Addiction to unlove

I’ve got a friend–but he really could be any of us, he could be me–who has been deeply wounded by years of addiction.  Underneath that issue are a meriad of others, the loss of a father at an early age, the upbringing by that father that was alternately over permissive and brutally exacting, the genetic imprinting of a lineage of users and abusers all of whom put on religious faces preaching like angels and sinning like satan.  Years of growing up in fundamentalist religion, suppression and repression and eventually depression, has buried itself in the lines on his face.  He, like many of us, and perhaps because of some of us, rejected institutionalized Christianity.  It made sense to do so.  It was the villain forcing him towards substance abuse.  He, and we, rationalized that the absence of religiosity would be the Presence of God–the changing, transforming Presence of God.  One can say what they want, that he didn’t try hard enough, that he didn’t go to enough meetings, or pursue as others of us did, but he feels he gave it his best shot…and he did.  Sadly, the god he was aquainted with was not enough to conquer the addiction he intimately knew.  

And the truth was that those of us who showed him this god were no better.  We were still locked in the system of hiding weakness, denying humanity (the worst and the best), and the deification of escapism.  The formation we provided was hardly one of tackling problems and wrestling with them, Jacob vs. the Angel of the Lord style.  No, ours was a transcendent deity fostering a transcendent focus on heaven and soul (or spirit).  Our wisdom sounded like novice Gnosticism: reject the material realm, lose yourself, loathe yourself…come to the place of your own darkness.  “Arrive.”  “Get yourself to that spot.”  “Once you’re there.” In the end, it didn’t work.  None of it did.  He drank more and with greater secrecy.  Again, religion had told him to hide it.  That’s exactly what he did.  He dropped out of our lives, though he lived in the same intentional community.  He was gone.  

I struggle with that reality, with what is now a memory.  I wonder if I’d handled it differently how things might be changed for him.  I really don’t know.  Even recently, when he and I have talked, I get the impression from him that his expectation of religion is no less than what he received.  And even as my spiritual realities have changed and can offer him distinct advantages over what he once heard, he tends to reject those claims.  He, oddly enough, holds fiercely to the old religious view points of his father and lately of his friends–that didn’t work for any of us then and still don’t work for him.  On one hand he rejects the fundamentalism of his past as a failed set of unrealities, on the other hand he refuses to allow it to expand or be expanded.  There is no alternative Christianity for him, or even spirituality.  There is only the dogmatic claims of a late 20th century Protestantism, caught up in it’s own post enlightenment PR.   The funny thing is…it’s a straw man argument for him…as long as he can beat up what no one is actually saying, he doesn’t have to address what is truly be said in this moment.

What is being said?  What is the quentisental difference (at least in me) from now to then?  

Belovedness.

The sacredness of humanity.  That below our brokeness, the scar of a thousand millennia of falls and choosing from trees we know better than to eat from, lies the substance of God.  The smile of God saying: it will be alright.  Weakness is beautiful.  Strength is profane.  You’re ok.  It’s going to be alright.  Not because you belong to this little group or slightly larger grouping of those who believe in like manner.  But because you are.  Being is belonging.  That God, not the devil, is in the details.  That faith is simply living.  I get it now, like I never have before, that my certitudes and platitudes, were not faith…they were science, and an artificial science at that.  Faith (and true science) is found more often in the inky blackness of the universe, the absence and the Void, the unKnowing and the hidden stillness of parabola or the unSeen but intimately felt reality of a billion trillion minute strings pulling the chords of the universe through Word and anthemic Song. 

 And you…you with all of your imperfections…you are gorgeous, just as you are.  You Truth, hidden beneath a murky milleau of Lie, is bursting to be seen; to tear out and kiss God as though embracing a mirror.

That’s what I wish I could communicate to him.  That’s what I’m starting to know…deeply…and, for me at least, it’s making all the difference.

House Church vs. Emerging…

In response to the conversation the Mike started over at zoecarnate.com I’d like to a little bit about the convergence of house church and emerging church. 

FIRST: A DISCLAIMER

My own spiritual biography is as much all over the topography of evangelicalism as the next guy.  I grew up in the belly of Churchianity and in 1998 took a neccesarry time out.  I was young, I was opinionated, and I had an ax to grind.  Since then I’ve spoken about many of those moral outcries’ against the institutional church simply being daddy issues getting worked through. And I do really believe that; not so much about the actual points of contention, make no mistake, I still have real and, I believe, legitimate concerns about that nature and conduct of much of what passes for the Way of Christ today.  But actually, in reflection, most of my daddy issues came out in the manner I reacted against the institutional church in.  I was angry and brash and fundamentalist to the core.  Those attitudal leanings clouded much of what were actual prophetic concerns for direction of Christianity.  I made it easy for people to disregard the message. 

FROM ONE SYSTEM TO ANOTHER

I cut my teeth in the house church world.  I called it primitive church. First century church.  I made pithy (read: obnoxious) comments like “God is at home when His people are at home”.  I centralized the role of the house in all things. And I was not alone.  It felt like most everyone in that stream, be they more radical (ala Gene Edwards, Frank Viola, etc) or more moderate (Rutz, Simpson, Dale), were all reacting deeply to the institution. 

Eventually I ceased to live in deconstruction.  My enjoyment of labeling denominated Christianity as “them” and those who met in a home as “us” faded.  Truth be told I was seeing much of the same deadness I had reacted against, in my own church community.  Many of the same issues were incredibly present. Of course I ended up realizing that institutions were not the problems…people were.  And without sounding too Augustinian (which I’m not on this issue)…I realize that people are simply going to be…well…people, wherever and in whatever form or system you set up.

That was the other thing I realized.  No matter how much you try and escape culture or systems, you are making them.  Every point of view is a view from a point.  In other words we all bring our entire culture with us. It’s false positivism to imagine we are uninfluenced by our pasts or that THIS church experience will be pure in being detached from our previous ones.  Besides all that, if you do something twice you’ve just created a working ritual. And I inherently began to understand some things deserved to be done twice. 

ENTER THE EMERGING CHURCH

In many conversations with a variety of people and friends I discovered that there was an entire world of friends and followers of Jesus who were exploring these same radically complex issues.  They were doing so with a level of honesty, humility, and dogged experimentation.  It felt like they had learned many of the lessons that were now hardpressed for me.  For that i was grateful.  It also felt like they had not veered quite so reactionary as had I and others in what was now being deemed as ‘the house church movement’.  In many of these conversations, culture critique (and church critique) was redirected into culture creation (and church creation)…something I consider infinitly more worthy of time spent. 

SOME COMMONALITIES

Over the past while I’ve come to see that the two streams are more connected than disconnected.  I found relationship, narrative theology, informality, bottom up distributed leadership, a reappreciation for a more thorough reading of the New Testament, all in house church AND emerging church.  I found in both, an honest appraisal of the short comings of modern Christianity and the plight of the Church.  And, in both, I found a lot of people who loved Jesus and were attempting to explore the implications of living in His reality. 

DIVERGENCE

There are however real differences.  I’ve often postulated what they are.  For me, and this is based only upon my interpretation of my own experience, as well as my limitted experience of countless groups meeting in homes across the US and several across the world, some of the difference lie in the demographic attracted to both.  Take your average house church. According to one well documented source, the average age in the US is over 40. Interesting.  Over 40.  (That is certainly the case with the group I was a part of. The initial radical birthing of our group, whose thought and aspirations resembled much more of the emerging thinkers of today, was more recently replaced with secure/stable/systematic thinkers…all of whom are typically over 40…nothing bad about that by the way…I love them all) 

IT’S ALL ABOUT STEREO TYPES

They are the last hold outs of the boomers.  Sociologists say that boomers are the last generation raised in a Modern (philosophically) environment.  The boomers then radically changed the landscape didn’t they?  But meanwhile they, themselves, are not all that different than their “greatest generation” parents.  That’s why the hippie chicks grew up to be hypocrites.  Why peacenicks gave birth to war mongers.  They created a different society but found it to be too difficult to live with. (I’m speaking in generalities…however, this is hardly original to me…) 

WHAT ABOUT GEN X?

Enter Gen X and their children. We are pluralists raised in a pluralistic society.  We match our contexts in a way that our parents really didn’t.  And so go to your average (if there is such a thing) emergent gathering.  There tends to be more of an embrace of culture, more of a nuanced appreciation for symbol and sign, and an ability or at least a desire to live in tension rather than running to fundamentalism (left or right). There is a consideration of form and tradition that the Modern mind cannot grasp.  This difference is carefully articulated in the difference between my mother (a boomer) and my wife (a gen x).  My mother cannot understand the love of older more distressed furniture that my wife has chosen for our house.  The reason…”I want my house to look new…not old”  The Modernist Experiment was always forward thinking. The illusion of the Enlightenment was that the present was racing towards a glorious horizon of future completely detached from the old, and should then no respect what the old ways brought.  This then is played out over and over in how postmodern worship is characterized as both “future AND ancient” rather than simply searching for the NEXT thing…

As I look at these two experiences I can’t help but wonder if the real difference for me is one of social tendencies.  Two different expressions of the church for two different generations or era’s. 

To be honest, the house churches I’ve seen seem to be more focussed on deconstruction, even in their constructive forms (as in: “Institutional church says “No!”…I’ll say “Yes!” and so on…this is reactionary even if it’s not deconstructive…and I think it is done at a far deeper level than any one is cognitive of). 

SO OFF MY THEORETICAL SOAP BOX

I appreciate that both streams have allowed people who might not otherwise be within the fold of Christianity any more, to inhabit it with a measure of good conscience.  I know I hear a lot about radical conversions in both groupings…however, I think as a whole emerging churches and house churches tend to be started by, inspired with, and ministering to the broken and battered children of church; who, filled with Sunday School promises of a deeper life of miracles and mighty wonders, were crushed that those just didn’t come true.  For that, both cultural moves should be thanked.  They’ve extended the bounds of “orthodoxy”.

In the end…the emerging church conversation enfolds and overtakes the house church movement.  The Church truly is emerging. She is growing and maturing. She is reimagining herself and what she was called to be in her birthing moments.  Perhaps she always is.  A generation ago that reimagining and reaction brought forth the Jesus Movement and thousands of communities meeting in homes for the first time, that gave birth in dream and vision to the house churches of today.  Now, younger generations are stumbling along groping for light and life, trying to make sense of the headship of jesus Christ in today’s world. Call it the emergent church, the simple plan, life in the Way of Jesus…whatever…it is changing…the world is different and the Church, both an influencer and influenced by Her culture is changing with it.  That change, including the house church exodus of the past, is emerging. 

(And all that while realizing there is some debate among emergers about the sustainability of that brand name as such, that being Emerging Church.  I get it.  I really do.  What did we expect when we put thought generators and idea first takers into the same room and then asked them to be content for more than five years with one label?  It was inevidable.  The word no longers describes the new ideas…though scientifically speaking…I can’t find a better more palatable one)

Suspending Disbelief…an act of worship

  

Years ago I flirted with the charismatic world.  I suppose the farthest I ever got was Vineyard, which may only be like making it to second base, I really don’t know.  During Bible college I became pretty sickened by the rank intellectualism of the seminarians I was encountering and so became a champion of headless spirituality. Now you have to understand, I mean that in a positive way.  So much of Western Christianity is pure frontal lobe.  As Richard Rohr says, “it’s about 1/3 inch of 1/2 of your brain”.  Frankly, I think that there needs to be more heart and more hands within spirituality.  Head, I feel, can often get in the way…at least it has for me historically.  Alright, skip ahead several years.  Fly over the anti-intellectualism of my house church days.  Zip across most of my snobbish counter snobbery rhetoric.  Find me located in a much healthier place (I imagine), that appreciates all three aspects of the human organism.  Feeling has a place, as does choosing, and so also does processing, analyzing, questioning, thoughtful discourse.  Each of these are integral in a healthy integration of being incarnate (allowing All of God to reside in All of me).  In other words, full spirituality requires all of my capacities exercised to their fullest capacity.  That includes the intellect. In fact, I’m not sure if faith can exist without a healthy measure of doubt also in orbit.  True worship of the Divine includes, in a Job-like sense, the questioning of the Divine.  In fact, the picture we see in Job is one of a Holy community between GOD and Job filled with questions for one another.  An integral spirituality requires thought, consideration, and ultimately question.  This is a product, I would say, of the human intellect.  I also believe that to the best of our ability we are compelled to be ‘articulants’ of the Word made flesh.  We use the words we know to tell of the indescribable.  We strive for better words that give more full expression to the ineffable Mystery of God.  Language is also of a product of the human mind.  As we see with Adam, the naming of things, the giving birth to word and description, is fundamental to being human and being made in the image of God.  And finally we are compelled to be co-creators with God.  Creation involves imagination.  We are invited to imagine and RE-imagine new worlds or the world with new properties.  This is another element of the mind.  There are undoubtedly far more reasons than this to be thoughtful Christians, but for me 1)Question 2) Expression 3) Imagination are reason enough to cultivate a healthy appreciation of intellect among the trinity of the human soul.  

I’m saying this because I want no argument for what I’m about to say.  I want no one jumping out of the bushes and saying “Brittian wants us to ‘check our brains at the door’”.  Because I don’t.  I’m simply making a suggestion.

Back to the charismatic world.  I admire them. I admire them because regardless of their daily issues or uncertainties there is an assumption that God is active in the world, both at large and in their lives.  Not just any God, but the immanent God, the God who is HERE, the God who can overturn tables and hearts and bodies.  To many in that move, God can speak and WILL speak.  His voice is definite and deafening.  Maybe this only applies to their church services.  While the Presence undoubtedly springs from those events or meetings, the expectation flows into the fullness of living.  There is a casual expectation that God will be made visible and He will be known.  I deeply respect that.  Actually, I envy that.  I sort of think of it like this…if that isn’t the sort of God we are involved with then we should just move beyond God.  

Here’s my thought.  I’m bothered by the hyper critical intellectualism of post-mod melody making (worship services, etc.)  Many of us were frustrated by sit and soak Christianity where church became a spectator sport and we all watched Pastor Jimmy slam dunk another sermon (while we sat on our hands and listened to him have a great time).  Enter the dialogue styled talks of emergent gatherings or the small group anybody is free to share sessions of house church.  Awesome!!!  We weren’t sitting on the sidelines anymore, right?  Guess, what…I believe the same needs to happen with worship and song.  Just as the discussion in house churches or emerging churches requires an conscious engagement of the head, so this will require a conscious engagement of the heart.  

I envision a space of suspended disbelief…a momentary blip in time where we consciously interact with our emotions and allow our imaginations to be activated.  Psychology might call it, “silencing the internal critic”. Actually, all it really is is simply fully interacting with a moment, being present.  Charismatics might call it, “following the Spirit”.  Being in tune with the spirit and being moved by that.  This moment is a expectation of the glorious.  I imagine that it will take practice.  I imagine that it will take courage.  But I also imagine GOD will be there…powerful and present.  

Wanna try it with me?

Wanna Be A Cult Leader?

A friend sent this video to me…and all I have to say is this video would’ve saved so much work in trying to reinvent the wheel…why didn’t some one tell me there was an all inclusive video resource on how to be a cult leader and mind control?  Awesome!

Seriously…funny…(and informative)

(I found the name of the “cult” odd…you’ll see what I mean)

death and renewal cycles

Today I’ve been thinking about death and renewal cycles.

I guess what I mean is the expectation of permanence that we (or at least I) bring to most things in life.  Everything will last. Everything will endure and everything that doesn’t needs to get fixed until it does last.  So, we prop things up…we stretch it…we hold it up until we can’t keep up the charade.

I don’t know if that makes sense or not…

but, it reminds me of a relationship i had in highschool.  we dated 10 months past the point of general “badness”–where, at least, I knew there was no love in between us.  Why? Because we were trying to fix things. We were working on our relationship.  And those 10 months were hellish. They ended hellishly too.  The whole thing was appalling.  the thing is that we couldn’t quit. we couldn’t look at each other and say: “it’s over”.

kinda makes me wonder how many churches or denominations have been living out that scenario for, oh i don’t know, 500 years…working on it…fixing the problems…stirring up the embers..

because we don’t know how to say: “the life is gone. let’s move on”

it, for me, goes back to that sense of permanence…and that’s what church planters today and house church guru’s are all selling.  i actually heard one guy say: “come to our house church…join our movement…our churches last…”

really? and even if that weren’t a whopping lie…would that even be realistically desirable?

does any living thing live forever? is it supposed to? or do living things (and the church is a living creature…a SHE…a Bride…a Body) all have death and renewal cycles?

Maybe what we need are new ways to live well and die well.  Maybe what we need are new forms that make saying “it’s over” acceptable…where “it’s over” might actually mean “it’s just beginning”.

isn’t that the nature of resurrection?

isn’t death required to be raised anew?

i don’t know…

A junkie’s list of best hits…

Alright…as promised a (book) junkie’s list of best hits (reads)…

Due to popular demand…my top 10–the first five. I’m an avid reader. I read probably 10-20 books at a time, probably several hundred in the last year…I read fast and furious…I belch out content and trade in the currency of used books and Border’s Book store credit…seriously I’m a fanatic (ick…it’s almost embarrasing just admitting how much I read)…But there are a few books that have arrested my attention and furthered my development.  They are deeply personal…but also deeply applicable to a broad spectrum of living.  Other’s have gained tremendous enjoyment from them as well…so I feel pretty good about passing on the recommendations.

Like every Rolling Stone List– which mistakenly emphasizes the new music simply because it’s the current flavor of the week–you will find that some of my selections are part of my new reading…I don’t know what to say about that…but they are great…truly!  I hope you read some of them!.

Number 10: The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards–When I read this first, over ten years ago, my life was changed.  I had never seen the Bible as more than history and suddenly I was being invited into His Story…the greatest love story ever told.  What an amazing and full vision of God’s Eternal Purpose–from everlasting to everlasting (with you and me at the center of His heart).

Number 9:  The Complex Christ by Kester Brewin–In December a friend recommended this. I was dreading the book to be honest–it looked like a dummy’s manual “how to guide” to emergence…and I really had no interest in reading it…But then I opened it…I was wrecked.  The words were prophetic. They were inspirational. They were centered on the person of Jesus Christ and offered a deep vision of God and humanity working in concert together in His Kingdom.  Truly awesome.

Number 8: Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things by Watchman Nee–8 yeas ago an church planter and Christian worker suggested this. I had just met the Lord in a “knock you off your ass (donkey–in reference to Paul’s road to Damascus experience)” sort of way.  He thought that this might inspire an even deeper appreciation for Christ as all and in all…He was right.  It became the language I spoke for 7 years.  Very formational.

Number 7: Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell–there’s no doubt that this book was all about timing for me.  My faith needed repainting. I was on the verge of mental breakdown, I was immersed in a system of thought that had led me to pride–exclusivity–and absolutism, I was numb to God and closed to anything but the narrow vantage I found comfortable…Then I read this book.  It forced me to confront all of those demons and acknowledge my own brokenness…I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

Number 6: The Indwelling Life of Christ by Major Ian W Thomas–it’s not like I hadn’t heard the deeper Christian Life message before…this wasn’t a revolutionary book per se…but I’ve still not found a more artful and articulate synthesis of the theme of “All of Him for all of me”…I can’t help but wonder if this writing and thought process set me up for a significant embrace of the kingdom reality in my life–the kingdom gospel which speaks of a heavenly invasion into my livingess claiming my head, heart, and hands.  I would say that’s what Major Ian W. Thomas was talking about all those years ago…

Number 5: The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann–this book took me off guard.  It’s a recent addition in my life.  I knew of Brueggy baby (that’s Mike’s nickname for him) but thought of him merely in terms of dry scholasticism and theology. This book couldn’t be further from dry.  It reads with the language of an intellectual giving voice to the preaching of a pentecostal apostle.  He envisions the Scriptural reaction to the Empire/current dominant regime…he traces the continuity of how God’s people always respond the culture of competition and competence…guess how (and I hate to spoil it)…as dreamers…as believers in a better reality…as artists and poets and suffering grieving lovers…as a compassionate people–which the empire can never co-opt!  Brilliant! Brilliant!

Alright…check em out…buy em, borrow em, read em…

if you’ve already read any of them let me know what you thought. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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