The Ecclesial State of Exception
It started, as many things do, with an observation I dropped on social media:
Hypothetical: imagine you belonged to a Church that not only failed to condemn the greatest evil of our times but actively supported it. What would be the proper response?
I have a gift for controversy (I know, BIG SURPRISE), so the comments that followed were as telling as they were predictable: everything from the CatholicCon citation of “the Magisterium” (whatever that really is) to the defense of the “Church founded by Jesus Christ” (claimed, predictably, by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants without exception—though often excepting each other in that designation, at least provisionally). Surprisingly, to me anyway, most people seemed to think that I was indicting only the Catholic Church, to which I more or less belong, in this statement. But, hey, I’m an ecumenical guy: I was including all the churches. But I did not have the average believer in mind; I was thinking about the institutional churches, meaning the guys who run things. And, before you get on your Christian feminist high horse, just know that I hold women bishops—and even that one non-binary Anglican dude—as responsible as their male counterparts. Because they have all failed to condemn the greatest evil of our times. Full stop.
Of course this begs the question, What is the greatest evil of our times, Mr. Sophiologist? I think it’s obvious, don’t you? We have been witnessing and, for the most part, to my absolute dumbfoundedness, ignoring what can only be called crimes against humanity and which have resulted in perhaps millions of excess deaths across the world. Millions. In addition, we have seen a shocking rise in miscarriages, fetal abnormalities, stillbirths, and infants born with heart problems; not to mention the untold number of healthy young people “dying mysteriously” from heart ailments and stroke. And this is early days: we still don’t know how many young people will be rendered sterile from playing pharmaceutical Russian roulette. The outlook is bleak, indeed. We’re heading for Children of Men territory, but, I fear, unlike the book, this is all by design.
And the Churches are silent.
This was really driven home to me when the Vatican ruled that only the fully-v@xxed would be allowed access to its churches and museums—and mandated the shots for all employees. The game was over for me, however, when Pope Francis proclaimed that getting vaccinated is “an act of love.” That was it. Even though I still consider myself Catholic (in a very small-is-beautiful, medieval or 17th c. rural Anglican kind of way), I don’t know if I can ever step foot in a Catholic church again. This is painful for me.
And, no, the Orthodox have been no better, just less organized. So don’t even start with me.
Such acquiescence to State power can only be assumed, I assume (as various Orthodox bodies, for example, do vis a vis Russia and Ukraine). Indeed, the history of all the Churches screams this in the highest register. Yet, we, the faithful, are addicted to Church power and authority as much as the Churches are addicted to that of the State. Church history is the history of capitulation. And this, need I remind anyone?, is antithetical to the very mission of the Church. I was just reading as much in one of my most trustworthy guides, H.J. Massingham’s The Tree of Life:
“Newman wrote in The Arians of the Fourth Century, ‘The Church was formed for the express purpose of interfering with the world.’ ‘Compromise,’ wrote Tawney in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ‘is as impossible between the Church of Christ and the idolatry of wealth, which is the practical religion of capitalist societies, as it was between the Church and the State idolatry of the Roman Empire.”…. [The Church’s] spiritual impotence and inertia were indeed so complete (with the partial exception of the campaign against negro slavery) that it is to be wondered that Huxley ever bothered himself to flog the prostrate form of the dormant donkey. A conventional pietism, a set of moral precepts, or, what Tawney called the inculcation of ‘such personal virtues as did not conflict’ with plutocracy, were its alternative to it where it did not, as in the Enclosures, actually co-operate with it.’”
I could have done with some ecclesial interfering with the world over the past few years. We got just the opposite: the world interfering with the Church (remember when Christmas and Easter—not to mention services altogether—were canceled by State decree?). But, really, this is longstanding practice, despite pious gestures and holy-sounding press releases. (You can read more about the uneasy relationship of Church and State power in my comrade Guido Preparata’s forthcoming book, Church and Empire).
It is no secret that billions upon billions—maybe even trillions—of dollars have changed hands (from bottom to top) over the past three years. Yet, I haven’t heard a peep about the “preferential option for the poor”—from any ecclesial bodies—even once in regards to this wholesale theft. For shame. For absolute shame.
I find it telling that academia has been almost unanimous with the Churches in its worship of State and corporate power. Talk about strange bedfellows! It’s not really a surprise to me—I’ve been inside academia for decades and know what a cowardly and sniveling citizenry it embodies on the whole. Case in point is the excoriation various academic “thought leaders” unleashed on Giorgio Agamben when, get this, in February 2020 he warned about the coming “state of exception” that would accompany the various v@x passports, lockdowns, and loss of civil liberties then being proposed under threat of the “pandemic.” As he then wrote, “We might say that once terrorism was exhausted as a justification for exceptional measures, the invention of an epidemic could offer the ideal pretext for broadening such measures beyond any limitation.” Well, he was right and all the sniveling cowards (never his equals) who tried to take him down were wrong. Dead. Wrong. But, like Church leaders, they never apologize. They know how the game is played.
In the face of such corruption and complicity, as I have mentioned before in this blog, the only recourse I have found is to have house church, complete with the Eucharist. I’m sure this excommunicates me from the Catholic fold, but—I’m sure you know the phrase—“Here I stand. I can do no other.” Some will say this will condemn me to hell. But, really, who needs a god who would do that to a suffering servant? Only the god of very small men would command such a thing.
I still believe in a Universal (Catholic) Church, but more and more I feel it has to be an underground, invisible Church, disseminated throughout the world like an enlivening enzyme or agent, transformative, transfigurative, sophianic.
Church and State 1.0
Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: Flesh & Spirit and The Regeneration Podcast. Twitter: @Sophiologist_