Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Prisoner of God

Prisoner of God

Some weeks ago, while browsing in our local library I noticed a book with the intriguing title “A Prisoner of God”. This proved to be a fascinating story with not a few things to learn about institutional religion and its ultimate nature.

The story is that of a brilliant young French biochemist, who gave up a highly promising career in that field to enter a monastery of the Benedictine order. His purpose was to find God and he was told that if he obeyed all the rules and observed all the rituals diligently he would finally find God.

In his own words, “The impressive monastic tradition tried and tested for centuries, could only lead to God. ‘Do all this,’ the rule said and you will arrive there…. In fact what I arrived at was mainly ‘doing all this’. But God where was He then?” And “I refused to see all the pretence that there was in our lives. A comfortable poverty, an anaemic chastity, a bulldozer of a prayer routine. To admit it, or just consider it would have been to call everything into question. ‘You will arrive.” I based my life on that promise in the Rule. … But what of God?”

He had discovered that relationship with God is not a matter of religious routines, obedience to human superiors and devoted performance. In fact these were the enemies of true intimacy with Father.

Later, when he was in Rome for further study shortly after Vatican 2, he encountered charismatic priests and had some experience the so called “Basic communities’ which were in many respects like House churches. However, he relates how, although they started in a way that was refreshing and alive a “clericalism of the laity” soon developed. Here is another quotation, “There was no escaping clericalism, which was now the clericalism of the laity…. There is only one truth and that is ours. If you don’t share it totally there are only two possibilities; either you are a bit stupid and we’ll enlighten you for your good or else you reject our line of thought and you become our enemy.”

The same danger exists in current House Church movements and even in what is supposed to be free from all clericalism, Organic Church. It is a constant that man will always seek to take control. We have the greatest difficulty in believing that God is able to organize His own work!! We do love to instituionalise!

Michel Benoit’s story continues until he was finally and quite brutally expelled from the vocation he had chosen at such cost. In the concluding part of the book he draws some conclusions. Here are a couple of observations he makes; “Jesus did not found a church (meaning an institution) and Christianity as it developed was a betrayal of Him.” (The parenthesis mine). Also, “How many years it took me to realize that the churches, all churches are power machines, that their unvoiced ambition is to win power and then cling to it at all costs.” And finally, “The Church brought me Christ, but I had to leave her in order to find the prophet of Nazareth.”

No doubt this man’s experience was in the most rigid of religious forms and the cruelty of his ultimate rejection has coloured his views, but I felt that there were salutary lessons in his story to which we do well to give heed.

For me this book was a real page-turner, well written, transparently sincere and full of many fascinating insights. The only regretful thing was that he seemed still short of a full and satisfying discovery of Father’s heart of love.


Blogger Kilauea Poetry said...

Terrific informative engaging post! My best to you-

6 March 2010 at 8:53 am  
Blogger Desert Pilgrim said...

Great post, and thank you for this wonderful blog, I am enjoying browsing through the posts.

9 June 2010 at 2:25 am  

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