What Is The Matrix? Part I.

Let’s get something straight here.

Your church does not make you happy. Your church makes you unhappy. It makes you unhappy so often that you’re used to it. Like a bad haircut, after a while you forget that it’s not normal. But this starts from age zero. It’s a precept of your church that you do something wrong every day–you break the law–and if you somehow manage to go a whole day without doing something wrong, there are an infinite number of things you could, and therefore should, be doing right–“sins of omission”–and you aren’t doing them. You can never win. You are a SLAVE to The Law. Your church is built around the idea that YOU ARE A LOSER. Your church is making you a loser all the time. You are so used to your church making you feel bad that you think feeling bad is your normal state. You feel bad by default and you have become OK with that.

And then, once in a while, your church has a moment where it stops making you feel bad–through the invocation of grace, or the Atonement, or of repentance–and it lets up, and all the crap about you being wrong, doing the wrong things, or failing to do the right things subsides for a minute, and it leaves you alone. And not feeling bad for that moment is so disorienting, since you’re so used to feeling bad, that you think you actually feel good. You don’t really feel good, you just don’t feel bad. And it’s been so long since you didn’t feel bad that you think not feeling bad is the same as feeling good.

Your church does not care about you. It REALLY DOESN’T. It never did before, and it’s never going to. PEOPLE in your church MIGHT care about you, but I doubt it. More likely, they’re just doing what they think they’re supposed to do in order to avoid feeling worse than they already feel. They’re just as scared of not being good enough as you–maybe even more. Your church only cares that you continue to support it, and it does not, in reality, support you at all. It never has. It never will. It’s a one-way relationship. It is not in the design of churches to support the people in them. The rare moments in which a church supports an individual exist solely to justify and to excuse the inherent nature of the church, which it displays plainly the rest of the time.

Judaism managed to exist without the concept of grace for thousands of years.

I postulate that the appearance of Jesus Christ was a social and mathematical inevitability given the way things were going: Grace and mercy became necessary as justifications for the continued oppression of the people by The Law. Since we, as a species, started to believe that we are all sovereign, Christian churches have become more “liberal”. People won’t put up with a church that disrespects their sovereignty. It’s taking more and more grace, mercy, and love and the like, for a church to successfully justify its mistreatment of its people. For example, we see a racist church, and we decide we’re not okay with that. Alright then, *POOF* a new church is formed which isn’t racist–this is only done to shut the people up, to get them back into the pews and paying their tithing so the church can get back to the business of making you feel bad.

I propose that rather than having another More, Better or Different church, that it’s time to undo the entire underlying context of church–to undo what it means for a church to be a church–and create something that actually serves us. I think that’s worth doing. Do you?

10 thoughts on “What Is The Matrix? Part I.

  1. Without getting too technical (Judaism had the concept of grace by a different name before it had a law by any name), you've summed up nicely what an institution of natural men is bound to look like, be it a church, a government, a bank….

    Left to our own certitudes, we as individuals, and even more so as institutions, tend to viciously destroy rather than honestly, authentically love. Some people get it. Paul got it. (I didn't use to think so, but he really did.) Francisco D'Asisi got it. Elijah got it.

    Alan Astin, who worked at my local post office before he died got it. I made up excuses to visit the post office just because he would make my day lighter. (It takes an incredible human being to make waiting in line at the post office something to look forward to!)

    But even if individuals get it, institutions rarely do. Just as individuals have to really confront every aspect of their lives to route out counter-productive default behaviors and ways of being, and learn how to love and serve without lording and controlling, institutions must. But it's harder to pin down.

    The inauthenticity train is on the tracks, and not very many who set it in motion are willing to take responsibility. By the time the organisation is seeking understanding of it's behavior and culture, many of the instigators are gone and venerated, making it hard to turn backs on what they "stood" for.

    To quote a Max Skousen commentary on Werner Erhard's 1976 talk "The Transformation of EST":

    "Institutions are usually created to serve us and, yet, end up, inevitably, being strictly served. They can be overwhelmingly demanding. Institutions function on chain of command, which is the power to reward and punish. As we all know, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Practically all institutions in the history of the world have developed unrighteous dominion because they need, in order to succeed, to require absolute agreement, i.e., if you don't agree, then get out! This stifles initiative and spontaneity. Every institution, whether it is church, school, commerce or government, has been plagued by their power to force agreement…
    "Werner's talk was a real eye opener to me as he explained how he was trying to bring his own organization of est into the level of transformation, for it too had become evil, meaning that it had given up its purpose to serve in order to survive and prosper in the world by compulsion."

    This is the natural condition of institution comprised of natural men.

    However, when you see a glimmer of something else happen, trust that it is God working miracles through this rough clay. And I've seen it in many unexpected places. And not as much in some really expected places. But when He needs to, He certainly knows how to.

    The churches we have now are perfect for the natural men we now are. You will not transform the church without first transforming the church-goer. That means more people who "get it" = more institutions of all sorts that got it.

    The only way to transcend this is through God himself, and letting His pure love into our hearts. The only way to do that is to give up our vanities and unbelief. To the meek and faithful He has promised knowledge of all His mysteries. "Faithful" in this instance means "filled with faith", not "really good at knowing and doing the law."

    My two bits (and a half). Hope it wasn't a waste of your time to read.

  2. Kenton Jr says:

    I encourage everyone to read a little literature on organizational behavior. People who study this stuff – public administration theorists and practicioners – always identify the controlling and limiting effects of organizations. Their suggestions to make institutions better and more functional is for them to become increasingly "flat" or networked, instead of pyramid styled like the military, in order to place more autonomy in the hands of frontline workers like the social worker who works with kids directly.

    there is a problem with this idea. As more discretion or autonomy of thought and action is placed in the hands of frontline workers, then corruption in the form of doing what an individual wants and not what the institution wants or represents increases. This outcome is viewed as good or bad depending on the likeability of the result: A jail officer who lets go of a non-violent prisoner who ends up raping and murdering someone will cause the jail to increase their rules and control officers. A social worker who takes a child from a family only after the family was in the news due to domestic violence will cause that social agency to more aggressively require their workers to take children away from "bad" families. Regardless of the error or outcome, would you want an agency – public or private – who's frontline employees did whatever they wanted, or created embarrassing circumstances like the hypothetical ones above?

    The problem with rules and institutions does not lie with the rule or the institution themselves, but within the conflict between a reality that often challenges rules with circumstances that could not, or just were not anticipated. This is why Jefferson suggested a new constitution be written every twenty years to negotiate the new circumstances of the times. Otherwise one must stretch the old rules to fit with realities no one could possibly have anticipated at the founding of the country.

    This is why all new churches, state agencies, corporations, no matter what their stated purpose is, no matter how hip or "with it" their membership is, they all eventually resemble the old institutions they claim to change or to come out of. Reality – financial, social, moral, individual conflicts – will always challenge an organizations' rules and norms to the point that the organization must change or deny reality.

    To put it another way, the problem therefore, is not the church, or even with the church goer, but with the conflict between established rules or norms and changing contemporary reality.

  3. Nicely written. Lots of good stuff there. Except…

    Human being is a constant. It hasn't changed in 10,000 years of human history. Technology ebbs and flows constantly, but is bent to serve the same human wants and needs, the same vanities and sacrifices.

    Homosexuality isn't a "20th century" circumstance. It's always been around. The reality of it doesn't change in time. Just the visibility. It's but one example.

    I submit that the new churches, state agencies, corporations, etc eventually resemble the old institutions precisely because the humans at the root of it (those in it as well as those served by it) haven't changed.

    Until the people comprising the institutions learn to live from acceptance and abundance and cease living from intolerance, fear and scarcity, the institutions will continue to bend that way. The issue is the church-goer, the government worker, the voter, the account holder.

    Give me a different kind of man, I'll give you a different kind of organisation.

    Meanwhile, we get exactly the sort of government, social and religious organisations that we deserve.

  4. Kenton Jr says:

    The discovery of mirror neurons – which activate when a person / primate does something and when the person / primate sees another doing the same thing – tells us (albeit in limited ways currently) that we learn to do by both doing and seeing others do the same. Literally, monkey do what monkey does and what monkey see other monkey do.

    Therefore, if the problem of institutions is the person, then that person can only change when the person takes action to change and sees others imitating that change. Donovan, who's actions do you propose we imitate or learn from to become a different kind of man?

    Also, not only have humans been the same for many years, but so have their institutions, which uniformly followed a tribal, Mafia type, pyramid structure. It is only in recent years due to concepts derived from computers that the very idea of "flat" or networked institutions came into being. So, Donovan, what new institutional structures should the different kind of man use?

    I do not ask in jest or criticism. I sincerely want to know, because I don't think any of these things are remotely the problem. Reality will challenge whatever method of self-improvement or self-organization humans propose. Those challenges can not be anticipated therefore there will always be a need to re-asses and possibly change one's self-improvement or a society's self-organization. One must be willing to examine one's life and adjust accordingly, and it is this alone that we have any real control over. Until humans develop pre-cognition and know the end from the beginning, whatever the issue, we can not possibly know what the right thing to do or be is as individuals or institutions.

    It is for this reason that most of us, including me, maintain the various narrative fictions (and often poorly researched justifications for them) in our heads. We need to get through the day, to come up with an answer, to navigate the minefield of emotions that reality throws at us everyday.

    what else is there?

  5. naptastic says:

    I was just reading this post to my friend in the lobby of the hotel where we're staying and looked up to see three nuns checking out of their room. No joke.

    @Donovan: "…when you see a glimmer of something else happen, trust that it is God working miracles through this rough clay…" That is your interpretation of a situation. It is not the truth. And I decline to take it on.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. "God" keeps restoring the church, and "we" keep corrupting it. Is God insane? Or just maybe, is it "we" who are "restoring" the church in the first place, a little more "liberal" every time? Just maybe, are we addicted to the drama?

    I'm not interested in another restoration; we've already tried that and it yielded the same result. I want to start something that doesn't involve God–something that takes 100% responsibility over here where I can do something with it. No "waiting" for the someday, maybe kinds of possibility the Church gives us to hope for. Jesus is going to fix it all someday. What kind of hope is that?

    Maybe it will work and maybe it won't. I don't know. If you want to say it won't work, go ahead. When you get done, go make yourself some popcorn so you can come back and watch.

  6. I sincerely wish you good luck, but won't ever say no to popcorn…

    My first response was too long. I'll do it two parts:

    Kenton: Again, we find ourselves back in the conversation of what it is to be natural men. That the mirror cell is this or that is the natural wiring and programatic function. AND THAT'S INSUFFICIENT.

    The entire point of being here on this wet rock is to transcend what it is to be naturally human, and it can only be done as a gift of God to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit. Only as we recognize that we are insufficient and can't work it out on our own can we approach Him in the ways that are effective and receive that transcendant gift of grace which fills us with light and enables us to go beyond the basic wiring.

    Honestly, the experience that many have at Landmark Forum on the Sunday night is akin to this, when they get still to the soul and nothing is the space, the universe (God) speaks to them in a way many have never felt/heard before. Transformation happens. And when it does, it is a very profound experience.

    Not everyone recognizes God's hand in this. But when we do, it brings even greater power to it.

    Change the organizational structures, rearrange the command paradigm, keep playing with more, better, different ways of running the institutions, and find that all you do is create more, better, different ways for the humans in them to keep on doing the same self-defeating things. This isn't about self-improvement. It isn't about self-organization. It is about transformation.

    Yes, our institutions need to be transformed. But only transformed individuals can achieve it. And they can't get that transformation by watching others be transformed. The mirror cell is useless here. This is an individual process, unique to each individual, and specific to various needs. Nobody else can show you how, they can only point in the direction to look. Nobody else can do it for you, you must do it for yourself.

    Natural man (complete with his wiring and normal brain function) will fail. He is all about scarcity and fear, dominance and pride, being right, looking good.

    But we have transcendant choices. We don't have to be about scarcity in this abundance. We don't have to be about fear in awakening to the full puissance and power of that in which we have faith. We can surrender and be meek. We can allow ourselves to be wrong and others to be right. We can really be about being at peace and nothing, quite aside from how we look.

  7. Part two:

    David: er, Naptastic: Vanities and unbelief, son. The world could not fulfill its God-given mission without being exactly the way it is and exactly the way it isn't. God is not insane. He gives to some eyes to see and ears to hear. I pray you may be one. But His grace is sufficient, and when we cast the burden on Him, it opens up possibilities beyond anything that is obvious in the more secular view of the world. It has been my great joy to taste the fruit of the tree that the mainstream in the church and on earth mock. I am really clear that our arms are weak, our logic and reasoning inadequate, our wisdom folly.

    The only way you can produce something that doesn't involve God is to have someone who isn't related to him do it in a universe not created by him. Good luck with that! We are all His children. We are in His creation. We have infinity of possibility available to use because He decreed it. How can we do anything that doesn't involve Him? "Apart from God, nothing happens."

    Having said that, I am completely aligned with The Church living in the someday, maybe world view. The Church clings to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, hoping we will all get it right enough to someday be perfect and enter His rest. But the Law, and the perfecting of knowledge of what is Good and what is Evil never saved anyone.

    God has offered us the Tree of Life. It's fruit is the brightest and sweetest I have ever tasted. But I've only tasted it when I've been humbled and meek. It isn't concerned with the argument over good vs. evil. It isn't interested in knowledge or understanding. It is tied to awareness and acceptance on a very high level. It is filled with spirit and love. In it we can be perfect here and now – not because we are without flaws (in the way the other tree demands), but because we can acknowledge our humanity without making it mean anything (other than that we are human). Entering this rest of the Lord is a now happening, not an ephemeral someday maybe.

    I invite you to read that material I gave you. I mean really READ it. Then, if it gives you nothing new to work with, no new accesses to things you've never considered or known (it will you know), proceed, and we'll see what happens.

    I can tell you that it has transformed me anew in fascinating new ways. And I'm not even half way through it all yet!

    As always, I may be completely wrong about any or all of this. I hope it hasn't been a waste of your time to read it.

  8. Oh, David: be sure to say hi to Rich and the nuns for me!

  9. naptastic says:

    Consider for a moment that you're the one who's not getting it. Consider that you're resisting the coaching. Consider that maybe you're the person who believes something that isn't so.

    Remember, I have been a believer. I know that perspective. I know the power that lives over there. You do not know the power that lives over here and I am trying to show you.

    Would you like to know where the power lives? Acknowledge that you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground. You don't really know God. The experiences you had could just as well have been hallucinations as revelations. There is NOTHING YOU CAN DO to demonstrate that your experiences prove anything, or that they even happened! It's just something that comes out of your language, which is nothing more than the activity of neurons between your ears. The experiences you had do not mean there is a God: THEY DO NOT MEAN ANYTHING!!!

    Transformation does not happen in a context where integrity and morality are collapsed and you have had them totally collapsed throughout this thread. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS ON IT. I AM THE ONE WHO IS CALLING YOU OUT. (The definition of being "on it" is that you have that your interpretation is "the truth." The definition of "getting off it" is "giving up that your interpretation is the truth.")

    Now get off it.

  10. One way to view it.

    I've had the experience of being on both sides of this conversation. I recognize the power (as you call it) of where you are at presently. (I experienced it more as a heady freedom.) So what?

    Integrity per se wasn't anywhere in the context of my last, nor morality. If you read them there, it is something you added. Try reading it again the way I said it. Unless there is no chance at all that I spoke anything useful.

    I've mentioned it before elsewhere. I loath to mention it again, because I have to be on it to say this: When you relate to others as being on it, you are also on it. It's a charge you level easily, and inauthentically.

    I always summed up with an acknowledgement of possibly being wrong. You don't need my permission to agree or disagree, to be aligned or unaligned. I like to think that I remain connected throughout. I'm likely wrong. I won't make you wrong either way, no matter how much alignment exists between us.

    I will observe that one of us expresses/experiences frustration and anger around this topic. The other is really at peace. Despite not saying it as well as he'd like, or as powerfully, or any other story you could add. I sit where I sit, glad to be in conversation of any sort with you, and not requiring anything of you except that you be yourself.

    Thank you for being you!

    Now I'll get off it.

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