Phylis Tickle in a recent podcast commented on the current historical period as being a “Rummage Sale.” We are in “cleaning out” time, a time when many, many things are up for question, are open for evaluation. What do we sell? What do we keep? We do we re-purpose?
In the late 1990’s, much was made of the “end of history.” Liberal Western capitalist democracy was seen ascendant, victorious almost given the fall of Eastern Bloc. There remained no truly viable “challenge” to the Western world view. Amazing in a way to see where we are currently – 15 years later – where so many ideas are open to question. Even look at our idea of market economics within the current economic crisis. Given the excesses of Wall Street that fed into the “Great Recession” clearly even the idea of totally unregulated markets holding the key for society’s advancement is open for revision. Hence the “rummage sale.”
The New Church, as is true for many (all?) other denominations is experiencing those very same cultural forces, forces that place what was a “tradition” into the market place of ideas where it must compete with many other allegiances. As with all rummage sales, it is about cleaning out everything – the house, the attic, the basement – looking at the debris of life and choosing what stays and what goes.
It is easy to regard this societal shift as negative, as directly oppositional to the very concept of “Church.” The Christian New Church perspective however reassures us that “rummage sales” are healthy. Emanuel Swedenborg clearly saw that the world was not – in the 1700’s – or in the future, moving towards a homogeneous society.
The New Church then is not a promise of Christianity triumphant. It is a promise of perspective – of being able to approach faith free from many of the trappings of traditional Christian religious order while being increasingly free to experience the deeper, transformative heart of the Christian faith.
As Swedenborg predicted, in the future, the existence of different denominations is to continue. Variety absolutely would remain perfection. This is the doctrinal absolute that we often miss. Swedenborgian thought is NOT a perspective that narrows the church experience into a myopic trouping of set, creed-orientated faith statements. It is actually an expansive perspective that holds all faiths as having value and utility for those who sincerely practice them.
The rummage sale is actually a time of great promise.