swinging back after years to the left….

 

In any case, the Public Religion Research Institute explained:

 

PrriLogo1

 

If you’re using a generational snapshot today as a proxy for the future, it is is safe to say that religious progressives hold a stronger appeal among Millennials.

 

Reaching the Millenntials is hitting pay dirt for seekers hoping to grow their spiritual communities. Doing things in the same old ways will not capitalize on this opportunity, however.

 

Millennials

 

 

 

II.

A political non-conformist might do well enough all alone somewhere, but if she or he wishes to challenge the status quo and effect political change, like-minded non-conformists must join together for the sake of impact and influence. Same thing with a religious nonconformist. In our democracy, there is separation of church and state—well, at least, there’s supposed to be; there used to be. It should be proper to discuss nonconformity in these two realms in completely different contexts; however, in those cultures where there is no legal or other provision for the separation of church and state, this is not the case. In those societies, to be politically nonconforming is, of necessity, to be religiously nonconforming.

We as a congregation were once in possession of a replica of the chair illustrated in John Bunyan’s pivotal work, The Pilgrim’s Progress. This chair was brought from England and presented to the congregation in 1897 or 1898 by Thomas F. Bayard Sr., first United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, which is the court of the British sovereign. Queen Victoria was the monarch when Bayard served and made this presentation to our church.

 

bunyanBunyan

John Bunyan is an ideal person to bring up today because he was a religious nonconformist who suffered considerably for refusing to conform to the legalized religious standards of England. Bunyan’s allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, was initially published in 1678. He wrote the first draft of the book in 1675 while he was in prison for having violated what was called the Conventicle Act. The Conventicle Act prohibited more than five people (unless all were family members of one household) from holding any religious services except under the auspices of the Church of England, which among other things meant the necessary use of the Book of Common Prayer. Penalties for infractions ranged from fines to imprisonment, and upon a third offense a person could be forced to leave the country.

 

The-Pilgrims-Progress-610713

Charles II was King of England at the time, and while his Roman Catholic leanings motivated his own efforts at religious toleration for non-Anglicans, the Anglicans were clearly in control of the country. Bunyan was a Baptist preacher who didn’t believe that he should be spiritually bound to any state church. The law of land, though King Charles himself might have been tolerant of Bunyan, required that Bunyan be imprisoned.

In the year 1675, Baptists had only been in the world sixty-three or sixty-four years. The first Baptist church known in history can be traced to Spitalfields in the east end of London; founded in 1611 or 1612 during the reign of King James I of England. Baptists appear on the world scene just as the King James Version of the Bible is initially published.

 

The holy Bible

 

Baptists spoke out against the lack of separation of church and state. They spoke out against any persecution or harassment–of any kind–by a government trying to homogenize religious doctrine and practice. They spoke out for freedom of conscience and the right of an individual to interpret scripture for himself or herself without the involvement of any intermediary, priest or prelate. The bottom line is this, though, if diversity is not welcomed and if any person or group believes that she or he or it can establish a doctrinal position to which all must be bound, the first Baptists wouldn’t abide it.

 

III.

Someone has said,

 

A worldly lifestyle, seeking pleasure, wealth, fame, and material comforts, will inevitably distract one from pursuing any spiritual purpose. Hence the aspirant must separate [herself] himself from the world or maintain some detachment from it. Separation from the world can be achieved either by physical isolation in a monastic community or by living an outwardly ordinary life yet without attachment to its prevailing values.

 

Don’t be conformed to this world, in other words, but, instead, be a nonconformist. Be a nonconformist in this world based on a transformation that grows out of a metamorphosis of your thinking so that you yourself may discern what is good and beautiful and mature.

There is a saying in Taoism:

 

The sage patterns himself on Heaven, prizes the Truth, and does not allow himself to be cramped by the vulgar. The stupid man does the opposite of this. He is unable to pattern himself on Heaven and instead frets over human concerns. He does not know enough to prize the Truth but instead, plodding along with the crowd, he allows himself to be changed by vulgar ways, and so is never content.

 

Change is probably going to come about–however hard some may fight against it. We, then, want to be on the side of what is changing for the good. And yet, even in a democracy, there is tremendous pressure to conform in certain key ways. The proper expressions of patriotism, for example, are prescribed by the patriotic expressions approval committees. If you’re a patriot, you must never question the perspective or the demands of a president who prays every day. And if your sense that you must speak out against something tearing the nation apart such as the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, there are those who will ostracize you and call you un-American and un-Christian.

People who are willing to live by the lure of selfless morality will typically look like oddballs and misfits and not like the status quo keepers. If we always find ourselves on the side of the majority, and if we’ve trained ourselves never to pay attention when something within us presses us to buck the system, never to see or speak out against the wrong we know exists, never to call injustice what it is, never to demand institutional renewal, then we are card-carrying members of the Society of the Status Quo. How quaint.

Quaint is finally displayed on mantels or in museums or in oversized coffeetable books. Quaint is not going to reach or ever have the chance to embrace the up and comings, who are focused on today and tomorrow—almost never yesterday. This isn’t exceptionally tasteful to many of us, perhaps, but the people most likely to participate in a community like ours are those who stand in line overnight at Target to get the newest edition of a video game player. They are loving T Mobile’s new program in which one no longer has to keep a cell phone two years in order to break even financially; with the rapid technology changes bombarding us, T Moblers can get the latest and greatest every six months.

If we can even get the Millennials in the door here twice, and the look and feel of the Gathering the second time is too much like the first time, many of them will never be back. Out with the old, and in the with the new. And I don’t mean people.

Amen.

 

 

READINGS USED IN TODAY’S GATHERING

Gathering Readings for June 8

 

 

Gathering Focus

 

“Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in.

Forget them as soon as you can; tomorrow is a new day.

Begin it well and serenely, with too too high a spirit

to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

—Ann Landers

 

 

 

 

Thought Challenge

 

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”

—Melody Beattie

 

The trees that get through a storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.
— Julia Butterfly Hill

 

 

Response of the People  (The Buddha, Tao Te Ching, Deepak Chopra, Frederick Douglas, Daphne Rose Kingma, Raymond Lindquist, Anais Nin, Gail Sheehy, Henry David Thoreau)

 

One:  Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.

 

Many:  We can only lose what we cling to. 

 

One:  We have to deal with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.

 

Many:  Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.

 

One:  Anything we cannot transform into something marvelous, we should let go.

 

Many:  When we let go of what we are, we become what we might be.

 

One:  Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.

 

Many:  We should never look back unless we are planning to go that way.

 

All:  We can use memories, but we must not allow memories to use us.

 

Advertisements

Challenge the Status Quo

 

 

I.
Being a sermon planner-aheader, I could have had no idea that this sermon would be preached the day after we buried Martha Brown, the queen of challenging the status quo.  Of course, we shouldn’t think for a second that Martha was the only Silversider who ever dared to challenge a status quo somewhere.  I was amused during the remembrances spoken about Martha yesterday when her great friend, Charlie Butler, tried to summarize Martha’s theological perspective and kinda sorta implied that she ended up at Silverside because we were good enough to take her in, even with her unorthodox approach to religion.  Charlie, who is Chief Deputy Attorney General here in Delaware, emphasized that Silverside lacks a middle name, which must explain how we could accept a Martha Brown.  He said, “It’s not Silverside Methodist or Presbyterian Church.  It’s JUST Silverside…uh…Church.”
Several responses to that snippet from his beautiful statements of remembrance.  One, we didn’t do Martha any favors by “allowing” her to become a part of our church family; she favored us with her presence, her creativity, and her diligence.  Two, we didn’t go out of our way to adapt our ways of thinking and doing to make a place for Martha; she joined a community of like-minded people–not to say that everyone in the church agreed with everything Martha said or did.  What we did do, though, was to embrace another person who believed that theologically and often socially, the status quo MUST BE upset if people try to live, in some sense, according to the teachings of Jesus–whatever their theological thinking about Jesus.  People in the Jesus Movement or followers of Jesus, however you’d describe your connection to the Jesus of history and his teachings, have no real option except to be disturbers of the status quo.
So, Martha found the place here for her spiritual home, but joined a group filled with others who, individually and collectively as a faith community, have been challenging one status quo or another for 176 years.  The forebears of today’s Silverside Church were a small split off of Wilmington’s First Baptist Church, which no longer exists.  The reason for the split was not animosity; thank goodness we don’t have that black mark in our historical reason for being.  The reason for the split was that the First Baptist Church, like many mainstream churches 176 years ago, did not believe in missions or Christian education.  They were Calvinistic in their theology, which is more directly a part of the heritage of Presbyterians and various Reform religious movements such as the Reformed Churches in America, but Baptists got some of it too; and what was picked up from John Calvin, who was the key personality in the Protestant Reformation in the Geneva, Switzerland, area, was a serious doctrine of absolute predestination.
Calvin and his original followers along with his followers today believe in essence that God has foreordained everything that happens, from the glorious birth of every child to Hurricane Katrina.  With such meticulous preplanning, the Calvinistic god also determined from the foundations of creation which humans, until the end of human history, would spend eternity in heaven and, conversely, which ones would spend eternity in hell.  To make all of that predetermination easier to deal with, there was nothing anyone could do to change her or his eternal accommodations.  If you were one of the so-called elect, you were going to heaven no matter how hellishly you might live, and if you were one of the damned, you could live a morally perfect life though you’d still find yourself burning in hell someday.  (A disclaimer here before I continue.  I do not believe an unconditionally loving God could have envisioned, much less created, any kind of place–with excess fireplaces or not–for unceasing, eternal punishment.  I’m good with the notion of heaven as a place where those who choose it may enjoy what I like to call “God’s more intimate embrace.”)
The early Silversiders rejected the Calvinistic attitudes of First Baptist Church of Wilmington, which led them to reject missions and Christian education.  Their reasoning for such rejection was squarely theological; if God had already planned everything for everyone, why bother with missions or education?  People gathered for worship to be obedient to God, not to make any decisions about God or the Jesus whose teachings revealed God.  Our spiritual forebears were not Calvinist and believed that missions were important for spreading the good news of God’s love for all people and that Christian education was important to teach children as well as adult seekers the same truths hoping that they would embrace the powerful reality of God’s unconditional love for them.
The founders of Silverside Church believed in personal choice in matters of theology and spirituality, but they were in the minority.  Going back 176 years in this country, more churches and denominational groups warmed up to Calvinism than to free choice in the matter of responding to the God of unconditional love.  What I’m saying to you this morning, my dear friends, is that from the get go, Silversiders have been upsetting apple carts.  They would not be bound by the status quo whether political or social.
Did you realize how strongly pro-slavery the First State really was?  President Lincoln said that except for our pastor, James Stokes Dickerson, Delaware ultimately would have fought with the South to preserve the institution of slavery.  But for our pastor, Raymond Baker, who knows when the blatant disregard for the poor would have been challenged leading to a movement for Wilmington to provide decent housing options for its poor?
For a pitifully, painfully long time, women were second-class citizens in most mainstream churches in the United States.  Women who felt called to preach were told that God didn’t call women to such ministries and that they should consider becoming directors of Christian education or missionaries; or if neither of those suited to find an effective psychiatrist.  That anti-female attitude filtered down to the work of church members, the non-clergy types, and, for the most part, the anti-women attitude kept women from serving as deacons as well as being appointed to church councils, presbyteries, and vestries.  Women could not teach men in Sunday School classes; they were only permitted to teach children and other women.  Silversiders challenged another status quo; in the 1920’s our church was affiliated with the Northern Baptists.  It just so happens that Northern Baptists were the first mainstream denominational group to elect a woman as its paid, professional executive.  Her name was Helen Barrett Montgomery, and she served with distinction despite the constant criticism thrown her way by the anti-women religious groups, which dominated the religious landscape in our country in those days.
Though Silverside has not yet had a woman as one of its pastors–not for reasons of debasing women as daughters of Eve–women have served as deacons and members of Council for years and years; many Council Chairs have been women, and I don’t know where the Board of Deacons would be without its present women members and the women who came before them.  These kinds of strides are not made, regardless of their theological, social, and moral correctness, without the strength and determination of people willing to challenge the status quo.
I’m so glad and so proud to be pastor of a church not controlled by the antigay and anti-lesbian status quo.  Members and friends who choose to be open about their homosexual orientation may freely do so here, but that would not be the case had members long ago failed to challenge that status quo.

 

 

II.
I want to make sure I’m clear on this point as I continue my sermon series on “Pathways to Personal Fulfillment.”  It’s nice to be beneficiaries of positive changes brought about by someone else’s challenge to a status quo.  We enjoy religious freedom, in part, in our country because some Brits told the powerful Church of England that its way wasn’t the only way.  I don’t know how we’d ever find a way to express the gratitude due those who envisioned freedom of religion and made it real, along with those who fought since its inception to keep it real.
Even so, fulfillment for us individually means that we ourselves or we in groups with whom we affiliate must do our own challenging of an unjust status quo.  It is not simply the responsibility of those who want to be bothered by such things; it is the responsibility of everyone who wants a better world.  Martha marched against racism in the King years.  June tirelessly fights for world peace day by day.  Gordon has given much of his ministry challenging a status quo that says addicts are throwaways.  Walt, other than serving as a distinguished judge himself, became known long ago as someone who challenged the widely held folk belief that lawyers and judges are above the law, and he functionally became the go-to-guy for advice and direction on matters of sticky judicial ethics.
If I want to be a fulfilled person, there will come a day, without a doubt there will come a day, when I have to find the courage to challenge the status quo.  Perhaps I’ll have options, some more comfortable to me than others; perhaps not. Some injustices have to be confronted publicly and head-on.
Baseball Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield, has spoken out against racism in early sports history in the United States.  He said, “Hank Aaron, man, you challenged the status quo and the records of the game. Monumental feats in an era where people didn’t like that.”
The caste system in India was frequently challenged before India’s constitution was amended to forbid the existence in 1950 of the lowest of the castes, the Untouchables.  Since then, some Untouchables have arisen to high political and judicial office.  My Indian students tell me that in places, hints of the aspects of the caste system remain.
While the caste system was still fully in place, its defenders remembered ancient myths used to endorse division of all citizens into a hierarchy of importance.  One of those myths appearing in the Rigveda tells of a giant named Purusha from whose head brahmins, the highest of all castes, were created.  Nobles and warriors were created from Purusha’s arms; their caste was immediately under the brahmins.  Moving on down the giant, farmers and merchants were created from his stomach, and servants from Purusha’s feet, “an example of how mythology preserves the values of a society by rooting present practice in the ancient past, but also it can be seen as a means of maintaining the status quo to the benefit of those in power [today].”
Can I live with myself if during this critical hour I fail to stand up and say that quality health care is not the sole possession of people or employers who can afford to pay its outlandish rates?  Can I sleep at night in a political era where a few false political promises have been replaced by candidates who tell nothing but lies to get themselves elected?  Then, we criticize elected officials for lacking integrity!  We endorsed and applauded their lies because we wanted them in office.  So, we get what we pay for–through taxes and special interest bribes.
Another ploy from politicians is that they understand and are concerned about the plight of their constituents.  Some really are, some few really are.  British journalist, Anthony Holden, writing in mid-twentieth century captured the pattern perfectly:

They tend to be civil servants, often diplomats drawn from the Foreign Office, who may be very pleasant, intelligent people, but once they get inside the Palace they’re riveted to the status quo and they lose track of public opinion in the real world.

Wall Street is currently “occupied” by protesters who have gone there to say that the abuse and misuse of our money has to stop; somehow the White House and Mr. Geithner haven’t been able to communicate that with clarity and force.  Some of the protesters who are doing no worse than yelling to be heard are being roughhoused by some of the New York police.  The near absence of news coverage about this challenge, whether you agree with their methods or not, is eerie.  Everything else gets reported down to how many cigarettes President Obama has smoked since he became President.
The Atlantic Wire ran a story on this past Wednesday with the title, “Media Non-Coverage of Occupy Wall Street Gets Lots of Media Coverage.”  Coverage picked up after the story ran, but not much.  Originally, the only pictures being shared were taken by amateurs.  Pictures, not such flattering ones for the police, were being taken and leaked by amateurs, such as the picture of the two women holding not so much as a protest sign being maced by two burly NYPD officers.
Dr. Laurence J. Peter has said, “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”
Indeed it does.
Have you heard about the Marines who headed up to New York this weekend to make sure these peaceful protesters are protected from police carrying out orders from whom?  We don’t know.  Well, somebody knows.  Plenty of others have hunches.  The orders are coming from powerful enough sources to get the police to act illegally as they did when they jailed my older son and about 199 other college students for protesting.  An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union represented these kids and filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department; the then-college kids won.
Best I can tell, a Marine named Ward Reilly organized this Marines on Wall Street movement, which was to have begun at 10:00 last night.  This is what Reilly wrote on his Facebook page:

The Marines are coming to Wall St…(to PROTECT the protestors).  I’m heading up there tonight in my dress blues. So far, 15 of my fellow marine buddies are meeting me there, also in uniform. I want to send the following message to Wall Street and Congress:   I didn’t fight for Wall Street; I fought for America. Now it’s Congress’ turn. My true hope, though, is that we Veterans can act as first line of defense between the police and the protester. If they want to get to some protesters so they can mace them, they will have to get through the Marine Corps first. Let’s see a cop mace a bunch of decorated war Vets. We all took an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of this country. That’s what we will be doing. Hope to see you there!!

III.
It’s a mistake to think that Jesus was despised by hoards of his fellow Jews who began to hate him when what he taught made them uncomfortable and followed through on their hatred of him before Pontius Pilate demanding that Roman Governor Pilate pronounce the death penalty and order Jesus crucified.  I was saying that long before a real New Testament scholar, Dr. John Dominic Crossan, said it; and not too many people have listened to him either on that point.  Hollywood, and most recently the brilliant theologian and filmmaker, Mel Gibson, has won out on this point.
The truth is that some fellow Jews were confused because Jesus’ teachings didn’t match up so well with what they’d always been taught, but they didn’t hate Jesus for presenting an alternative perspective.  Those who did hate Jesus were some of the Jewish religious leaders whose bread and butter were based on staying with the traditional interpretations of the ancient Jewish laws.  Others who hated Jesus were those at whom Jesus poked fun for thinking that keeping religious rules was the same thing as a personal connection to God, but all of those who hated Jesus and wanted Rome to do him were in the vast minority.
Most Jews who knew him, and he was unknown to many, whether they agreed with his teachings, did not want Rome to put to death another of theirs.  As Crossan points out, there’s no way hoards of Jews would have descended on Pilate demanding that he do anything–put Jesus to death, improve the roads, have better security during the high holy days at the Temple.  If any hint of that had happened, Pilate would have called on the Roman legions at his command, and every Jew in sight would have been executed.  The Jews did not boss around the representative of the mighty Roman Emperor.
A handful of those who did hate Jesus, though, did come before Pilate trying to reason with him and have him agree with them that Jews and Romans alike would be better off if Jesus were rubbed out.  The reason this small group of Jews hated Jesus enough to press the Roman enemy to kill him is because he challenged the status quo as determined by centuries of interpreting the letter of the ancient Jewish law rather than the spirit of the ancient Jewish law.  Jesus dared, because of his reform spirit and his desire for Judaism to flourish through fresh air, to pit his understanding of the ancient law against the perspective that had prevailed among Jews for hundreds of years.
Any Jew in power was irked beyond reason, and early on in Jesus’ ministry a number of these Tea Party Jews whispered about their plans to do him in, whatever it took…all because he challenged the status quo, and he really do that blatantly.
Again, he dared to toss the interpretation resting on the letter of the law and replace with his own ideas about what really mattered, the spirit of the law.  Listen to how daring he challenged that status quo:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the gehenna of fire.

Always remember with me, please, that Jesus never used the word “hell.”  Aside from that, here’s a widely known ancient law that says in essence, “If you dare to murder someone, you will be judged for your crime.”  Jesus says to those listening to this part of one of his sermons, “Well, duh.  Of course, if you murder someone, you’re going to face the legal punishment for that deed; namely death.  Now most of you aren’t murderers, and you won’t ever be so let me tell you what’s behind this law.  If you let your temper get out of control to the point that you’re ready to hurt someone physically and with words, you’ve already stepped over the line and thumbed your nose at God.  You can find yourself alienated from God even if you never kill anyone because you let your rage cause you to treat someone inappropriately, knowing that if you do become a murderer rage will be a part of your deed.”  Jesus went on to say that if someone even has such disregard for another human being as to call her or him a fool, meaning someone so intellectually lacking and therefore of such limited benefit to the world that the person might as well be dead, you’re the one who will thereby show yourself unworthy to dwell among the civilized; so you’ll be tossed into gehenna, the big garbage dump.”
See, when the Pharisees bragged that they’d kept all the laws since birth, they meant, in the case of this law, that they’d never murdered anyone.  Jesus irritated them beyond reason, when he said what he said, namely, “Oh, when you start feeling and thinking the kinds of things murderers think and feel, letting these build up to an act of murder; way back at the beginning of that process, you already crossed the line, and you’re guilty of violating the same religious law a murderer violates.”
Jesus wanted to reform Judaism.  Many of us when we realized that we were seekers and could no longer function in a community that attempted to practice what we could call conventional religion, weren’t trying to flush religion away altogether; instead, we were trying to gather with people who might join us in challenging the status quo that makes religion at best ineffective and, at worst, evil.
Marianne Williamson, who is called by her admirers a spiritual activist, says this about religion in our time:

Our religious institutions have far too often become handmaidens of the status quo, while the genuine religious experience is anything but that. True religion is by nature disruptive of what has been, giving birth to the eternally new.

Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, probably the most highly regarded Christian theologian worldwide during the twentieth century wrote,
“Faith in God’s revelation has nothing to do with an ideology that glorifies the status quo.”  In other words, if God is leading God’s people to take certain actions in the world, through the various means by which God is said to make known God’s will according to Christian theology, what could God possibly be revealing to us?  Well, there are amazingly compassionate acts being done in God’s name around the world today, some of them even through churches–though most churches at the end of the day are about self-preservation first and foremost.   Most of the time, this means an ardent defense of the status quo.  Post Vatican II, some Roman Catholic Churches around the globe refused to give up saying the Mass in Latin even though many who hear the Latin Mass never understand with great clarity what is going on.  Similarly, the original Anglican Book of Common Prayer, dated 1522, gets revised a couple of times to update the language so the modern people understand exactly what it means.  What happened, Anglican churches spring up all over whose claim to fame is their exclusive use of the original Book of Common Prayer, none of its adapted later versions.
That would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.  Vice-gripping oneself to the status quo will rarely get us to any positive or fulfilling place in terms of religion or relationship or social justice.  Challenging the status quo is always a risk, to some degree, but if we never attempt it in an area we know needs change, fulfillment will surely escape us.
Amen.