Facing crises in communities & organizations

Current events can seem gloomy, even discouraging, if we only see crises in which everything disappears, whereas in the midst of them, there are glimmers of hope and renewal. In the abundant landscape of publishing, a book with an evocative and quite original title, published at the beginning of 2021, is the emblematic example, to face crises in movements and communities, but the interest of this book goes beyond this framework. Its title is La destruction créatrice by Luigino Bruni*.

Luigino Bruni is a professor of economics, and for years he was a close collaborator of Chira Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement. Luigino Bruni draws both on this personal experience and on his work on the Bible, which can inspire a "grammar of crises". In addition, his expertise as an economist is in management, human relations and organizational theory. According to him, 98% of religious organizations are similar to non-religious organizations: crises in religious organizations are due to this 98% or to 2%, or sometimes to both.

I have learned many lessons from the twenty or so themes that are covered that would be impossible to summarize in a few words. Concerning the experience within charismatic communities or religious organizations in general, I would stress the importance of distinguishing between the ideal community and the ideal of the community. Indeed, there is always a gap between the two, between "the ideal reality" and "the ideal of reality". This gap is not a failure in itself. On the contrary, this gap is inherent in our human condition, marked by limitation and imperfection, and driven by the never-ending quest for an ideal. 

In our human condition confronted with the limit, Luigino Bruni also evokes the experience of vulnerability, the capacity to be altered by the other. It invites to the respect of every person but also to the possibility of being wounded in the relationships among us, keeping the moral imperative and the sense of justice.

The first crisis in ecclesial movements or organizations is that of fraternity when, because of the charism carried by the founder or the office of the leaders, privileges begin to be insinuated which, little by little, become royal courts, when the founder, the leaders or the clerics are made idols. Castes multiply. The brotherhood is in crisis. 

Luigino Bruni also emphasizes the importance of creating spaces of freedom and creativity with the encouragement of difference, not only as a right but also as a necessity: no to a loss of "spiritual biodiversity". Plurality within communities is necessary to make the ideal live in the diversity of charisms and vocations, to arouse creativity but also criticism and resistance to hegemonic temptations.

Finally, the author draws inspiration from the Bible, for example from the prophet Jeremiah and the experience of the Exile. Israel understood then who God was, without a Temple, and also the fact that one can pray outside one's homeland. God can be true, even if he has lost, as the Cross shows. We always want to be successful, while the truth does not coincide with the number nor with the success.

* Luigino Bruni (2021). La destruction créatrice. Affronter les crises dans les mouvements et communautés.  Éditions Nouvelle Cité.

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