Mike Morrell: What about Francis and the institutional church? One would think he would have abandoned it.
Ian Cron: One of the things that makes Francis very interesting compared to a lot of what we’re seeing in the Post Modern Emergent conversations is that he was not anti-institutional. He actually honored the institution of The Church even in it’s screwed up state. He critiqued it with his life, not his words, and he wasn’t leaving it. He really felt like you could change it from the inside out. I recently read something by Jonny Baker about this very thing. Did you read that article?
IC: Heh – Yeah, he says it’s equally valid to change something from the outside and the inside. I agree.
MM: I think they both have valid points but Jonny’s really did stick out to me, that people who just want to damn “the man” and start their own thing do end up having to become institutions, and when they do, as often as not it can be just like what it replaced, if not more tyrannical, so why not at least try to make a good faith effort of working from within?
IC: This raises a really interesting point, too. One problem I’ve seen in the postmodern/emergent church conversation is you tend to have one of two different kinds of things going on: one is the emphasis on social justice. That’s a great thing unless you over-privilege social action and have no contemplative life. Someone who over-privileges social justice runs the risk of becoming an angry, disillusioned and very often, a smug activist. On the other hand, there are people who ignore social justice and only care about the contemplative life and this leads to a sort of saccharine piety. They start watching EWTN and saying the Rosary without any interest in the fact that so much of the world is starving to death.
MM: Yeah, I spent about a decade in a church movement that was very contemplative, and I feel like a lot of times we did veer into that danger where we really, at the end of the day, didn’t give a rip about what was happening in the outside world. I transitioned from that into this sort of Anabaptist, Anarchist, hardcore social justice world, and it was like a breath of fresh air to see people who really cared about what’s happening around the world, but, I did begin to encounter sort of an intolerance and almost a mocking of sincere expressions of love for God or spirituality that didn’t into the plight of the Post Modern world and things like that.
IC: Yes, you need both in tension. The commitment to social Justice should correct the excesses of the contemplative life and vice versa. That balance is very Franciscan.
MM: I can see that – there’s the deep impatience of the prophetic tradition, but then there’s the sense of “all will be well” in the mystical tradition; I think you need both to fuel the other.
IC: That’s right. And this is the beautiful polarity that Francis embodies so well.
This concludes part three.
The Chasing Francis interview is to be continued..!