Monday, June 1, 2009
Is it inevitable that our institutions will betray us?
Monday, June 1, 2009
Is it inevitable that our institutions will betray us? Yes. Experience shows that.
In The Magdalen Martyrs, Jack Taylor is surrounded by decaying institutions. They have betrayed the faithful in them. The way you move up in the guards is to become a fat, golf-playing, bullying cover-up. For the church, I hardly have to mention what happened with The Magdalens or in situations like the one cited in the story above.
I myself drifted away from a church that held to its ancient anti-Judaism with the heresy, "You have to believe in Jesus to be saved." Church leaders might have disclaimed the idea, but we seldom challenged the vast number of lay people who still held to it.
For Jack, even the old-Ireland is dying. The pubs are closing. The neighborhoods are being carpeted with modern high rises.
Why the betrayal?
To have some understanding I'd probably have to go back and reread a book I've read several times. It is the same book Jack cites, Scott Peck's People of the Lie. Jack gives this quote:
"It is characteristic of those who are evil to judge others as evil. Unable to acknowledge their own imperfection, they must explain away their flaws by blaming others. And if necessary, they will even destroy others in the name of righteousness."
Those words are being played out again and again in today's world.
So should we abandon our institutions altogether? Jack doesn't hesitate to use the guard for information or if he needs to frame someone. He still feels the need to light candles in the church. And the truth is, some beautiful things come out of institutions.
Just down the street from me lives the retired United Methodist minister who created the PET Project. He, his little invention, and the way he has used it to create mobility for legless people in the most deprived parts of the world came out of the church. His carts are given without proselytizing to whoever needs them.
So how should we respond to the sure and certain knowledge that our institutions will always betray us (whether they are governments, religious institutions, or the local civic club)? I like Jack Taylor's way. Don't buy into any institution. Hold each institution at arm's length. Be skeptical. Relate to institutions as you would with people, on a case by case basis, and if they betray you, turn away.