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Your church is too small

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2.14

What did Simone Weil have against organised religion? In a letter from Casablanca, written on 26 May 1942 and entitled Last Thoughts, she explains her misgiving to Fr Perrin. In so doing she is frank in her criticism of his behaviour but not before turning cartwheels to reassure him of her undying affection and respect. Her concern has to do with the depth and universality of God's mercy and truth. These are germane to the whole of creation and to the essence of life itself. By contrast the Church, by its very existence, suggests a demarcation separating what is of God from what is of the world. And her complaint against Fr Perrin is that he is biased in favour of those overtly associated with the former, while apt to be dismissive of those who are not.

That Weil detects the same inclination in herself is demonstrated by her identifying with the barren fig tree which Jesus curses even though it was not the season for figs. The issue is hypocrisy because fig trees are supposed to produce fruit whenever leaves appear, even out of season; otherwise they are giving a false impression, as was the case with this particular specimen. Jesus' response reveals God's intolerance of those who make claims they fail to live up to themselves.

What is at stake in all of this is the vocation of all Christians in following Jesus as witnesses to the truth. Weil's argument is that God's truth is not only revealed in the external and obvious source which is the community of faith; it is also, if more subliminally, revealed throughout creation, whether in the wisdom of the Stoics, the scriptures of other religions, or even a talking donkey! Confining our appreciation of God's revelation to church dogma is to restrict our ability to recognise God's revelation in all creation because his writ runs through everything and not just over the Church.



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