Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Lord's Day and some of where I come from

When I was in the Lamb of God (LOG) Community and its University Christian Outreach (UCO) offshoot, one thing that became a staple of our lives was the Saturday night "Lord's Day" celebrations. I was just telling Julia how the Lord's Day was a Christianized version of the Jewish shabbat.

(Note: My parents, sisters, and younger brothers were all part of LOG at one time or another. Bigbro never was.)

The Lord's Day ceremony as we knew it was drawn up by one Steve Clark, the brains behind the Catholic portion of the shepherding/discipleship movement that began in the late '60s. His authoritarian beliefs can be found in two of his many books, Man And Woman In Christ and Building Christian Communities.

Anyway, a glimpse at these two .pdf documents about celebrating the Lord's Day should give you a taste of what Clark had in mind:

Link 1

Link 2

A couple excerpts:

“Laborious work” is the regular work we do, and we are supposed to avoid that on the Lord’s Day and other feasts.
You shall do no laborious work. (Lev 23:7, etc.)
– To worship God is a kind of work (“service”): Num 4:3; Jn 6:29. The kind of work that is forbidden is “laborious” work, sometimes called “menial” or “servile” work, the regular work we do for economic gain.
– The purpose is to set the day aside as a day for the Lord. We can do necessary work, but this is not a day to catch up on chores, to do our shopping, etc. Nor is it especially a day for recreation, although most Christians think that is permitted.
Well, in my days in LOG, Sundays were anything BUT a day of rest! I was usually going from dawn to dusk with Mass, sound team setup, the Community Gathering (which was far more important than Mass), sound team takedown, singles activities at night, etc. I almost looked forward to Monday mornings!
c. The Regional Council is requesting the communities to:
1) Encourage all the members to review their approach to the Lord’s Day and to see if they are observing it well.
2) Encourage all the members to be regular in their practice of celebrating the opening of the Lord’s Day, but also encourage them to close the Lord’s Day as well.
– Members should open and close the Lord’s Day normally, not sporadically. We need to honor the Lord’s Day by God’s command. We need to celebrate the opening and closing of the Lord’s Day because of our commitment as community members. It should be an exception not to do it, and we should always have a good reason (tiredness is not one).
d. The Regional Council is also encouraging the communities to:
1) Build regular celebrations of the Lord’s Day into the community schedule as a way to encourage the observance of the Lord’s Day. Some examples: community or districtwide Lord’s Days, small group Lord’s Days (men’s and women’s groups, clusters), “mix and match” Lord’s Days.
2) Encourage families to protect Saturday evening as a family night (Note: This does not mean that the family needs to be alone. It means that the family should be together, often with other community members. It also means that we are interested in protecting the entire evening, not just the Lord’s Day prayers and meal.)
Despite what he says in the last paragraph, do you see how little the family unit means to Clark, who, BTW, has never been married? Notice how the Lord's Day and the members of the community trump EVERYthing. Celebrate Grandma's birthday on a Saturday night? Not without massive quantities of guilt.

In fact, my dad was planning a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom while I was in UCO and attending my weekly men's small group on Wednesday nights. When I mentioned my dad's plan and that my mom's birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday, the leader of my men's group actually asked, "Can he change it?" And I, like a dope (dupe?), asked him. My dad's response was "Not only no, but hell, no!"

I have to admit, some Lord's Day meals could be enjoyable; the challah bread that the girls of UCO baked was to die for. One summer evening on the farm in Timonuim where 23 of us UCO guys were spending the summer between two houses, each of our houses had Lord's Day ceremonies and dinners. Ours ran about 90 minutes, and afterward we went outside to play an improvised game of Frisbee golf. Meanwhile, the guys in the other house were being subjected to a reading/talk given by the head of UCO -- a member of the same celibate men's order as Clark known as the "Servants of the Word" -- for three hours after dinner! Two of my friends were fighting each other with a broken paper clip to stay awake.

Like many other aspects of life in covenant community, activities like the Lord's Day were of good intention, and as recently as last year my parents still celebrated a Lord's Day opening ceremony. I don't criticize them for that, and I willingly participated. But I do not celebrate it with LC, and have no intention of doing so anytime soon. This is not to say that I don't like to keep Sunday holy; I prefer not to have to work on Sundays, although I've done plenty of it. I'm just tired of all the control that megalomaniacs like Steve Clark want to wield over unsuspecting people in the name of living in "Christian community."

Oh, one more quote from Clark to make you shudder (emphasis added):
Having our lives in common also means sharing other personal aspects of our lives. In our culture, if we sin, if we are plagued by sexual temptations, if we are anxious or depressed, we keep these problems to ourselves. Victories over difficulties are similarly private. We might share our personal lives with our spouse or a very close friend. But most of us grow up with the firm conviction, perhaps arising from bitter experience, that our personal lives are strictly private.

However, as brothers and sisters in Christian community nothing in our lives is entirely our own. My life belongs to my brother. I cannot construct elaborate strategies to keep him from finding out what I am really like. In fact, opening up our lives to our brothers and sisters in the Lord is usually necessary to begin overcoming our problems and experiencing the freedom that the Lord wants us to have.

Most people who belong to Christian communities where personal sharing is encouraged find quickly that they can be more free about their personal lives than they ever imagined. Personal sharing must be done with discretion and in the appropriate circumstances. But it should be done, for it is part of sharing our lives in Christian community.
I know more people in Lamb of God whose lives were seriously damaged because information that was never intended for anyone else's ears made its way to the "coordinators." Whatever happened to, say, the confessional?

I'll have much more to write about my growing up in covenant community in the future. It'll explain a lot about who I am today, for better and for worse.

3 comments:

mark said...

I and my fiancee were burned by The Sword of the Spirit covenant community as well. The following excerpt from Dr. Reimer's online book describes only a few of the many major problems that we experienced while members of SOS:


NOT RELIABLE GUIDES

An analysis of some covenant community structures

by Adrian J. Reimers, 1997


In most cultures and traditions the husband has held the place as head of the family and the home. In many cases this has even carried with it a certain supremacy and honor above all other members of the family or household. Father's word may be law, binding even upon his wife. He might well be “boss” and receive various privileges. Yet even in their most autocratic expressions of male authority, such cultural forms fall decisively short of Clark's conception. The husband as head of the home is analogous to a governmental figure. He governs the family as a unit. Of course, this may well mean that he exercises very direct and even autocratic authority over others in the family.

Clark's conception of the husband's authority goes far beyond this, even if in everyday life the result may appear to be similar. Properly speaking, the husband's is the only personality in the family, for the family is “one person” and the husband father is the head. Consider these texts:

“The husband and wife are to be 'one flesh' or 'one person' with the husband as head.” 173

“The husband and wife are supposed to be one person; within that oneness the husband stands to the wife as the head to the body ... The two are supposed to function as one, and consequently the wife's life must be completely under the authority of her husband as head.” 174

Clark moves from the Biblical “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) to “one person”, and he takes this translation to be unproblematic. We may note that he never considers that there may be a need to justify substituting “person” for “flesh”. His concern is to characterize the close unity that exists between husband and wife and – indeed – within the Christian community as a whole. In fact, the terminological shift is of critical importance. The term “person” was originally adopted to enable theologians to render an account of the Trinity. Even within the ineffable unity of the Godhead there subsists a real distinction of Persons. A person, according to the classical definition of Boethius and accepted by Catholic theologians since, is the “individual substance of a rational nature”. 175 If the married couple or the family as a whole is but one person and not the individual human beings within them, then for the part (i.e. the individual human being) to act on his or her own is to act irrationally and divisively, for it is the group which is properly “the individual substance of a rational nature”. For one member to act “on his own” and not in submission is to break the unity of the group. We recall that Clark has said that the wife is to her husband as the body to the head. If together they are one person, then her lack of submission to the head is analogous to the twitching of a spastic person's arm. The wife is to do and to be precisely what her husband, as head, requires. As head, he is the principle of unity for the whole family.

It is vital to see that we are not splitting philosophical hairs here. Rather, Clark's “one person” theory of the marriage relationship reveals a great deal about his conception of unity among human beings and, a fortiori, among Christians. We have already remarked how, in his understanding of community, there is virtually no room for decisive disagreement or conflict with leaders. For Stephen B. Clark, unity means submission of mind and will to the one who is the head of that unity -- in marriage, the husband.

At this point it is worthwhile to look at an alternative view, that true union among human beings consists in loving communion. Addressing the question of the two wills in Christ (the human and the divine) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger comments:

“With this interpretation of union as communion the (Third Council of Constantinople) sketches an ontology of freedom. The two 'wills' are united in the way in which two wills can be united, namely in the common affirmation of a shared value.” 176

Clark's conception is juridical and -- indeed -- administrative. His conception depends ultimately on a kind of decision-making model. Unity means working as a team, as a kind of social machine. For two individuals to be as one, that is, in unity, they must operate with one understanding and one will. Otherwise they will interfere with each other and not be in unity. Unity means doing things in the same way. 177 For the married couple to act as one, he believes, they can have but one will, and this is the will of the husband. Ratzinger points to a different kind of unity. Two human beings can enter into union not by submerging one within the other's will but by their sharing a common value, that is, a common love. This is the unity of friends.

This distinction is all important. In Clark's conception, the person submitting stands in the relationship of a servant or a tool toward the other. She (or he) is to accomplish the will of the head. While intelligent “input” may be in order before a decision is made and a certain intelligence may be called for in the execution of that will, the recognition of the real truth of the matter at hand and the actual decision as to what should be done always belongs to the head. Thus a good wife, according to Clark's conception, is in a position analogous to that of a well-trained hunting or police dog, with this exception – that she can carry out more complex tasks, such as planning and preparing a six-course meal. 178 “She should be a loyal partner who he can count on as part of his own person.” 179

On the other hand, Cardinal Ratzinger's conception of unity as communion depends on precisely those factors by which the human being is a spiritual being, by which he or she is a person. The two spiritual faculties or powers of the soul are the intellect (or power to understand truth) and the will (or power to love and choose the good). A fully human act, therefore, is one which flows from the person's own understanding and choice of the good. To will means freely to choose one's own act on the basis of this knowledge and love. Only in such a way is one's act fully human and only in this way does it have true spiritual worth. The Second Vatican Council writes: “It is, however, only in freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good.” 180 Two human beings are in true union, not when they do the same physical action, but when they love the same thing.

This same point has been virtually a hallmark of the thought of Pope John Paul II. In his Love and Responsibility he argues strenuously that one person may never be reduced simply to being a tool of another, for another's use. An essential characteristic of the person is his or her interiority or inner life, from which flows the power of self-determination or free will. 181 Ultimately it is the sharing of a common love that makes union – including the marital union 182 – possible. Far from creating a rigid hierarchy, such a union actually demands a fundamental equality between the two. “When two different people consciously choose a common aim this puts them on a footing of equality, and precludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinate to the other.” 183 Clark's approach effectively negates this fundamental human equality between man and woman.

Equally significant is the emphasis in Clark's study on the functional aspect of human relationships and the complete neglect of the erotic. Indeed, the reader of Man and Woman in Christ finds that although the word “love” seldom appears, “effective” and “functional” (and their cognates) appear repeatedly throughout. The love that the husband is commanded (by St. Paul) to have for his wife amounts mainly to meeting her physical needs, rather than her emotional ones. 184 Now Clark contends that he presents the Scriptural view of the relationship between husband and wife. Yet the Scriptures clearly and favorably present the erotic as integral to human love. The Old Testament background to the famous passage at Ephesians 5 in which wives are told to be subject to their husbands and in which their relationship is compared to the love between Christ and his Church is the highly erotic Song of Songs, celebrating the physical love between man and wife as the model of God's love for his people. Isaac desired Rebekah. Jacob loved Rachel. The wisdom literature encourages the husband to rejoice in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9) And of course, Adam was delighted when he first met Eve. Clark pays but scant attention to this aspect of love between man and woman. He presents this aspect of the marital relationship as something of a modern deviation, one of the unfortunate fruits of technological society. Indeed, his Man and Woman in Christ comes very close to defending “arranged” marriages; he specifically endorses that marriage be undertaken more for the good of the social group than for the satisfaction of the man and woman involved. 185

We are not here facing simply a fact about human nature which Clark overlooks, but rather a point of profound theological importance. Stephen Clark consistently downplays the role of desire, emotion, yearning and love in the Christian life in favor of the decisive, the definite, the committed. The Sword of the Spirit “Community Weekend” series (given to prospective members) teaches that the basis of the Christian community is the covenant, understood as an agreement. In virtue of a commitment to each other, people become brothers and sisters; “when we make a covenant we relate to one another because we are committed to one another, not because of need or desire”. The same is true of marriage, according to this talk. 186 Without a doubt, commitment is important to the Christian life. However, it cannot be primary. The primary reality is the human being's need of and longing for God. It is the erotic in relation to God, and it affects the very structure of our Christian lives.

...We note that these teachings have led to significant aberrations within the Sword of the Spirit. From its earliest days, the community regulated dating and courtship. The steps toward marriage have been a matter for direct involvement by community leaders.

“'Marty had gone to his pastoral leader to ask about me,' Kathy says. 'And then his pastoral leader had talked to my pastoral leader. My pastoral leader had given permission for me to enter into a dating relationship. But all this time, I had no idea any of it was going on.' Only when Marty asked to see her again did Kathy realize that she was the target of a formal marriage suit.” 191

This writer has personally spoken with three women whose marriages were “arranged” by community leaders in the Sword of the Spirit. This typically happened by pastoral leaders setting up the dates (or encouraging them) and then rushing the persons concerned into subsequent choices of engagement and marriage. In one case, the woman was actually required to repeat after her pastoral leader, “I do want to marry N.”, when she expressed misgivings. Of these three, one marriage has ended, another is in grave trouble, and the third couple has left the community, while facing the fact that they never would have chosen each other on their own. They are successfully learning to love each other.


173 Clark, Man and Woman in Christ,1980, p. 83.
174 ibid., p. 85.
175 Boethius, De duabus naturis et una persona Christi. See also, St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I, 29, 1 and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), The Acting Person, p. 73.
176 Joseph Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, p. 92.
177 Bruce Yocum, “Pastoral Care in Sword of the Spirit”, Address given June 5, 1991.
178 Indeed, one senior coordinator of the People of Praise did state in the early 70s that a good wife is like “a one-man dog”. See Wendy Leifeld, “The Gender Issue, 2”, The National Catholic Register, May 24, 1992.
179 Man and Woman in Christ, p. 649.
180 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 17
181 Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) Love and Responsibility, (Farrar, Straus, Giroux; New York 1981), pp. 23-24.
182 In which the shared goods are the ends of marriage: procreation, mutual support, etc. See Love and Responsibility, p. 30, “These objective purposes of marriage create in principle the possibility of love.” (emphasis added)
183 Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, pp. 28-29
184 Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, p. 81.
185 ibid., p. 488.
186 Constitution of the Sword of the Spirit, Community Weekend #3.
191 David Crumm, “The Rise and Fall of a Heavenly Empire”, Detroit Free Press Magazine, September 20, 1992, p. 14.

Cygnus said...

Thanks, Mark. I was going to say that I'm surprised that Clark isn't the CEO of some firm with his over-emphasis on organization. But, in fact, he is a CEO . . . of the Sword of the Spirit. People need to know how pernicious this man is.

I've had occasion to communicate with Dr. Reimers, and he's contributed to the Covenant Communities Blog and the Freedom Forum, both of which are on my blogroll.

Tummy said...

Cygnus, while some of this is over my head it's a very interesting read. I look forward to more on it.