During my weekend conversation in Clovis a couple of weeks ago someone shared a thought they had recently read on a blog, though they couldn’t recall where it had come from. I have searched the web to see if I can find anything like it and have not been able to do so. If anyone knows where this came from, please let me know. I always enjoy giving credit where credit is due, but this is too good not to share now. It painted an all-too-accurate picture of the process of institutionalizing and the cost of doing so.
What he said was, people create institutions in an attempt to pass on their contributions to future generations. Therefore at the outset they are an attempt to grasp an illusion of immortality by creating a system designed to perpetuate itself. For it to do that it has to offer an air of infallibility, so that its aims and methods go unquestioned by subsequent generations. In essence, our religious institutions by projecting immortality and infallibility actually become false gods that people are asked to serve instead of teaching them how to follow the Living God.
And like any false god, the institution will occasionally needs a human sacrifice to keep up the illusion. Challenge its priorities or methods and you must be ejected immediately and discredited so everyone else will be afraid to do so. If you dare to question those who feel called by God to manage such institution, you will be considered a threat and forced from the group. How many of reading this have been that sacrifice? Even formerly close friends will ostracize you and gossip about your “rebellion” or “bitterness” to make sure you are marginalized as an example to others.
It reminded of Israel’s desire for a king and God’s warning that putting power in the hands of a king would mean that he would take the best of everything that they had for his own benefit. God knew how power corrupts the human heart and anyone with absolute power would think he should have all the best for himself. He’d said their sons to war, steal their daughters for himself, and take the best of their crops and herds. Even a man with a heart like David’s thought himself special enough to rape Urriah’s wife and then have him killed in battle when he refused to come home and sleep with her so that he would think David’s baby was his own.
Notice how this entire process can begin with the purest of motives but still end up exploiting and manipulating people in a way that is incredibly destructive. I’ve seen it happen over and over again to people and those who think they lead the institutions have no idea how much it has disfigured them. While being otherwise generous and gracious people, they become hurtful and destructive in the name of protecting what they mistakenly to be God’s gift.
Do all institutions have to end up like that? Can people find ways to cooperate together without falling victim to an institution’s need to perpetuate itself? I believe it can, but in honesty the examples of that are thin indeed. Almost all begin by a group of loving people who want to share a vibrant life in Jesus, but over time become those more concerned with protecting their turf rather than continuing to love the way Jesus loves them.
And I’ve been with so many incredible people in the last two decades who became the human sacrifices the institution needed when they recognized it had look forsaken God’s priorities for its own. Maybe that’s why Jesus told us to love each other, not to create systems we think will outlive us.