In Monday’s blog, I made it clear that the Authentic Freedom Academy Sunday Service is NOT Church. Today I want to make it equally clear, “Not that there is anything wrong with it (Church, that is).” Church, as we have (mostly) experienced it in the West, is a beneficial human practice which speaks deeply and profoundly to the needs of some. This traditional model of Church provides for a specific human need – it declares certainty in what is at best, an uncertain world. In the human condition there is suffering. Poverty, hunger, disease and death are all very real parts of the human experience. Good things happen to bad people and bad people often seem to be rewarded for their evils. All of these realities of the human experience create anxiety, worry and fear in even the most courageous and daring of human beings. In the face of all this uncertainty – the Church provides comfort in promises of a peaceful future in the afterworld – for those able and willing to fulfill the conditions necessary for acceptance into this heavenly abode. If you follow these rules, obey these commandments, live according to the regulations of the outside perceived authority, then you will be happy in the afterlife. For many, this provides great peace.
This model of Church that we have mostly known in the West is not the only way in which Westerners have experienced Church…it is just the one that gets the most attention. This model of Church that seems to get the most attention is the orthodox (concerned about doctrine, dogma, rules, enforcing rules, priest as intercessor) and exoteric (outward directed) model of Church whose greatest concern is the hereafter.
While the exoteric model of Church has gained prominence, developing alongside the orthodox Church, is the contemplative/mystical church (notice the lower case “c”) and its concern with personal relationship, direct knowing, personal growth and development; and whose deepest concern is experiencing heaven on earth. This is the church experienced by Francis and Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Hildegard of Bingen – and many more. This is the model of church that historically been “in” the Church, but not “of” the Church. While ultimately under the jurisdiction of the papal hierarchy, these models of church have developed outside the influence of orthodoxy, guided by its founders’ intimate and personal relationship with Christ.
If the Authentic Freedom Academy Sunday Service is accused of being anything like church, it would be the latter – contemplative, mystical, concerned with personal relationship, direct knowing, personal growth and whose deepest concern is experiencing heaven on earth. In an uncertain world, with an equally uncertain future the only choice we have is to make the best of what we’ve been given and this is what Jesus originally taught. Jesus taught his disciples to actively seek peace in the midst of the only thing that is certain in the human condition – uncertainty. In the human condition we experience it all – love and hate, elation and pain, joy and suffering. Why not turn to tried and true methods for navigating the ever-changing landscape of our human experience, tools that help us find peace in the midst of suffering, comfort in the face of pain, love in the face of hate? This is what Jesus taught and what he intended his disciples to teach after him. If there is any kind of church that Authentic Freedom Academy might be called to emulate, it is this one.