5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6, NRSV)
The building block of any society are its institutions. Institutions help to concretize traditions, meaning and culture into the life of the society. Churches, temples, mosques, governments (local, state and national), and universities/schools all work to maintain the societal norms in any culture. Sure some of these institutions convey different norms and acceptable beliefs but all of them govern themselves within the parameters established by the overarching culture.
However, we are living in an age and time when the cultures and societies of the world are experiencing upheaval and challenge in ways they haven’t felt since revolutions began to rattle the western hemisphere in the 18th century. Whether its the Tea Partiers, Occupy Movement (where are they now??) in the United States or the Arab Spring, or Eurozone Crisis on the international scene, there is a general sense of distrust of societal structures around the globe. This distrust is inclusive of banks, churches and even families. We are seeing this distrust manifesting in protests, and more specifically in the U.S., out-and-out hostility toward the structures of society. Schools, corporations, families and religious entities are all treated with suspicions and hostility. Many times it is because of the failure of these institutions to be……..trustworthy!
The Penn State scandal is a foremost case as to the reason why there is genuine distrust of institutionalism. The initial acts of child abuse were committed by one person, Jerry Sandusky. If the University had done the right thing and offered Sandusky’s head on a platter, then we would be talking about all the proper precautions and values that the system upheld. Instead, we are talking about the worse failure of a college governance program (dare I say the failure of any governance program), ever. Most of the senior officials and Sandusky’s legendary boss, Joe Paterno, sought institutional self-preservation over any sense of societal responsibility.
This is the fallacy, when institutions begin to live for themselves and the service of the society, then very quickly, individuals get eaten alive in the machine of self-preservation. The text for today highlights the destructive power of God’s freeing presence. While the text specifically refers to Jesus and his body, the inference and the reaction from the Pharisees (as keepers of religious tradition) belies a stronger devotion to the bricks and mortar (and meaning) of the temple in Jewish life. It’s the concern over institutional preservation that overrides their concern, even though that is not what Jesus is talking about.
Many in our society have been so often is overly concerned with structures of institutional life that morality and ethics become warped and distorted for the sake of preserving the status quo. The societal distrust in universities, colleges, churches, government and family have been cultivated through acts of malice, contempt, deceit and misrepresentation of cultural values. Universities make decisions with no transparency or regard to ethics. Some Catholic Churches move known pedophiles and deviants from church to church in order to preserve and protect the larger institution. Government has mislead and deceived the masses with statements to preserve its own objectives. It is no wonder that many societies have openly revolted against the status quo in their countries.
The problem with distrust though, is that it never can build relationships. Societies are built on basic relationships that are informed by simple trust. With no trust in the basic institutions of society, (government, university, religious organization, family) we will begin to breakdown as a society. Blind trust is not the answer. The masses should invest in the restoration of hope while institutions should spend a great deal of their energy in rebuilding the relationships with the masses through trust.
Understanding the importance of our interconnectivity as a society is essential to getting to the vision of truth in the world.