by: Marceline Donaldson
I just finished a book by Verna J. Dozier entitled “The Dream of God.” It is published by Cowley Publications, if you are moved to buy the book. I found mine at an estate sale and would not have picked it up otherwise. Cowley Publications is in Cambridge, MA if you want to follow this through.
This is an amazing book. Ms. Dozier dug deep to put out for the rest of us her wisdom and musings and prophetic voice.
I didn’t quite understand the title until I almost finished the book and then it hit like a storm.
I have always believed the Kingdom of God was all around us. We were the ones inhibiting our ability to see, feel touch, live out and through this kingdom. Maybe the terminology stopped me – but I am old and Kingdom of God is a traditional term we all think we understand, but really don’t.
She tears apart the concept of an institutional Church – corporate business structure – our need to institutionalize as a comfort zone which keeps us away from the Kingdom of God where there is freedom and keeps us tied to our institutions which we create because of their comfort and our need to be told what, how, when to do. Kind of explains why some people move so far right to the threshold and into the “kingdom of authoritarianism’. Why we look for a leader and allow that person to turn into a dictator over against all of us.
She outlines the several times she sees us as having fallen: In the Garden of Eden when we discovered we were naked; during the time of Israel and the coming together of the Jewish people; and recently. All times she sees an opening for us to be a part of, help bring about and live into the Dream of God and all times we let fear keep us away from such a magnificent concept.
She writes some incredible truths we don’t want to read – “nothing scares us more than freedom. We are always afraid that freedom will degenerate into chaos – as it often does – so to escape chaos we flee to authority, which means authoritarianism.”
She sees our chosen purpose as one that calls us to be coworkers with our Creator so that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized. “God has paid us the high compliment of calling us to be coworkers with our Creator, a compliment so awesome that we have fled from it and taken refuge in the church. God does not need such an institution. “‘Destroy this temple,’ Jesus said,’ and I will rebuild it in three days.’ ”
“Like Esau, we have surrendered our birthright.”
Institutional structure is where I have spent a lot of time, trying to understand what that means – how the structure affects the people living within its boundaries – what role does the institution play in moving us in the wrong directions we have taken trying to get to a good end.
Ms. Dozier says “The institution is the servant of the people, but it has presumed to become the master.
“We the people are responsible for what the institution has done. We have allowed God’s gracious gift to us of order, continuity and memory to become a monster of control irrelevance and idolatry.”
In the beginning of “the Dream of God” Verna Dozier talks about the “free gift of God ” to be the new thing in the world.”a witness that all of life could be different for everybody – this gift was harnessed by an institution that established a hierarchy of those who “know’ above the great mass of those who must be told.”….”A veil was in the temple, a rood screen in the cathedrals.”
Some of her statements contain delayed power – “The people of the Torah made the gracious gift of the law into a system. The people of the resurrection made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure.”
She carried me along in her book until the last few pages when she totally back tracks on everything she has said so far and done what she has called the rest of us to reject. She rationalizes the current structure and talks about how it can be effective, if only.
No matter your particular religious belief, this is an awesome book. I have always had real problems with the worship of Jesus. That seems to contradict everything Jesus was about. She breaks into two 1) the worship of Jesus or 2) following in Jesus’ footsteps with your life choices. but she clearly outlines how in taking on the institution Jesus lost the war, but gained the victory.
Turning the messenger into the message is idolatry to Ms. Dozier. I can understand that. It has been one of my long standing problems with the Church. Worship the messenger and you don’t have to deal with the message.
Close the door to your reading room when you pick up this book and shut everything else out.
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