This week I am challenged to reflect on what disillusions me? What disillusionment do I feel within my being – disillusionment about people, society, the world, religion, faith and even God? Can I identify and accept disillusionment within myself and, if so, what do I do with it? Do I avoid it or ignore it, hoping it will pass and all the while cling to whatever it is I want to hold onto? Do I run with it and feel the despair and confusion as disillusionment rolls through questioning, challenging and confronting? Such questions and confrontation perhaps lays me bare as I am forced to cast aside the ‘comfortable clothing’ I have worn, the ‘clothing’ of culture, tribe, belief system, dogma and personal perception or opinion. Giving in to disillusionment and allowing the questions to emerge is a hard game to play because we don’t know how far it will lead or what it will require us to shuck off. What will stand up at the end of the journey and survive the abandonment of illusions? For that is what disillusionment is all about – the abandonment of illusions. Illusions can define us and others. They can provide false guides and barriers that distort, exclude and help us hide from, ignore, avoid or be blissfully unaware of the reality that lies beyond illusory life and belief.
Part of the process of growing involves necessary disillusionment as we cast aside childhood fantasises and beliefs and move through adolescence and into adulthood. Leaving the world of childhood is to abandon the illusions of childhood and is symbolised in the story of Adam and Eve leaving the garden, moving out of the fantastical paradise and into the world of reality, joyous and harsh. Their journey, like that of every journey that every human has to make, requires a new vision, a clear ‘seeing’ in a new way. It ultimately requires a change in heart and mind as we let prejudices and false perceptions about people, the world and life fade away.
All around us there is great disillusionment over a great many things. There is disillusionment in the political processes as they feel unable to truly engage with and lead us through the confronting and challenging issues Australian society faces. There is as much disillusionment within the political parties as there is outside. They chop and change and swap leaders in a cheap response to opinion polls or idealistic notions or personal opinion and ideology. There is disillusionment in various other institutions from the finance sector, aged care services, churches and community organisations, following the various Royal Commissions and their astounding and horrific findings. There is disillusionment within the younger generation as they perceive the older generations have let them down by demanding a lifestyle that is highly materialistic and has resulted in greater distance between rich and poor, haves and have-nots and has made ownership of homes very difficult. They are all too aware of Climate Change even as their elders often reject it as a nonsense despite the ever-growing scientific evidence and the obvious radical changes everywhere present across the earth. They are disillusioned because the world they will grow into with children and grandchildren will be vastly different and more difficult because of the current trends of greed and abuse of the planet through overpopulation, depletion of resources, poor and indiscriminate use of land, water and air, and their degradation through copious waste – solid, liquid and gas emissions. The breakdown of community as we become more isolated and insulated within homes and workplaces, cars and private life, leads to increased fear, suspicion and exclusion of those who are different. Cruel and barbaric policies that give voice to such fears, resulting in exclusion, violence and hatred, permeate the national agenda and our international relations, foreign aid and support of those who live in poverty and oppression.
These are not things we prefer to engage with or hear. We avoid the confronting and challenging words that ask questions of us and our attitudes. I often balk when someone has the courage and honesty to tell me things as they are, that something I have done or said is ludicrous, hurtful, foolish or plain wrong. I hastily build my defences and prepare to deflect or challenge back, anything but stop and hear the words of truth offered in love. When I stop taking myself so seriously and act with a small dose of humility and allow the words to come to me, I may begin to recognise the uncomfortable truth. That is the first step to change and growth and life. The move through disillusionment and squashing of false illusions in order to gain a deeper sense of understanding, awareness and reality. No growth is without the consequent struggle and challenge or pain.
This week Jesus returns home to Nazareth (Luke 4:21-30 – the rest of last week’s story). He preached in the Synagogue and the people liked his words – initially. They recognised him as Joe’s boy who grown up among them. There were friends, relatives and towns people who knew him as a boy. They had heard the growing range of stories around what he’d been doing in other villages – and they felt they deserved even more of the blessing and miracles, healing and anything else. Jesus began well but then took a sharp turn in his rhetoric. Understanding their tribal pride, their desire to own and define him and what he would/should do, he challenged them at the very point of their exclusive, ego-driven pride and expectation. He told them that God rarely acted in ways that people expected or easily defined. Whenever humans try to limit God’s actions to their tribe, their belief system, their in-group, God moved outside and worked elsewhere. He quoted a couple of well-known stories from their tradition – a gentile widow who shared the little she had with one of God’s prophets and was blessed for her generous, inclusive love and faith. Naaman was another Gentile, a leader and he was healed of leprosy. Both of these were outside the expected groups. They were outcasts, marginal people and God was expected to work within the in-group of the Jewish faithful, not among these but that was exactly where God was to be found.
Jesus confronted his home-town crowd with this uncomfortable truth – just because you know me and believe you should be God’s favourites, doesn’t make it so. Whilst ever you want to contain God, faith, love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and justice to your own group and deny others, God will always work outside in other places where love, justice, grace and compassion is inclusive and generous towards all people – whether they are Jewish (or Christian!) or not!
This is the disillusionment that we need to grow through. God’s blessings are not exclusively ours (whether in the local religious tribe or the national agenda)! We simply aren’t that good. We aren’t bad but we aren’t better than everyone else – and that is okay! A bit of humility and reality is needed and then maybe love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and justice may emerge more fully – and so will life in joyous abundance, for all!