Now that I’ve finished my Wikiklesia chapter on decentrailzed non-hierarchical structures, and have finished reading The Starfish and the Spider, I’ve been dipping into Robert Farrar Capon’s The Third Peacock: The Problem of God and Evil (o/p, available as part of a trilogy, The Romance of the Word: One Man’s Love Affair With Theology : Three Books : An Offering of Uncles/the Third Peacock/Hunting the Divine Fox). It’s fantastic good stuff, I tell you. He’s trying to begin an explanation of the problem of evil’s presence in the world, and as he begins chapter two I fall prey to the matter of connecting dots between the reading and writing I’ve just finished and that which I’m doing now. Capon has no purpose for discussing hierarchical structures, just the fact that creation is inherently messy and bloody… a point he makes while describing the food chain. Then he begins chapter two.
Take stock of what we have come up with so far: Evil is assignable to freedom; freedom has to be blamed on God. Now if we are facing facts, that means that God has dangerously odd tastes: He is inordinately fond of risk and roughhouse. Any omnipotent being who makes as much room as he does for back talk and misbehavior strikes us as slightly addled. Why, when you’re orchestrating the music of the spheres, run the awful risk of letting some fool with a foghorn into the violin section? Why set up the delicate balance of nature and then let a butcher with heavy thumbs mind the store? It just seems—well, irresponsible. If we were God, we would be more serious and respectable: no freedom, no risks; just a smooth obedient show presided over by an omnipotent bank president with a big gold watch.
So here’s me, thinking ,”Yes, of course,” and connecting those pesky dots which looked at first glance to be entirely unrelated. And maybe they are, but I’ve got them provisionally joined, at least for now.
If God is willing to take huge risks with creation and with whom he leaves the keys to the kingdom — or the butcher shop, why aren’t we? It seems to me that we’ve built hierarchical structures around ensuring that the wrong people don’t get allowed to do too much, that the heavy lifting is left up to the professionals, and that somebody in charge keeps tabs on everything, rendering permission and the loan of keys on an as-needed basis to make sure nothing gets too far out of line, and to snap it back if it does. Somebody like a bank president with a big gold watch. God seems to be far more content with chaotic expressions than we are. He empowers all of us far more than we seem willing to have each other empowered.
It seems to me that our construction of large hierarchical manifestations of “church” somehow expresses one of our fundamental problems with God… which means we’re spending a lot of effort to build something that is not patterned after the things that God likes, the things which give him greatest joy. Paul Cain used to ask, “What if you spent your whole life baking apple pies for God, and when you died and met him you found out he didn’t like apple pie?”
What do you think? Are the structures we build to express God and the gospel far more rigid and hierarchical than the chaotic creation which he himself made to express himself?