Forty-four years ago, Harvey Cox wrote, "As the true heirs of our Puritan forebears, we are taught to turn our backs on the world of fantasy - along with such accompaniments as mirth, intemperance and unseemly speculation - and to labor diligently in the world of fact. That very Puritan man, Sigmund Freud, sternly warned us to respect the 'reality principle' and not to be tricked by illusion, future or otherwise. So we have obeyed..." (Feast of Fools, p. 70)
Or we did for a while... but today, even in the land of the Puritans almost nobody goes to church anymore. "Oh, that's boring and irrelevant" many say. Others are clear that it isn't even on their radar for options. A few suggest that they "might" go to worship if it had any thing to do with grace and joy. But even young families who want to nourish the moral and ethical values of the Christian faith often find it easier to stay at home on Sunday mornings or let the kids play soccer or basketball. They might feel a little guilty but... oh well.
Some of this, it seems to me, is the consequence of our "sibling society" where many adults don't want to act like parents because the desires of their children for "more" has become the rule of the day. Others have truly had their hearts broken by a variety of clergy and institutional abuse that has destroyed trust in one way or another. A few don't know where to go with their questions and doubts any more because there is a renewed drive to "follow the leader. What's more, most churches seem to be more interested in security and conformity than wrestling with the truth.
But many - maybe most - aren't interested in the counter cultural way of Jesus because for so long it has murdered creativity.
I know that is strong language, but it rings true to me. Starting in the 1950s and bursting upon the middle class in the 1960s, we have been hell-bent on reclaiming creativity as well as imagination and fantasy in our lives. Look at the movies and books we buy, think about the video gaming industry and the possibilities of the Internet. Our souls have been aching for ways to nourish the creative spirit within for nearly 50 years - and we have jumped into this quest with verve and zeal - but nobody but the marketing departments have paid any real attention.
Most churches are terrified of creativity - and over the years what has been passed off as soul food born of the imagination is limp, inept and so saturated with pastel images that our imaginations feel strangled to death. Hell, I stayed away for as long as I could, too. Who wouldn't?
But here's the thing: adolescent rebellion gets old and our replacement of the ancient rituals that have historically nourished the soul and imagination have now become pathological. That was one of the great insights of C.G. Jung: whenever life-giving and creative rituals lose touch with the sacred, they are replaced by pathological alternatives. We don't fast any more, we diet - and burden our children with eating disorders, too. We don't celebrate the awesome, sometimes dangerous mystery of the sacred any more, we play video games or hunt out pornography or cut ourselves to know we're alive. It doesn't satisfy but it distracts long enough with a buzz so we go for it.
I can't help but believe that this hunger for creativity is where we really need to put our energy as a church. The quest to feed our imagination - and I mean in bold, demanding and vibrant ways - is ever more on my mind as I get ready for a vacation break. Like Grace Slick sang 48 years ago, let's REALLY feed our heads - but not with bullshit - but real communion with the sacred.
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