John happens upon Jake while he is fishing on the shore of Nellie Lake, eight thousand feet up in the Sierra Mountains and a five-mile hike from the nearest road. Here’s a snippet of their conversation:
“If I remember right, doesn’t your marquee out front promise, WHERE LOVE IS A WAY OF LIFE!”
It took me a moment to even remember what he was talking about. “It’s been up there so long I don’t think anyone even pays attention to it anymore.”
“Obviously.” John let out a chuckle.
“You find it funny?” I snapped, not seeing the humor in any of this.
“I’d say more ironic than funny, but that’s the problem with institutions, isn’t it? The institution provides something more important than simply loving each other in the same way we’ve been loved. Once you build an institution together, you have to protect it and its assets to be good stewards. It confuses everything. Even love gets redefined as that which protects the institution and unloving as that which does not. It will turn some of the nicest people in the world into raging maniacs and never stop to think that all the name-calling and accusations are the opposite of love.”
“It’s love with a hook. If you do what we want, we reward you. If not, we punish you. It doesn’t turn out to be about love at all. We give our affection only to those who serve our interests and withhold it from those who do not.”
“What a mess!”
“Do you see how painful it is? That’s why institutions can only reflect God’s love as long as those in it agree on what they’re doing. Every difference of opinion becomes a contest for power.”
That’s from Chapter 5 of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore and will be the subject of the next gathering of The Jake Colsen Book Club. We will meet this Saturday, August 20, at 1:00 pm PDT. It will stream live on my Wayne Jacobsen Author page on Facebook, but if you want to be in the Zoom room and part of the discussion, email me so I can send you the link. We’ll explore how religious-thinking people often put demands and expectations on their understanding of God’s love, which makes it something other than the love God has for us.
How do we live authentic lives in a world that often punishes honesty and vulnerability?