I heard Richard Rohr say,
"Without the self-critical aspect of religion, when religion does not develop the prophetic or self-critical function at the core of its message, it is always idolatrous; it will always worship itself.”
I wonder if this could be true of all organizations, institutions, nations, even of individuals. When we lose the self-critical aspect - when we are afraid to ask tough questions, have tough conversations about the realities we are facing - we curve inward. This curving inward causes us to reject criticism, reject anything that might suggest, "Things could be better." We become defensive. We make excuses. We blame others. We cannot look within. We don't dare examine the depths of our heart, the depths of our souls.
A truly great organization, institution, individual can stand up to scrutiny, criticism, examination; it/he/she is not afraid to take a long look in the mirror. Criticism doesn't diminish greatness, it aims to make things better.
Given the recent barrage of general craziness in our country over the past months, I wonder if this great nation is strong enough to stand up to criticism. Are we as a nation strong enough to carefully examine our warts, our diseases, our social and moral shortcomings? Do we believe "things could be better"? Some suggest calling any attention to these matters is divisive, thus seeking to shut down the criticism.
Players in the NFL and people of color are and have been criticizing; gun control advocates are criticizing; the citizens of Puerto Rico are criticizing; religious minorities are criticizing; LGBT community is criticizing. Will we hear the critique? Will we listen and wonder, "Could things be better?" or will we simply dismiss these voices and curve further inward? Are we impotent, powerless, unable to effect change?
And Church. Come on. Where you at Church? We who claim Christ should be more willing than anyone to look within, name our faults, and believe we can change, we can be made new, we can see things get better, we can see the messiest of situations redeemed. Right? Or have we given up on looking inward as well? Are we too participating in a culture that refuses criticism?
We need the prophetic voice. We need to listen to the prophetic voice. We need to allow the prophets on the margins of society to call us to something better, something deeper, something richer, something that allows for human flourishing for all humans, something that helps us all prosper and thrive.
If you've read this far, may the peace of Christ be with you!