Scary discipleship

Apr 16th, 2007 | By | Category: Ministry

Reading Ann Morrisy’s Journeying Out has become a slow process; each page has something that needs to be pondered. Here is what she says on what being a Christian actually means.

“We have been seduced into believing that we can organize our lives around the pursuit of pleasure and leisure. We are the first generation in human history where this fantasy dominates to the extent that we assume such easy living is the norm. Thus we fail to recognize that for 99 per cent of human history, and for two-thirds of the world’s population, struggle is an essential motif. To eschew plenty and pleasure and actively pursue grief and hardship is clearly perverse. We cannot undo our context as citizens of wealthy, Western nations. However, those of us who do live comfortable lives, can, through our capacity for empathy, engage in struggle by proxy. This is what discipleship is all about.

The very notion of discipleship implies struggle; the notion that the world is in travail as it reaches for the fulfilment that God has promised also implies struggle. Furthermore, biolo­gists tell us that for every species survival through the earthly evolutionary journey requires struggle. The avoidance of struggle has profound repercussions for our spirituality and theological understanding, for the hope of the Kingdom of God on this earth and for the very survival of the species Homo sapiens.

Given this centrality of struggle, our churches have a pastoral responsibility to provide structures that enable people to engage in struggle, or to use another code, to express the venturesome love that Karl Rahner suggests is at the heart of discipleship. Some minimal structure that enables active participation is essential if discipleship of the venturesome­ love kind is to be tangible and move beyond pious words and naïve optimism.

Morrisy seems to suggest that the way to build a stronger church is not to be accommodating to contemporary trends and fashions, but to make demands upon people, to make it clear that we are about grim realities and there will be no gentle Jesus meek and mild and no pleasant platitudes. I wonder what the reaction would be in most Church of Ireland parishes; perhaps we should try throwing a bucket of cold water into someone’s face to see what sort of reaction we might get.

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