Boys Outside of the Cocoon Hood
It was probably about 6 years ago now that I met Eugene. It was just after my wife and I embarked on a new journey of refuge living by the sea hoping we’d finally find the answer to “God knows what”. Eugene is now in his late eighties as I write this and has long since moved from where we first met as next-door neighbors. Nonetheless, we became quite good friends during our brief year or so together, as we would share an occasional top-shelf bourbon and a premium cigar in my back yard over something hot and tasty off the grill. And to be sure he was probably more enamored with my son whose brief acting career endeared Eugene to him. But notwithstanding, there was a spiritual kinship we also shared as a back-and-forth comradery of our own experience along the narrow path, even while coming from opposite sides of the ecclesiastical pond. Even so, the majority of our conversations centered around how we were still both trying to find our way around as pesky little tadpoles amidst the giant fish that still ruled the murky waters of Christendom.
In fact, I can remember one particular evening as we were discussing his experience of coming from the more sacramental side of the church (catholic-orthodox), and myself as a slightly out of place evangelical, that in his own experience, the church condescendingly protected themselves inside of what he called “a cocoon of orthodoxy”. And I must admit I was slightly jealous due to the fact that it was a “great” description of what I too had felt along the way, and a term that I certainly wished had originated with me. But being true to my old friend, I can’t stake any claims to have coined the phrase but am simply putting forth briefly what I think we both meant as we discovered its truthfulness in some sort of experiential unison.
In fact, it was a very interesting exercise as we started to unpack what we each meant by it at the most basic level. However, we agreed quite quickly that for one, it meant that the church, through two-millennia of framing its belief system, had managed not only to safely protect its own post-Constantine privilege by the hand-selected keepers of the keys to the kingdom, while also simultaneously excluding that same protection from those who politely raised their hand with 64-dollar questions perceived as a threat to the finely oiled orthodoxy machine. And this threatened excommunication was put forth rather than giving thoughtful, spirit-filled answers to these lingering questions from inquiring minds, with the potential of being the key to turning mere spectators into stark raving fans of the engine they were selling.
Secondly, Eugene and I also surmised that this same protection, evidently unbeknownst or ignored by the magisterium, was what often kept a world of would-be seekers a stone’s throw from its promise of “abundant life”. Stalwartly emphasizing its inexhaustibly correct orthodoxy as the “end all, be all”, as opposed to a synchronized orthopraxy of lived holiness wrapped in some common shoe leather and alms for the Lazarus poor just outside their gate. That is of course not to say that there has not been any emphasis at all by the church on living out what they say they believe, but yet what seems to be equally true is that the safety and warmth inside of the cocoon keeps the church somewhat selective as to whether or not it will ever be ready to fly boldly out of its metamorphic state as once again an attractive butterfly into a now Post-Christian world of spiritual exile where oppositional parasites lurk about threatening its very lifeblood. And thus when jeopardized, the church crawls back inside and pulls the orthodoxy cocoon safely shut, never truly engaging life’s full complexity with the rest of us occasional “doubting Thomas’s” who are simply looking for crumbs from its holy table. Meanwhile, the unyielding “ex-cathedra” can be heard among the triage of our respective ponds, thus shutting the cocoon door once again to any threat to its potential and ongoing reformation from any of Luther’s progeny.
Thirdly, the sanction of the church goes one step further we concluded, by somehow getting the masses to believe that the more complicated and mystical their orthodoxy is, that it somehow keeps the good guys in, and the bad guys out; further ensuring there’s no chance in Hell of them ever becoming a beautiful church butterfly that almost everyone would long to be seen with. So evidently, the more you can’t really explain it the more intellectually appealing it actually is, which also serves to keep out the potential heretics in all of us with the convenient exception of the clerics with the Holy successional pen. Or perhaps they’re like Dr. Franklyn in the Hounds of Baskervilles, replying to Mr. Holmes when asked “What is it exactly that you do here”, where Dr. Franklyn replies, “Oh Mr. Holmes, I’d be glad to answer the question, but then, of course, I’d have to kill you”. A rather clever way to tell all of us clueless Berean caterpillars to mind our own damn business and keep our pesky little questions to ourselves!
Meanwhile, as we continue to gaze at the cocoon waiting for the panorama of its potential beauty to behold again, great schisms have come and reformations have gone, and yet there still seems to be no sign of any emergent transformation. In fact, unity within Orthodoxy still remains as elusive as the eradication of death and taxes; as the Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelical hegemony sit behind their resolute desks with their own tweaked version of Holy Writ in one hand and theological one-upmanship in the other. Each claiming to be the true church and unwilling to coalesce the ecclesiastical offices necessary to relinquish the position, power and livelihood that goes with it for the collective good of Christ’s church. All the while, as the end-times players are starting to position their checkmate with the board of our lives, the rise of the “none’s” and “done’s” increase their parishioners. Meanwhile, the woke churches within these three “rank and file” help endorse the globalists jab of Kool-Aid under the presumption they are somehow doing God a favor and loving their neighbor at the same time. And then of course there is the remnant of those having not yet bowed the knee to Baal and his prophets, but who are currently being stacked up around the fire pit instead, waiting for their priests to strike the match while the Elijah’s among us have forgotten our prophetic opening lines.
Cocoon Envy Interrupted
And the truth is, I have written about this quandary for some 6-years now, certainly making no long-lasting friends among the protected Cocoonalogians. And during this time, I have gone from a brief hiatus from inside its lovely shell as never really more than a “key-keeper” on permanent probationary status, to now someone who has apparently kissed enough ecclesiastical hairy butts to get myself a full pardon if I merely straighten up, fly right and kiss the ring of compliance. And as my own cocoon entrance exam is still waiting for approval by some holy council, I often wonder yet again whether or not Eugene and I are still in cahoots miles apart as we are. Him now away at a rest home getting his exiting house in order, while this aging caterpillar still wonders if my contribution to the prospect of the church again becoming a butterfly is worth my graduation finally into the cocoons’ elite after all.