Too many Christians still think of cultural life as just a setting in which the message of salvation can be communicated, not the site within which the consequences of redemption begin to be worked out, in which ramifications of the order of human life are faithfully enacted.
We need to go out to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord.
One of the unintended and unhappy consequences of St. John’s Armageddon vision is that it has inflamed the imaginations of the biblically illiterate ion consuming endtime fantasies, distracting them from the day valor of dogged obedience, sacrificial love, and a alert endurance. This is exactly what St. John did not intend, as even a cursory reading of his Revelation makes evident. When people are ignorant of the imagery of prophets and gospels, and untutored in the metaphorical language of war in the story of salvation, they are easy pray for entertaining predictions of an end-time holocaust at Mount Meggido in Israel, conjured up from newspaper clippings on international politics. Jesus told us quite clearly that the people who make these breathless and sensationalist predictions are themselves the false Christs and false prophets that they are pretending to warn us against (Matthew 24:23-26).
Religious people have a habit of developing a similar relationship to their doctrine and beliefs Over time, many become a connoisseurs of their religion. People who learn to appreciate and make subtle distinctions develop a refined sense of what kind of behavior and belief are okay and not okay. They develop an interest in detecting the subtlest of theological distinctions and nuance. They prefer to congregate and associate with other people who like the same kind of doctrines and dogmas.
Nothing is wrong with developing a mastery of religion. The problem is that mastery of our religion has almost nothing to do with Jesus and what he came to do in the world.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be make to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.