Systems and approaches to pastoral care, or indeed any other dimension of the church’s formal or informal practice, that exclude a focus on developing ways of restoring such a relationship with God and creating a context for a hopeful outcome can easily find themselves selves functioning in ways that are implicitly or explicitly evil.
John Swinton. Raging With Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil (Kindle Locations 704-706). Kindle Edition.
Isaiah 5:20 gives us a warning: “Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20 NRS)
As a spiritual seeker and spiritual director I have learned to be careful in my discernment of what is good and evil. As I reflect on my own life I have discovered with regret that too many I have engaged in evil when I was thinking I was doing good. As I grow older I also have discovered just how easy it is to be deceived by evil and to be involved in evil unaware.
Over the last year and a half as we have lived with the pandemic caused by Covid-19 I have been shocked and frustrated with how people seem so selfish in regards to taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus and in caring for others. People seem more concerned with their own comfort, their own independence, their own situation without much regard for others. Could this be a sign of love growing cold?
Over the last four years the joke about politicians have a tendency to lie has become the reality in which people do not care if politicians lie as long as it is their politician. People have elevated a liar to be their leader with the attitude that this leader can do no wrong. They even declare this leader a defender of righteousness when nothing could be further than the truth.
For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4 NRS)
To me, it seems that this time is now upon us. Truth does not matter. What I want is what matters. What is good for my tribe is what matters. Again, love seems to be growing colder.
Even the church has been infected with Qanon conspiracies and Wall Street sensitivities. Too many pastors have forgotten their roles as spiritual guides and are more interested in professional advancement and materialistic comforts. Too many church goers are more interested in being entertained rather than enlightened.
Never has the need for spiritual discernment and competency in spiritual warfare been greater. Niche ministry (not a biblical term) has become the norm. We have cowboy churches (no cowgirl churches yet), biker churches, goth churches and hipster churches, black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches, and multiple other types of churches designated by things that highlight difference rather than unity. Is this of God or is this evil?
As a spiritual director I understand how easily it is to be caught up in movements that seem good but have a dark underside. I understand the need to have a daily (or twice daily) time for Examen prayer and for developing those skills and practices that strengthen discernment and compassion. I am hoping there are those in the church who recognize the situation and understand we need a new reformation that puts the emphasis on a different way of living that develops faith for the hard path needed to stand against evil and truly experience God’s love in a real and life expanding way.
I want the Lord to return. However, I don’t want the reason for the Lord’s return to be because the church failed to standing against evil, it all its forms, and allowed our love to grow cold.