I have on several occasions heard references to Bonhoeffer as a theologian who articulates a 'religionless Christianity'. What I have not heard is this notion being attached to Simone Weil's reflections in Waiting for God. I am sure these connections have been made but I am surprised they are not more broadly engaged. In this collection of writings the six letters of Weil, philosopher, socialist and mystic, are addressed to a catholic priest who early had a profound impact on her. Weil wrestles with and rejects the attraction of being baptized into the church. Here is an excerpt.
In any case, when I think of the act by which I should enter the church as something concrete, which might happen quite soon, nothing gives me more pain than the idea of separating myself from the immense and unfortunate multitude of unbelievers. I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to sat as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal.
The language used here is quite relevant to my life. Prior to becoming a pastor I spent a year working in a factory greenhouse. It was in that context that I had some of the most meaningful discussions on faith and truth with people who likely would not be caught dead in church. As a pastor now I come carrying the weight of whatever stigma a person may attach to my office. And much more of my time is spent thinking of how I can attract heavily churched kids to a 'fun' event so that I can feel successful. To put it lightly this would seem to be missing the point.
The question by Weil is well taken. Can I love someone if they will not be themselves with me? I suspect this will be the case if someone feels the need to protect themselves against the power of my office and institution.
More excerpts to follow.