Monday, September 14, 2009

Reader Query V

[A reader writes: "Write a blog [post] on what you mean when you say you dislike the terms "ministry", "spiritual direction", "formation", and "mysticism" What you would use in their place."]

Of all the words in the reader's query, "formation" is the worst—for all the reasons discussed in previous posts, which it carries to their extremes, and because it is the slippery slope to co-dependence, brainwashing and cults.

"Formation" is the ultimate in presumption. It blasphemously assumes the right to "form" another human being according to a template or to a limited set of notions or ideas. It is an affront to the divine and an abuse of the human. It is ironic that while it is a word and a process most often used by communities, at the same time it is most destructive to the process of making community.

Communities are ecosystems. Without diversity, a community will die. To demand uniformity is suicide. Without new thinking, there is no evolution, only devolution.

Especially as regards religion, the freedom of assent, or consent, is paramount.

Far too often the "formation" process leads to coercion, fear, and dependency. Far too often leaders of communities are far more interested in their personal power and self-perpetuation than the good of the community (the word "discernment" is often so abused). Far too often fearful communities reject fresh perspectives, because their members have been "formed" and are frightened by anything that was not included in this formation or which might offend the leadership. Far too often, the "continuing formation" offered to communities is chosen because it reinforces the sort of guilt and fear on which unhealthy leadership builds its house of cards.

One may educate, socialize, adapt, even assimilate, but each of these words implies a two-way process: something offered which is freely received and made one's own, without doing violence to the incarnate reality. This two-way process equally infuses the and enriches the community with new life, perspective and the gifts the new member brings. Formation, by contrast, is a one-way street and the slippery slope to dehumanization and extinction.


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