chapter  2
12 Pages

The Illusion of Eden and the Fortified City

Desert travelers are familiar with the phenomenon of the mirage. Shimmering heat waves rising from the sunbaked sand create the optical illusion of a lake of water. This illusion is then often trans­ formed in the mind of the parched wanderer to a paradise of pools and palm trees, a life-sustaining oasis in the wilderness. Likewise, members of religious institutions often participate in the wishful illusion that the congregation is the perfect family of God-perhaps the perfect family that they did not experience as a child. The Christian Church in particular has always represented itself as creat­ ing the “kingdom (of God) among us” thereby implying that it is in this community that we recreate paradise on earth. Our hunger for this perfect family is destined to be frustrated. Many congregations, however, attempt to maintain their dream by avoiding conflict at all costs and by building about themselves inner and outer walls of denial, rationalization, and repression.