Dr. King had plenty to say about religion’s failures—including a hint at why the young abandon it.
The judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
King posed this question:
Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world.
But he was thankful for those who did march with them and paid a price for it including going to jail.
Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. . . . Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times.
Sometimes to be church you have to leave church or take on the acrimony of church leaders. This “witness” can provide the “spiritual salt” that puts meaning into Gospel values. King speaks of searching for an “inner spiritual church, the church within the church,” that will carry authentic hope into the world.
He admired the early church which, though
...small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” But things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent — and often even vocal — sanction of things as they are.
King wept over the fear he saw in churches.
In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church….Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise?…Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists….
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 327f., 326.
See also Matthew Fox, Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action
See also Matthew Fox and Adam Bucko, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Taking a stand: BLACK LIVES MATTER banner over entrance to Greater New Hope Baptist Church, Washington DC, 18 September 2020 Photo by Elvert Barnes Photography. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Do we weep over the fear that churches often manifest? Does King’s criticism of organized religion over 55 years ago help explain why so many young people are abandoning the churches in our time?
Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations
As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us in wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice. This revolutionary book does just that. Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations. Study and practice these teachings. Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth.
Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action
By Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jen Listug
In the midst of global fire, earthquake and flood – as species are going extinct every day and national and global economies totter – the planet doesn’t need another church or religion. What it needs is a new Order, grounded in the Wisdom traditions of both East and West, including science and indigenous. An Order of the Sacred Earth united in one sacred vow: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of the Earth that I can be.”
Co-authored by Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, and Jennifer Berit Listug, with a forward by David Korten, this collection of essays by 21 spiritual visionaries including Brian Swimme, Mirabai Starr, Theodore Richards, and Kristal Parks marks the founding of the diverse and inclusive Order of the Sacred Earth, a community now evolving around the world.
“The Order of the Sacred Earth not only calls us home to our true nature as Earth, but also offers us invaluable guidance and company on the way.” ~~ Joanna Macy, environmental activist and author of Active Hope.
Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation
Authors Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox encourage us to use our talents in service of compassion and justice and to move beyond our broken systems–economic, political, educational, and religious–discovering a spirituality that not only helps us to get along, but also encourages us to reevaluate our traditions, transforming them and in the process building a more sacred and just world. Incorporating the words of young activist leaders culled from interviews and surveys, the book provides a framework that is deliberately interfaith and speaks to our profound yearning for a life with spiritual purpose and for a better world.
“Occupy Spirituality is a powerful, inspiring, and vital call to embodied awareness and enlightened actions.”
~~ Julia Butterfly Hill, environmental activist and author of The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods