Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On the Evils of Institutions

Here is another quote from The Shack - with my comments at the end.

Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. (As a result) you rarely see or experience relationship apart from (that) power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that God intended for you.

When you choose independence over relationship, you become a danger to each other. Others become objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make other conform to what they want.

God carefully respects your choices, so he works within your systems even while he seeks to free you from them. Creation has been taken down a very different path than He desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weight against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social or religious – any system actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The will to power and independence has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal
. P 122-124

My comments:
For a number of years I have felt that institutions can be very evil and are actually prone to evil unless there is a very wise and able leader guiding that institution. The way he (or she) is able to guide it is by making it more like a family than a corporation, an organism instead of an organization.

I've experienced organizational evils over an over again. In one organization I worked for (a good organization doing good things) the larger it grew the greater the need for rules and policies and procedures. By definition a large organization needs systems and structures to make it work. However as it grows larger, people tend to turn into positions, rules begin replacing relationship, and supervision is used instead of discipleship. Instead of walking alongside someone as they grew in the organization, they were given a book containing all the policies and procedures. The staff manual became huge - hundreds of pages. Every contingency had to be foreseen; every scenario imagined.

This will only happen to a greater degree as the church culture differentiates itself more and more from society. As a Christian organization tries to hire Christian staff a filtering process happens that must judge the character and behaviour of those being hired. There is a code of conduct and a statement of belief that needed to be reaffirmed every year. The code of conduct was (and maybe all codes of conduct are) designed to protect the organization so it could kick you out if you did something contrary to the code. The organization became king and couldn't allow someone to be part of it who had a questionable lifestyle. "What would it say about us if we allowed people like that to work for us?" So when someone was kicked out it usually meant the end of the relationship. The funny thing is that the people who were kicked out usually got a big fat severance package. The people who left well - after 5 or 10 or 15 years of faithful service - got a party and a gift certificate.

The alternative? I don't know really. Lots of family sized groups maybe. It could be that the world system has so ensnared us that we can't even imagine how it might work differently. The move away from relationship to large organizations, to anonymity in society means that people need to be controlled by something other than relationship. Identity theft, cheque forging, welfare fraud, spam emails, etc., are all symptoms of the lack of relationship and the rapid growth of cities and systems. I think some people would think that a good solution to all these issues would be to tattoo an individual code on your forehead or imbed all your personal information on chip inserted under the skin on your right hand.

But maybe I'm just being paranoid.

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