Is your church a crack house? My buddy Pete argues via video that the church is the place many go looking for their fix. Like a crack house the same people go week after week going to feel good for a bit only to go back again. We aren’t going to born our brokenness and move beyond our present situation to something more beautiful or new – we just repeat and repeat the exercise of a momentary divine escape. While I can think of situations the crack house image may apply, I like the ambiguity Karl Marx had about religion and its institutions.
Marx famously stated that “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” The ‘sigh-heart-soul’ part of this most infamous quote shouldn’t be skipped over too fast. It may even resonate with the singer-song-writer or the stand-up comedian Pete references.
Roland Boer, my favorite Communist Calvinist (it’s a small and elect list), clarified Marx’s famous statement about religion being ‘the opium of the people’. He pointed out that “the image is quite ambivalent, for opium was perceived as both a common medicine and source of poetic inspiration, and, especially towards the end of the nineteenth century, as a social curse. It was both vital economically for the British Empire and yet it led to some of the worst elements of colonialism. Marx himself used opium as a medicine for his many ailment.” (you can listen to the interview at the 25 min. mark)
Pete may have his crack and Marx his opium but I will stick with beer. The church is like a brewery. It can make some of the most tasty beverages you’ve had to pair with the perfect meal OR it can market chilled piss during the super bowl with iPads and breast implants so you feel cool sippin’ on trash.
Got any other metaphors for the church, religion and the predicament of institutions?