“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. weep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless (Isa 1:13-17. MSG)
“The illusory character of the freedom which we have tried to find in moral and psychological irresponsibility has become inescapable. Our abdication of responsibility is at the same time an abdication of liberty. The resolution to let “someone else,” the anonymous forces of society, assume responsibility for everything means that we abdicate from public responsibility, from mature concern and even from spiritual life. We retire from the public realm of freedom into the private world of necessity, imagining that the escape from responsibility is an escape into freedom. On the contrary, it is, in Erich Fromm’s words, an “escape from freedom.” But when we turn over the running of our lives to anonymous forces, to “them” (whoever “they” may be, and nobody quite knows), what actually happens is that we fall under the tyranny of collective fantasies and delusions.” (Merton, Seasons of Celebration)
Has church for many become a fantasy world, a place of escape? Music, lights and yes, even the cameras and smoke. Outside, those in need are left to fend for themselves, or rely on the policies and politics of what Merton calls the ‘them.’ There is nothing wrong with times of refreshing in the presence of God as long as we take what we have into the world—the world needs us.