Walter Brueggemann remarks that what we see in our western culture is a religion of immanence, always a feature of a civil and static religion. The other two features are the economics of affluence and the politics of oppression.
He finds these features in the transition of Israel from a theocracy to a monarchy, and in particular in the transition from David’s rule to Solomon’s, where God and the temple become a part of the royal landscape, in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king. From this point forward God is “on call” and access to him is controlled by the royal court. Brueggemann sees this as the final and deadly state of affairs after a long slide downward from the radical Mosaic vision of freedom and justice.
The social purpose of a really transcendent God is “to have a court of appeal against the highest courts and orders of society around us…” A second implication is the rebirth of hope for the future. Royal reality overpowers the dimension of hope and the place of imagination. When a nation (or a church) establishes a comfortable and static rule, the last thing they want is people with new ideas to shake things up. And in terms of the economics of affluence, you don’t want people delaying gratification in favor of some future hope, you want them seeking pleasure in the eternal now.
The result of all that pleasure is that “in place of passion comes satiation.” Brueggemann argues that one of the reasons we lose passion is precisely due to our success at achieving comfort and security. He states that, “Passion as the capacity and readiness to care and suffer, to die and to feel, is the enemy of imperial reality.”
We are in the same royal tradition, which Brueggemann summarizes in three points::
* Economics of affluence in which we are so well off that our pain is not noticed
* Politics of oppression in which the cries of the marginal are not heard or are dismissed as the noises of kooks or traitors
* Religion of immanence and accessibility in which God is so present that his abrasiveness and absence are not noticed but are reduced to psychology
How bizarre that the founder of our movement was crucified because he was a threat to the establishment, and then his movement itself became the means that anchored and protected that same establishment!