Sunday, 26 October 2008

About Time


I read this on Freakonomics--you can see it on my blogroll, at least until they add another post--and was happy. It's about time the media started lauding institutions. I know, in the words of one of those Penny Arcade guys, that you're supposed to stick it to the man, not stick up for him. However, I think it's getting a little ridiculous just how badly we feel we need to thrash our bureaucracies. There are problems with the systems as they stand, of course. But there are also incredible benefits to them, and there are also better ways of fixing the problems than being negative. Being positive is necessary to identifying how we want to implement change. In order to understand how we would prefer our system--our bureaucracy--to work, we need to be able to identify what we like about the existing systems. Trust me, we need bureaucracy. The massive scale of our interdependence requires it.

And don't listen to people who tell you that we need to cut back on interdependence, that we need to strike out on our own without relying on anyone. That is not the most useless statement I have ever heard; that is the most dangerous statement I have ever heard. I am serious. The extent to which people believe it is enough to make me weep in terror. Interdependence is a fact of life, and if we try to severe these ties of mutual requirement, we will all perish--and in misery, too. It's not a live in pain or die happy sort of choice, but live with whatever attitude you choose or die miserable choice, where the first is (inter)dependence and the last is independence. Until we learn to rely on others and to trust, we will all lose.

But anyway, back to the article I've linked to. I'm happy Freakonomics is doing this. We need to highlight the good. Indicating the bad is also necessary, but we do enough of that. The last paragraph I wrote, in fact, is more than enough. I'm very interested to read what people submit.

In church this morning, the pastor asked (rhetorically) what kind of church our city needs. He's fond of doing this. Someone from the congregation said aloud, "It doesn't need a church, it needs people." (I realize that the grammar is wrong, and that, since he spoke, I can't claim that he "wrote" a comma himself. However, it was a comma-length pause, not a semi-colon pause and a period pause with the end of sentence tone of voice, so I used a comma.) The pastor said that it needs people, yes, people who make up the church, and used 'people' and 'church' interchangeably for a bit before going back to using 'church,' to prevent alienation, I suppose, and because he liked the idea of people but needed to go back to the vocabulary of a church for the purposes of the sermon.

My thing, though, is that what the city needs is a CHURCH. People need structure. I am sorry, but we do. People are awesome; people can accomplish a lot. But people accomplish even more if they are organized, and, in the case of Christian activity, the particular units of organization are called churches. If you want to be really egalitarian, I suppose you can use 'congregation' instead of church. However, I think the word church is fairly apt. The image of a church is much more theologically useful than that of a mass of individuals making decisions in or not in concert. If it is theologically useful and has no real problem on a practice side of things (which it doesn't, contrary to popular belief), then it should be used. The city does need people. The city also needs a church. So, you have fancy--and popular, if the assorted no-church Christian movements are any indication--rhetoric, buddy, but the wrong idea.

Which is to say, Yay, institutions! Because, until Freakonomics, it seems no one else was willing to say it.

EDIT 10:00 the same evening: Upon re-reading this post, I think I'm a bit angry sounding. I may have fallen into the habit of producing vitriol and mistaking it for insight. I hope that I have not, but... my apologies if you thought so. If you are new to my blog, I hope that you don't judge me too harshly on this.

1 comment:

Scumbag Sam said...

Hi there,

I found YOU, as you commented on my blog! haha. Nah, I understand how and why people comment on my stuff, I do tend to comment on other peoples a bit - its nice when things come full circle.. if you can call it that? (Just to warn, I rant and rave in comments ;) )

The prestige is definately the better of the two in my opinion, but I highly recommend you watch it for yourself, as I have untrustworthy taste in movies!

Just about to start looking over your blog etc. But thought I would comment first. I like to do things the wrong way around!

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