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God Is Necessary - But The Church Isn't Necessarily Necessary

I was homeless for a decent amount of time in Seattle around about 2012 (Unlike others who have been, I am not afraid of that word.). Like a lot of people who were homeless in that area, I would have breakfast at McDonald's. One morning, I somehow ended up talking about science and religion with this acquaintance I made while waiting for McD's. He told me that he was ambivalent about a lot of scripture but said bluntly, "It's a little obvious that there's something more significant in this universe than a human being." That seems obvious to me too but recognition of that comes with a great deal of humility and a recognition that your place on this earth is a bit limited in its actual significance. Many people aren't ready to do that.

It had never been my primary issue but I had mocked faith in my past. I had a friend who was totally literal about Adam and Eve and creation and as an educated person, I couldn't help but think he was living in a fantasy land. I still think people that literal are ridiculous but I have become more educated on religion and realized that literalists like that are pretty significant minority of the religious world.

My finding faith came both through hardship and a recognition of community between human beings. It grew stronger as I realized that our success depends on one another. It doesn't seem contradictory for me to spend more time worrying about the plight of the poor, wealth inequality and endless wars than what people I don't know are doing with their sex lives.

I don't think it's a coincidence that atheism, militant atheism, has played a role in some of this world's nastier ideologies of both the Left and Right - Karl Marx on the Left and people like Ayn Rand on the Right. Their rejection of God is not a rejection of an incomplete conception of the universe from 4000 or 6000 years ago as much as it is a rejection of community and society and the humility that is built in to them, a humility best grasped when understanding that one lives in a universe with rules and designs much more powerful and complex than we can comprehend. There is a significant lack of respect or even understanding of the concept of respect among modern atheists and, while it's likely their parents simply didn't teach them about respect, they also seem to have rejected religion because of its mandates of behavioral codes of which respect is a big one.

Nevertheless, that doesn't make me a resounding fan of religious institutions. I read a good amount of Gustavo Gutierrez's Power of the Poor in History and there was a good passage in there about how Gutierrez had considered going through a medium with his theology less conservative than the Catholic Church. That liberation theology survived the Catholic Church enough for one of its adherents to now be Pope is pretty incredible. Pope John Paul rejected it, as did Ratzinger, and, just like the original Christians in the 200 years after Christ's crufiction, adherents of liberation theology faced torture, persecution and even assassination.

The Catholic Church is not mandatory for Christian belief. There is a sort of Orwellian nature to the very existence of a Roman Catholic Church at all. It came to be by the Roman Empire, as it gradually collapsed, adopting the symbolism and ideas of the very faith it had been trying to stamp out.

Like the old Roman Empire's adoption of Christianity, the election of Pope Francis or the rise of various Catholic ideologies from the developing world reflects an effort to repair a sinking ship. People of various ages have rejected the Catholic Church, not just for the sex scandals but also for their bizarre fixation on contraception even as condoms have been proven to save lives in countries ravaged by disease. Francis is amazing but his election has come with open questions about whether conservatives in the Church will spur a backlash.

If you're wondering what spurred this impassioned article, I recently applied to a Christian website and got an odd sort of rejection. Initially, the editor seemed excited but after reading the articles I wrote about changes in the Catholic Church for Tikkun, messaged me and said my writing "was more fit for Tikkun than for us." I could read between the lines there and realized that I was basically being told that I was too radical for them.

The primary Christian figures that we remember in history, from Christ himself to Martin Luther King Jr. or Ceasar Chavez, all were radicals. Any church that thinks God's work involves trepidation deserves to die, quite frankly. The New Atheism of clowns like Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins doesn't have spiritual sustainability - no society has ever fully rejected God even when their political leadership made it illegal. We can find new institutions that are more fitting to the whole of humanity.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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