Dumbing Us Down

John Taylor Gatto, in his excellent book, Dumbing Us Down, critiques education in America. I read it and applied it almost across the board to religion, Christianity, and the church. In many ways he reminded me of Stringfellow's work on the principalities and the powers. Here's a quote:
Institutional goals, however sane and well-intentioned, are unable to harmonize deeply with the uniqueness of individual human goals. No matter how good the individuals are who manage an institution, institutions lack a conscience because they measure by accounting methods. Institutions are not the sum total of their personnel, or even of their leadership, but are independent of both and will exist after management has been completely replaced. They are ideas come to life, ideas in whose service all employees are but servomechanisms. The deepest purpose of these gigantic networks is to regulate and to make uniform. Since the logic of family and community is to give scope to variety around a central theme, whenever institutions intervene significantly in personal affairs they cause much damage. By redirecting the focus of our lives from families and communities to institutions and networks, we, in effect, anoint a machine our king.
We must recognize the power that the institution we call "church" has over our relationships as members of that institution. We cannot blindly assume that just because we are a part of the institution we call "church" that it necessarily means we are in authentic relationships. The institution and the relationships are in tension and are at odds with each other. In fact, the institution itself works to prevent true relationships from occurring. I believe every institution s unstated first goal is to survive and grow, not to undertake the mission it has nominally claimed for itself. So even if our church claims to be about authenticity and relationship, that may not be true. We may actually be willing to sacrifice true relationship for the sake of the perpetuity of the institution. I feel it is urgent to consider this. I realize this is a sobering thought, but I believe we need to be honest about this to-the-death tension that exists between institutions (particularly the church) and people if we are concerned with the wellness and freedom of human beings. The beautiful fine art photograph is the creation of my friend Jorgen Klausen, and is from his "mask" series.
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