According to Max Weber “Bureaucracy was seen not only as a rational structure, but a powerful one that exercise great control over those who work within it and are even served by it. It is a kind of cage that alters the way people think and act. He appreciated the advances but despair of its increasingly tight control over people. He feared that as more and more sectors of society (not just the government bureaucracy) were rationalized, people would find it increasingly difficult to escape into no rationalized sectors of life. They would find themselves locked into an iron cage of rationalization” (Contemporary Social Theory, p, 42)
Weber states that in “his different authorities—the charismatic and traditional—the Rational-legal authority, rationalization and the iron cage rationality are triumphant.”(p,42) So in order to success as an organization is ok for the church to become an iron cage of rationalization. A place where all Jesus’ way of thinking would be thought and thought for generations and generations to create a bureaucracy in order for this organization to be self-enclosed and maintained their power and position among society. And if this works for the institution to survive, then that is ok to keep working as they are working now.
In all the changes happening in my personal life, little by little I started to go in a different direction, a direction that started to transform my thinking and as Marx said, “people are endowed with consciousness and the ability to link that consciousness to action”. So my thinking started to change and I found myself in the midst of whirlwind of ideas and controversies that were clashing with the way the institutional church has been run as an entity.
Then education became the tool to break the walls that were oppressing me. Marx said that education “is a natural effect of the way in which what we count as knowledge is socially constructed.” I do not want to say it is true but in a way religion has created a group of proletariats because it formed a division of their laborers—the educated and uneducated—leaving the uneducated in the hands of those who have more education.
So religion institutionalism, in this context, becomes a true capitalism where the educated ones exploit the uneducated ones (the ones not holding a Master). I may be thinking way too much in this area but while reading Marx Theory I could not stop thinking about it. But it could be a good way to discuss his theory in different aspects of our society. If communism is a system that develops and encourage people “to express the thoughtfulness, creativity, and sociability” (Contemporary Social Theory, p.30), then for me education became a way to leave the doors of religious capitalism, and understand better the way of my community and the societies that surrounds me so I can express my full human expression through a more community system of life.
I am a churchless already in the traditional sense because I do not fellowship with a group of “believers” every week to celebrate what we called “worship”. But If I am able to think beyond the rationalization of the iron cage, I can conclude that I do indeed belong to a church, but this group of people gathers for the sake of community and hospitality, to create bonds between each other no matter our faith, ideology or lifestyle. We break the walls of capitalism to create a sense of belonging. In those moments that we come together and eat, dance and spend a good time, there are no divisions of classes. We become, in a sense, a community without walls. Of course after returning from the annual gathering of the church I have served for the last nine years I did not see this happening, there is a big sense of pride between those who have finished their studies and they are in the journey to become ordained in the organization. Of course that is understandable because they have invested many years and money to get into that place. But I believe it creates a broken system; a system that makes different types of people according to their education and their seniority. There is a sense of not belonging and lack of community. I could easily go, seat on the corner of the auditorium, stay for a while and leave without being noticed, but that is not my nature so I will make sure I won’t leave unnoticed. This happened when my friend Tom Halliburton, the person who invited me to come and serve this church, took the microphone and asked the community gathering in that auditorium to recognize the job we (Paula and I) have done. But the most important is what he told me a couple of minutes before when he said “you should know that a father will always support his child, and I would love to write the forward of your book”, even after knowing my personal decision to live this new lifestyle.
So what is the solution for the institutional church? I do not know, and I am not in the position to give you any suggestions to create a better place. The friends I have from this church are extremely valuable for me, the church as an organization I still do not understand. Only one more Sunday and my wings will be spread out, to fly to unknown places letting the wind take me to wherever it wants; walking new journeys, where hopefully I can make a difference, in this lifestyle, as a Mexican, as a Sociologist, but most of all as a child of God.
Good bye Protestantism you have done your part. Good bye Methodism you have done your part. Good bye Institutional church you have done your part. I welcome and embrace this new life, a life where God is present in the most insignificant moments of life: in the conversations with a friend, in dancing, singing karaoke, dinner and beer, walking my dog Jack, eating chicken wings with my foreign friends, enjoying a Jacuzzi with a family deep in the country side of Tennessee, cherishing the lifestyle of people, rediscovering my brother and sisters forming a bond with them. A place where I am free to read Christ, Buddha, Pema Chodron, Brennan Manning, Henry Nouwen; to listen to my Catholic, Muslim, Christian friends without being criticized, so I can learn from their wisdom, to have fun with my new gay friends, to enjoy my culture and everybody else’s. To know that there is life, an abundant life outside of the walls of the church.