Holy Fools

Rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way, it will still be muck. In the time I am brooding, I could be stringing pearls for the delight of heaven.—Hasidic wisdom

After working with groups and institutions in many cultures for 25 years, I believe I can make this observation with some force: People can be creative and alive, and even endure great hardship, when a society's superstructure and substructure are secure. If the big picture and the underpinnings are in question, no imagination or courage exist on the daily level. All is reaction, survival, and perpetual changing of the guard. The enemy is everywhere because the anxiety is everywhere.

If we perceive our problem today as one of antiquated structures, patriarchal control, centuries of scandal, single-issue obsessions, and moralisms instead of humility before transcendence, then one can probably create a good rationale for leaving the church institutions. In fact, with the information I have acquired, I might even hurry you out the door.

But I don't think this is a correct diagnosis of the sickness we are experiencing. It goes far deeper, I'm afraid, than current perpetrator-victim typologies. I am convinced that we are up against the real disintegration of the Western psyche. To compensate for the loss of control and meaning, we find a rigidity of response on both sides of most questions and issues.

The Greeks would have called it the hubris of the heroic response; the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung referred to it as "inflation." In 1962, he gave the West 50 years before its inner structures collapsed. He felt that we were abandoning the images and beliefs that hold our lives together in coherence and health, or if we were not fully abandoning them, they had little real transformative effect on 20th-century Jews and Christians:

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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