North American Presidium Ecumenical Institute, Chicago March 17, 1972
SPIRIT ANALYSIS OF NORTH AMERICA Report from the Black Penetration Team1. I have been starting out the opening lecture in RSI recently by recalling an experience I had when I was at the Philadelphia Religious House. During a conversation on current news events someone said that we had sent a missile into space, and that it had gone to Mars, taken photographs of Mars, and sent back copies of those photographs, and that we discovered that there is a Grand Canyon on Mars that makes our Grand Canyon look about the size of a coffee cup. I use that ~ talk about how radical the twentieth century is. But that is not why the twentieth century is radical. That is not even how the twentieth century is radical. What is radical about the twentieth century is that I did not know we had sent a missile to Mars. I had not seen any of the photographs. And yet I believed it. That's what's radical -me. I'm what's radical about the twentieth century. My grasp after what it means to be human is what is radical about the times that you and I have inevitably on our hands. 2. A colleague and I were talking the other day about the experience of acceleration. You have seen those men in rocket sleds who put on straps and take off against gravity. The way you and I are experiencing life in our times is that our gravity has a big hole in it and the rocket sled has an endless supply of fuel. That is the way you and I experience the radical acceleration of our own interior grasp after the demand, the implications, the possibilities that are twentieth century human existence. 3. For the first time since civilization began, the entire globe is selfconscious of having one destiny on its hands. That is the way it is. The globe has corporate destiny on its hands. My destiny is tied to a character in a rice paddy in Vietnam. That is the isness of the twentieth century. As you and I stand as the Church in this radical apex of civilization, our task, our job, our struggle is to give form to the sociological fabric to sustain human existence across the globe and to raise to selfconsciousness the interior deeps that allow human beings to grasp their relationship to the final mystery of life. That is what you and I are called to do. That is what you and I are called to be about in our time. 4. I have been reading a particular piece of poetry in traveling around the North American Continent.?t recently and I figure while so many of us are gathered together at this Presidium T ought to read it again so we will not forget it. It is from Shakespear's ~Henry 6! the Fifth" There is a war going on between France and England5 and General Westmoreland, the English general, looks at his troops at the battle station, and they are a wee bit tired and frustrated. Some of them are asleep:: Others have their guns clogged with mud, and they are low on ammunition. As he is surveying that situation, he quickly glances over the hill to see the French troops whom he is in battle against. He sees a fresh, young, vigorous us army of new men showing up to do battle and a fresh load of guns and a fresh truck full of ammunition. He looks back at his situation and begins to get the idea that the French are going to attack him. This is his comment Westmoreland: O that we now had here But one ten thousand of those men in England That do no work today! [King Henry who is the king of England speaks back, about his posture in his situation] King: What's he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin. If we are mark'd to die, we are enow To do our country loss, and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour. God's will' I pray thee wish not one man more. By Jove, I a.. not covetous for gold, Nor care I who cloth feed upon my cost; It yearns me not if men my garments wear; Such outward things dwell not in my desires: But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my c,., wish not a man from England. God's peace' I would not lose so great an honour As one man more me thinks would share from me For the tees; hope I have. O9 dc not wish one more! Rather proclaim ,m it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hati1 no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse. We would not die in that man's company That fears his fellowship to die with us. This day is call'd 'd the Feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tiptoe when; ~ his day is nam'd And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that sha'3 live this day, and see old age 9 Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours And say' Tomorrow .s Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say 'These l1~ ~ had on Crispian's day.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household wordsHarry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and GloucesterBe in their flowing cups freshly remembered. This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be rememberedWe few, we happy few, we band of brothers) For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother. Be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now abed Shall thin,< themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. General Westmoreland has been confronted here with the concrete possibility of making n new decision about what it means to be a general in the situation that he experiences. 5. I want to ,spend just a few minutes talking about the global movement's future, and that in relationship to the presence of the Church in the black community across the North American continent. First let me rehearse our journey very quickly. In 1962 we moved to Chicago and struggled to get hold of the cultural revolution, knowing that the city was the key to the future of the globe and that the inner city was the key to the city. As we began to grapple with that, what emerged was 5th City9 a project that has been going on lo these many years and has begun to be reduplicated across the face of the globe. The inner city, was the focus then, and that is how black men in the North American Continent indentified the Ecumenical Institute. They had heard about 5th City, and that was the story that they told about what we were engaged in. 6. In around 1966 we moved to developing and teaching the Black Heritage course. The context for that was the fact that in the North American continent, the black man had a destinal role to play, and his destinal role was literally determinative of the future of the North American continent. As we began to teach that kind of course and to see the perversions of psychologism in North America, we began to grasp the fact that all a black man, a white man, or any other man is a symbol. All he is is just pure symbol. The North American continent is also a symbol to the globe of the plurality of humanness itself. Therefore the struggle that was going on here between black men and white men bebecome a symbol to the rest of the globe as they tried to anticipate the future. So we began to push people on what it means to assume responsibility for that destinal role in the midst of civilization. 7. In 1970 we started the Urban Academy. We had several experiments with the Urban Academy before then but validated it then. Our focus was to penetrate the black community. We were out to penetrate churchmen in the midst of the black community where they found themselves, to give them a grasp of the reality that the Spirit Movement is. The Urban Academy became a symbol for the movement as well as churchmen in the black community of our decision to assume responsibility for the Church in the black community and its renew 1 in the midst of civilization. 8. That is our journey, and here we stand now in 1972. What is before us is obviously the radical future that is ours to give form to. 9. First I need to talk broadly about a couple of shifts that have occurred in the black revolution. One whole sweep in the midst of civilization was the Civil Rights era. Another whole sweep was the Black Power era 3 again talking broadly. Now what is going on is something we have called strategic brooding, or indepth planning. There has been a shift here of which we need to become selfconscious. The shift has been from overt anger to hidden anger. Another way to talk about the shift is from popular leadership that held symbolic power for the whole continent to a leadership vacuum. There has been a shift from a momentum of revolutionary images to a stall. Another shift is from nationalism, being able to hide in nationalism, to the impingement of the globe, or from corporate identity to solitary vocation. The last way to talk about that is the shift from the dis-establishment posture to the death of the dis-establishment vision across the North American continent in the context of the black revolution. 10. Let us look at the kind of mood that is there now, using the categories of operational image, emotional tone, and existential question. The operational image present now is revolutionary failure. That is, society is the same way as it was after I did all those things I did That kind of image is bubbling in people's interior. The emotional tone is frustrated anger. And the existential question that black men find themselves grappling with is how to engage _ significant change? Kierkegaard's categories of despairdespair over the earthly, and despair about the eternal are also helpful in pointing to the mood. In despair over the earthly the despair is over no change in the in the social fabric. The social fabric is the same. The despair about the eternal is that of sensing yourself as failing to come up to your own destinal calling, You know deep down inside your own interior that history has summoned you to do a particular task, but you have no single image to allow you to get hold of how you are actually doing the task that you know history has called you to do. That kind of despair is present. ~ . The accompanying 4 x 4 is what we worked out on the North American continent spirit analysis. The four phenomenological categories down the left side describe the journey a man experiences in each of the four formal categories of life listed across the top. I am not going to ground all of the sixteen inside boxes, but rather point to what they are and then take the four diagonal categories and illustrate how we bumped into them in the North American continent. The first category is sociological complexity. This has to do with man's lucidity and his experience of a vocational void, a chasm between his grasp after vocation and his experience. That isness is his experience of sociological complexity. Then in relationship to that, men in our time experience revolutionary possibility. Across the North American continent, yea, across the globe men are aware that the evolutionary process is in our hands. Every man grasps himself as being able to participate in the revolutionary reality that is the twentieth century. Also every man is clear that that is going to produce consequences for which he stands responsible. Any move you make produces evolutional consequences. And, finally' the indicative of the twentieth century is _escapable. There is no escape from the indicative of the globallocal reality that is the twentieth century. There is no escape from that reality. That indicative no man can get away from as he goes about living his life. 12. Vocational possibility is fairly obvious. It is what you talk about in the question of God lecture of RSI as the internal crisis, just being overwhelmed by the different drains you can get sucked into as you decide what to do with your life. Next is unrepeatable contribution, then man experiences obligational demand. Be experiences his neighbor across the globe laying a radical onslaught on his life of engagement, laying a radical demand on his life. In every situation he has 60me neighbor, who just by his sheer presence, just by that neighbor 's situation, lays an unrepeatable demand on his existence. Then he experiences a volitional imperative. He experiences the imperative to live out of the inescapable indicative that he has been trying to flee from. This is the imperative that twentieth century man experiences: he has to decide to live before the indicative that is the twentieth century. 13. Then he experiences paralytic hesitation. Every man experiences that. Anybody who does not experience that does not know what is going on in the twentieth century. He experiences interior collapse. The "Last Picture Show" for me holds that. When I got past the fact that that movie was not about sex, and that movie was not about a little boy getting killed in the street, I found out what the movie was about, and could not move out of my chair for five minutes after it was over interior collapse. Man's inter~or fabric that holds his being together over against his decisionmaking process is being carted away by somebody (and you and I know what that is). That is the kind of paralytic hesitation man experiences today. Then he experiences intentional affirmation. He has to decide to affirm his interior collapse. That ~ 1ence. He has no other >~y to move unless he affirms his interior collapse. If he does not affirm the fact that what he experiences is paralytic hesitation, he cannot budge from paralytic hesitation, that has been the experience. in is ambiguous authorization. Finally there is universal participation. Every man grasps the fact that he is participating in all of history, whatever he is doing. You just cannot say o people in RST anymore, "You are not participating in civilization." They know that everything they are doing is participating in civilization. Eve Everything they do is related to the globe. Every decision they make affects every other man's destiny. Every men is selfconscious of the fact that one way or another he Participates in the universal reality of our time. 14. Finally, every man is clear that existence is vocation. Vocation is not something you do once you exist. Showing up is vocation. Expenditure is the way life is. There is no way out of that. I like to say during the Church lecture in RS1 that you can decide to sell psychedelic popsicle sticks on Times Square for the next _v.~~y years. That's fine, but that takes you down the drain just like ananything else. You can decide to sit in a rocking chairr, and look out the window at the sunrise and sunset. That's fine, but that takes you to the tomb like everything else. Life is expenditure. There is no way to get away from that. Then everyman man experiences that he has to d ; s decisionally engage himself over against. in'.C his experience of expenditure. He has to decide where he is going to expend his 7`r_. The question is noc whether he is going to expend it or not. The question is, "My God, where? Where do I expend it? Where do I engage it?" That is the kind of question men struggle with in our time. That question shoves into absurd commitment. There is no reason to decide what I have to decide. T cannot find any props that make sense out of the decision I am about to make. I cannot figure out a rat: rational, reason. My timeline does not hold it. There is no rational reason for a radical decision to engage in civilization. All rational reasons have collapsed. There is just an absurd -just a ridiculous commitment over against history. The last category is primordial calling. 15. Now let me go through quickly and take the four diagonal categories and point a little bit more e conconcretely to what they are a'7 about. SOCIOLOGICAL COMPLEXITY. I don't know how many of you saw the movie the "Hospital," but sociological complexity is the hospital ,1 in the emergency ward. It is just jammed packed wit people. One character has taken an over~ose of drugs. Two or three women have been raped. Some: ,Somebody has been hit by a car. Three or four women are trying to have a baby. People are lying all over the place. There is marching and almost a riot going on outside. Doctors are dying. That is sociological complexity. That movie is about society, not about some hospital. It shows socio30gical complexity to the core. That is just the way it is in our time. 16. The unfaith response to sociological complexity, while all of that is going on, is teeing victim to he old. One of the ways that shows up in the movie is that while all th,s is going on, people are dying, blood is not going in the right places, the wrong people are being operated on. A woman walks up to a dying man and says, ''May I have your Blue Cross number please". People are victimized, deciding to ope~ate out o~ yesterday because today is too much to handle. People just decide ~o be rictimized by the old reality and r_fuse to have to come to terms w with the new. 17. Another way to do that is to be victim to fate. When you decide fate is that which you cannot handle, you cannot decide relative to the Word of` Jesus Christ that fate is destiny. That is true particularly in the black revolution. Behind so much of what you hear is, "I can't. It's my fate, my economic status, my intellectual ability, my country America, my fate, I can't budge because of my fate." That. kind of victimization is present over against sociological complexity. 18. Or we try to simplify the situation. "If all the kids in my block get a hot dog once a day, that is going to deal with the sociological complexity of the twentieth century." Or whatever it is, we refuse to come to terms.
21. Under the category of UNREPEATABLE CONTRIBUTION, every man grasps his life as an unrepeatable gift. That is just the way he experiences life. Whether he says yes or no to that is a different question. But everyman experiences the fact that he is an unrepeatable reality. In the soliloquy that Scott did in the movie "Hospital", he was looking out the window and reflected, "We have built the greatest medical machine that human civilization has ever known, brain surgery, heart transplants, test tube babies, and countless other things- and we have healed nothing." The pain is that the unrepeatable contribution is the brokenness that is that situation. Everyman's life, his unrepeatable contribution to history, is the brokenness that he is, as well as his greatness in the midst of the brokenness that he is. 22. Unfaith in the midst of that is pseudoengagement. In the movie one of Scott's postures was, "Well, my vodka and I are going to make it through this situation." Come hell or highwater, me and my vodka (and my impotence) are going to make it. We can handle this situation. 23. I saw a movie once called "Monty Walsh." This was a movie about a time when cowboys had gone out of existence. The only thing a cowby could do was ride a broncho in the circus. Monty's response to that situation was, "There is going to be a cowboy as long as there is one man and one cow." That was the decision he made about his life. At the end of the movie he is there with his horse, but there isn't a cow in sight anywhere. That kind of defiant engagement comes under the category of pseudo engagement. 24. Another dimension of unfaith is sporadic engagement. Recently I was talking to a character in Pittsburgh who was on 35 committees. He never went to sleep. He went from committee, to committee, to committee. 25. Or some people want to be the movement "a little bit " where the Local Church Galaxy meeting replaces the PTA meeting, or whatever it is, so that you do not have to make a vocational decision about the rest of your existence. 26. Faith there is to grasp that in the midst of the brokenness you are the unrepeatable contribution that you are, and that that contribution is authentically engaged only on behalf of all men. The only thing that allows a man to engage the life that he has on his hands is seeing the fact that it is on behalf of the totality of existence that his life goes down a particular drain, wherever that drain may be.
28. Unfaith in relationship to that is arrogant action. People grasp that the fact that they decide to participate in history, yet it does not make any difference to them whether it is helpful. "I can act so I just will." 29. Or heroic failure -- "flamboyant flameout", is what that is. You get all whomped up like a comet and take off into the universe, and half an hour later, pfff, you are gone. I suppose you could talk about that in terms of the whole disestablishment. Whether it is the Panthers, whether it is the youth culture, or whether it is female liberation, or however else it shows up, they have all been flamboyant flameouts in history. They have heroically failed to meet the needs of civilization. 30. Another way to say that is refusing the indicative. If what civilization needs is an adequate supply of Skippy peanut butter, you and I better stop doing what we are doing now and start making that. But if that is not what history needs and you decide that is what you are going to give your life to, you fail. You fail overagainst the indicative that is just the twentieth century. There is nothing moral in that. That is just the way it is. When you and I refuse to operate out of the indicative that is the twentieth century, that decision in itself is a decision to fail to meet what civilization is calling for. 31. The other way unfaith occurs is the refusal to risk. On one side is the flamboyant flameout and on the other side is Dustin Hoffman in "Straw Dogs" before the fight. It takes him two weeks to raise the question to the men outside. He refuses to risk his existence. Over against the fact that he might be called into question, he refuses to stick his being into civilization. 32. Faith here is audacious expenditure. Faith is a wild decision to radically engage your life in history from toe nail to the top of the head -- to engage the one unrepeatable existence you have in civilization. I think of Saint Francis of Assisi there. When he and Brother Leo are going into a town and the children start throwing rocks, Francis says, "Whoever throws one stone at me, let him be once blessed by God. Whoever throws two stones at me may he be twice blessed by God." That is audacious expenditure. That is a decision to stick your life into civilization, relative to where you decide civilization needs to go. That is faith in relationship to ambiguous authorization. 33. Lastly man experiences in his deeps PRIMORDIAL CALLING. Within every man's being he feels the yearning, the demand, to engage the passion that is his life. He feels compelled to participate in civilization, an experience of interior violence that he has bubbling within him to let that loose in relationship to history. That calling, that commission is in every man's being. Every creature shows up with that in the center of his being. 34. Unfaith in relationship to that is to sell out. A lot of youth are going back to work for the establishment, not on the other side of deciding that that is a transestablishment necessity, but because they have decided that nothing can happen, so they have decided to get as much of the pie as they can before the whole thing turns over. That is selling out the commission in the center of every man's being. 35. Another form of unfaith here is to refuse to be a symbol of a radical future that every man has on his hands, to refuse to live in the intensity that a decision to be that symbol requires. 36. Still another experience of unfaith is the zombie. You have bumped into people like this in trying to recruit RSI. They are frozen, literally, in despair. They see no possibility of creating in the midst of despair. They have become locked into a refrigerator called despair, into no possibility of authentic engagement. In the midst of that, to raise the question of authentic engagement to them is like talking to a wall. They have been zombieized by the radicalness and their response to the radicalness of our times. 37. Faith is to decide to have a sociological vocation, with all the passion that is your existence. Faith is to decide that on top of your very being lie all the economic, political, and cultural structures of the past, the present, and the future. The form that they are going to take is in the palm of your hand, wherever you are particularized within those social structures. 38. That has been a brief picture of what has happened. In terms of the future, on the other side of that kind of spiritual grasp of what is going on in our time, is penetration. Our penetration strategy is awakening spirit men. The reason you penetrate is to catalyze the spirit deeps of men who are ready and waiting, to find out that there colleagues who have made a decision to assume responsibility. The reason we have been penetrating is to teach RSI, to declare the gospel without which no man is human. RSI is the key to civilization, not because it is some new course that you and I have invented but because of the structure of human existence that you and I bring selfconsciousness to. That is why RSI is the key to civilization. It is the foundation of the movement. No man fully grasps himself as the movement, unless he has had that RSI course grounded in his being. RSI it is an everyman course. 39. Recently in Denver we had an RSI with 49 people, blacks, white, and Chicanos. The awe that rolls in on Friday night when you look around and see all that otherness at the table is fantastic. The course comes off when people grasp the fact that everybody has one decision, the same decision. That is whether or not you are going to be the Church -- the same decision every day, every hour. When they grasped the fact that that is all there was, finally, at the bottom of life, they about died in that course. One Chicano who left angry was driving to pick up his wife, and all of a sudden it occurred to him that some of the things that he heard that weekend were what he needed to hear, and that he was going to get in touch with us, because he thought: that what that course did for him it ought to do for some more Chicanos. That RSI course is the only thing you and I have. That is what you and I stand on, what you and I breath in history as the Movement. 40. The penetration strategy was to pick out target metros, the signal cities in North America which had a predominant population of blacks. Our presupposition was that if that city was going to come off, there had to be a sign of the church renewed in the midst of that situation. From Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia to Cleveland to Detroit to Los Angeles, that is what needs to happen. Thus the penetration trip was all about creating regional colleagues breaking loose potentialities for the Local Church Experiment. A large part of that was nurturing past grads and academy grads. 41. For the past two years the Urban Academy has served as the primary penetration dynamic, to catalyze the church in the black community. That has been accomplished or another way to say that is that the Institute is no longer finally identified as the Urban Academy. The Ecumenical Institute across the continent is now associated with RSI and with the local church, which is finally what we have been out to do. So, as a success the Urban Academy as a penetration tool has phased itself out of existence. Now we are going to continue the penetration trip as a penetration tool, and do that penetration in the local situation, in the metro and regional context of the movement, so that people grasp what it is they are about to participate in. On the accompanying chart is the journey of the Urban Academy: the places it was held, the number of people that participated in it, and the key accomplishment of that Academy. Using the image of penetration as the task of the Urban Academy, in 1970 we penetrated 65 people and in 1971 we penetrated 120 people. In the last penetration trip we had, we taught 300 black churchmen RSI in one quarter. It is that whirlwind now that we have to pick up on until this nation explodes with the possibility that is in it. 42. Within that context, the Academy, the 8week Academy, serves as the formulation tool of the Movement. The Urban Academy and the 8week Academy should not be confused. The first is 90% penetration and 10% formulation and the other is 90% formulation and 10% penetration. They are different universes. What we are out to do is to penetrate black churchmen on the local level and to formulate the way we formulate everybody else in the movement, through the 8week academy. The Academy is life or death to the movement as a training dynamic. But don't think we are naive. Having black churchmen and white churchmen in the same situation is going to create an exciting Academy this quarter! 43. I should stop here and say that there is no such thing as the ''Black Church." I have a gun I like to use, and I write things on the handle of it. Right now I have on it, "Kill the term Black Church." I keep it in my pocket all the time. I have one in the other pocket that I call, "Kill the term White Church." There is no such thing. There is only the Church of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is crucial that you and I operate out of that as we penetrate the globe. Churchmen around the globe have to see that there is only one cross, only one decision. That is what it means to be who you and I have decided to be. 44. The key gift of the Academy, outside of the training dynamic, is that it is going to symbolize to the North American continent as well as to the rest of the globe, and particularly to our colleagues who find themselves in that situation, the concrete possibility of people of different Urs deciding to be the Church in civilization -- side by side fighting Satan, to use some poetry. That kind of symbolism is what North America has to have, and finally the globe has to have, in order to come off. Outside of the global context, it does not make any difference. Do you understand that? It makes no sense whatsoever to be interested in anybody or anything, unless it is in the context of what civllization is calling for unless it is what the globe demands. There is no other reason to even raise a question about training anybody in any sort of way. It is only in the context of the globe that you and I appropriate what we are finally all about in any situation. 45. There are other dimensions of formulation on the regional level: pedagogy, course enablement, interning in religious houses, sojourning; but I do not have time to talk about them now The future that you and I have in the next twenty years is radical. It is demanding It is going to be a struggle. And it is going to be glorious. There is going to be mass evangelism across this planet in the next twenty years. The Local Church experiment is going to expand to nine geosocial continents in the next twenty years. There will be an outpost in every region around the globe. Only those who decide to be the radical covenanted ones that are the Church and pour out their lives on behalf of the globe are finally going to create civilization on behalf of every man. That is what you and I are called to be about. That is the commission you and I live and breathe.