Rule-Based Religion: Evasive, Abstract, Self-Assertive, & Relationally Naive
Third, rule-based religion, then, is an unnecessary prelude to relational religion that assumes relationship with God is not secure and has to be earned.
It is also a narcissistic evasion of right relating, of relational responsibilities, and of facing relational problems. It misinterprets life’s anxieties as God’s absence, and can easily get caught into ever-more complex introverted responses to anxiety symptoms read as ‘God’s displeasure’ on this or that issue.
It ties in with abstract discourse that creates an entire pseudo-spiritual or super-spiritual language that somehow never connects with real concrete life issues. Such language sounds very pious, but it is a mere abstract calculus that endlessly defers relational engagement and concreteness.
It characterises many a traditionalist setting, and even many an academic pastoral theology setting, and has nothing to do with real Christian discourse, which is relationally wise and immediate, a love which grows more and more in knowledge and depth of insight into the real. Rule-based religion is like Nietzschean self-assertion, which belongs to the same mode of self-imposed harshness and narcissistic concern for self-advancement.
Rule-based religion is beaten only by learning communion with the Holy Spirit and by learning right relating to others. The traditionalist abstractions of rule-based religion evade relational responsibility and wisdom and, in my view, have very little to say of any value in the debate about church and homosexuality. It would be all too possible to imagine a relationally astute self-designated homosexual person being incredulous at the relationally backward introversions and abstract language of the self-designated traditionalist person. Their conversation would be a clash of two incompatible discourses and, in terms of relational awareness, the fault would lie with traditionalism, even if there were faults of a different kind with the self-designated homosexual.
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