Perennialism and Religious Institutions

If more religious institutions embraced (or at least acknowledged) perennialism, it would tremendously lesson the impression and/or reality of dogmatism, and membership would increase. Why should we care about membership? I can immediately think of a three reasons: 1. So that more people have places in which they can approach the sacred as a community, 2. Using the symbols and stories with which they have grown-up and which they find most powerful, and 3. joining in the good charity work that most of those groups do. (e.g. “I would like to feed the homeless with you, but please spare me your self-righteousness and your exclusivist vision of God!”) As it is right now, many religious groups (I am thinking here about many Roman Catholic churches, some Episcopal and Anglican churches, many evangelical churches, and some Muslim communities) are retracting and becoming less ecumenical, less perennialist, and more exclusivist. My hope and faith is that this is part of the ebb-and-flow, a minor setback on the way to a brighter future. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, at some point had to see the pendulum shift away from the progress gained during Vatican II. I wish it weren’t so, but that is the way of things. Luckily, as Martin Luther King, jr. said, “The arc of the universe, though long, always points toward justice.”

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