© 2016 by Charles D. Jones

Don't Be Institutionalized

March 16, 2016

Sixty million years ago, when a rather large meteor hit our planet and drastically changed its environment, the dinosaurs were doomed to extinction. They just didn't know it yet. It may be happening again, as I believe we are in the midst of similar slow death to institutionalized religion in America. To my untrained eye, I don't see one singular meteoric event that drastically changed the landscape, but the world is changing. Maybe the change is caused by science, maybe it's technology, or maybe it's institutional suicide. Whatever the cause, unless something changes, institutional religion will be essentially gone from America in 50 years. I doubt it will adapt. If you're a baby boomer like I am who grew up in the Bible belt, that's tragic. If you doubt this trend, ask your kids. (In an unrelated conclusion, I'm also convinced that spirituality in America is alive and well and will thrive well into the next century, but that's another story.)

 

There are isolated locations where this slow death is not happening, but it's in places where religion is not a self-protecting institution but a movement, restored to its original purpose. Somehow, in the last 65 years in America, religion morphed from being a movement into an institution. People now want to be involved in a movement. An institution? Not so much.

 

I've written before about being a Recovering Baptist. Readers have asked about that, so let me elaborate. I started out as a Southern Baptist, but in the late 1970s, there was a hostile institutional takeover of that denomination by the fundamentalists of which I am not one. So I became just a Baptist.

 

A little over two years ago when I decided to come clean about my criminal activity before I got caught, I was a mid-profile member of a high profile Baptist Church. While I was fortunate to have excellent legal representation, I was still scared shitless. So in my distress, I turned to one of the paid professionals in my high profile Baptist church. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

 

Over the course of several meetings, I learned that a high profile Baptist church is NOT a fit for a high profile criminal. I think the parting words from the paid professional went something like this, "I pray that you have a good group of people to support you because I won't be one them." Even a slow guy like me started to figure out that the institution was going to be just fine, but I was on my own. In fairness, there were a few from the high profile Baptist church who did offer me much needed friendship, but these relationships were forged outside the high profile Baptist church--almost in spite of it.

 

My dad had a saying, "Don't go away mad, just go away." So I went away, and I probably would have followed his advice except that the high profile Baptist church wasn't a good fit for the innocent ex-spouse of a high profile criminal either. Now that did make me mad. But I'm over it--Recovering. It's time to move on.

 

In hindsight, the outcome was inevitable. It was my expectations that were sadly out of sync with reality. I was a member of an institution, for God's sake. The paid professional of the high profile Baptist church was absolutely correct. Institutions are self-protecting. I was/we were expendable. 

 

So now I'm a Recovering Baptist, and I'm completely OK with that. In hindsight, I'm thankful for the evolution. I'm looking for a movement (not that kind of movement LJ), and being a Recovering Baptist gives me some flexibility here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Flexibility is good at my age.

 

I'm not sure what I'd call religion here, but it's definitely NOT an institution.

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