God, rid me of God

I’m on a journey.  Since having left the wild and wacky world of “primitive Christianity” (house church with a splash of new-monasticism and a strong sprinkling of fundamentalism) I have essentially been searching high and low for a place to hang my hat.  It is taking me across some interesting places.  Many of the posts I’ve thrown up in the last several months are themed towards this.  It isn’t exactly a worldview, but I am attempting to come to grips with both the content and implications of the places where I am.  In response to a recent comment I posted the following, and I think it’s a fitting description of where I am currently and what interests me:

The Project: Religion With/Out Religion

For the past while, I’ve been attempting to find some sort of working model for what Bonhoeffer called “religionless Christianity” and Derrida called “religion without religion”. Those seem, to me, to be very important concepts–and they resonate with me, they speak to me. Can God be the good news of the religionless without converting them to being religionFULL?  I would say, yes…and I’m trying to flesh out what that means. Part of what my war on certainty has affirmed is that almost everything requires a choice–a value decision. There really isn’t anything that is just “plain truth”, no matter how much science (or their kissing cousins fundamentalists) believe so. They are choosing the narratives that make sense to them. I believe this is Polkinghornes point from my last blog post of quotes(by the way–his charge was, i believe, more or less leveled at rationalists who come up with a utilitarian model of a clocklike universe…that lacks any sort of life, beauty, mystery, or wonder…).

The (Un)Wholly Other

I have also been meditating on the im/possiblity of God.  Or rather the impossible as God.  One way of thinking about this is that God is wholly other. In other words, we mostly fail to see God. Our intellect, our very ability to perceive God, is what is ill-equipped to witness God. Another way of thinking about this is that our imaged thoughts of God do not allow for God. This is why Meister Eckhardt cries out, “God, rid me of God!” Our concepts of God prevent us from experiencing God…often. However, God cannot be wholly other…else we would miss God altogether. There is, admittedly, an element that lies within our constructs causing an awareness. We are not totally oblivious to God.  There are aspects of the unknowable which, surprisingly, are  knowable. 

Here comes the first critical choice…on one hand you could say that the human species has evolved this collective consciousness of God…it cannot exist without having an Other to live with…This view seems to say that there is a God construct that our survival instinct depends on.  But that is a supposition, an interpretation, and hardly the only assumption to be drawn (I would also add it’s not even an assumption that bears out in our normal existence.) Far more common sense, frankly, is that the thing which we desire, and can sense (if not altogether perceive) is communicated by that which desires us (and wishes us to sense it). Just as hunger testifies to the dependence on and the existence of food, so too our own awareness to the wholy other speaks of the wholly other which is in relationship to us.   This to me, makes God, once more–loving, relational, and personal. God as being, or more than being, or less than being (I don’t know) is engaged in whispering and wooing.  Our awareness describes not constructs but communication.  I recognize that this is as a subjective choice, a value decision…but to me it paints a much more beautiful picture than the other subjective choice that opts for the other side of things.

Loving Love

Having said that, I’ve taken up the Augustinian question, that Caputo alliterates, “who do I love when I love my God?” And I’m trying to find a working articulation of what exactly I mean when I speak of God. Personally, I am coming to the Johannian (as in the epistle writer) view, that the first name of God, is love. That love, in all its forms, pure love is God. Love is something intangeble…always drawing us into action, but never quite resolving in that event…it requires more of us. God is that which we desire, but also that which desires us and pulls and propells us towards the event of love. Love in this case is so deeply intimate that to describe it impersonal, or unrelational, would be to demote it. Love requires such relating and such personhood.

If God is Love…Then Who Are We?

“If Love is the first name of God, then ‘of God’ is the name of those who love”. We’re always looking for who’s in and who’s out… To me, love, is the dividing line…always. This is why a secular person who’s life is for the other, is always a religious or God filled life. And a religious person who is only for themselves and what they consider right and wrong is not at all religious and God filled. The people of God are those who are lovers.

The (non)Spiritual Journey

The spiritual journey then is discovering that love…both in terms of our own sense of Belovedness and in terms of being a channel through which that love may flow.

So…these are the places I am coming to…I’m using, perhaps, overly vague language…and doing so because I deeply believe that the Christinese that we have so often used, no longer has place in this world. It has lost the right to speak. it has, to often, been complicit in evil for to speak of lofty good. It’s words are poison. This is the project I’m attempting to develop. I recognize that both cardinals and ordinary Christians alike may not be very happy about the direction its going. I suppose that’s the price I’ll have to pay for thinking about Christianity without Christianity.  But, I have to try…I can do no other.

Religion/less

if our final judgment must be that the Western form of Christianity, too, was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion, what kind of situation emerges for us, for the church? How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity–and even this garment has looked very different at different times–then what is a religionless Christianity?

The questions to be answered would surely be: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God–without religion, i.e., without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even “speak” as we used to) in a “secular” way about God? In what way are we “religionless-secular” Christians, in what way are we those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favored, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place of worship and prayer in a religionless situation?

I love Bonhoeffer’s line of thinking here. I join his voice in asking what a religionless Christianity might look like. Although, I can’t help but think that asking the question is easier than living in the situation as we have it…a religionful Christianity.   Is it possible that we picture ouraselves as having “evolved” when it comes to this kind of question? That somehow we’re standing on new and uncharted grounds of cyncisim, critical deconstruction, and dis/belief? If we are under that illusion, I think that we might be forgetting that Isaac, the child of promise in the Abrahamic Covenant, means “Laughter”, and comes about, as a visible reminder of the founder of “the faithful’s” disbelief.  And, that Paul, certainly the founder of much of the cult of Christianity called, “the message about the cross” foolishness to Gentiles and a Stumbling block to Jews. In fact to at least one very notable Christian thinker, the gospel is the Paradox–“the unthinkable event of God the infinite, eternal One who became one of us.

Maybe the reality is far more perplexing than we care to imagine…To quote another passage of Bonhoeffer:

Who stands fast? Only the person whose final standard is not their Reason, their principles, their conscience, their freedom, or their virture, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegience to God–the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question of God…where are these responsible people?”

Perhaps the surprising, disillusioning, and embarrassing element of faith is that it is so damned disruptive to our normative way of doing business–of living life.  This is clearly the case when we stop asking the question with words and start “living the answer.”

At any rate, I think this is a pretty neccesary conversation to have today.

How (Not) to Write a blog

I have a thousand things I want to talk about…consequentially I can’t talk about any of them…I believe this is what Pete Rollins calls hypernimity…the abundance of content leads to an inability to speak of it. 

1) the difference between organic and organic

2) looking at the (un)knowability of God pictured in the Exodus story.seen trough the name of Moses

3) the parable of the prodigal God

4) how true community seems like it is more or less experienced in the process and the journey rather than sought after or arrived at

5) the grudge match between the uber minute hair split of “presumptuousness” and “certainty”

6) defining that “fundamentalism” is NOT exactly interchangeable with the word “conservative”…just with being “narrow minded”

7) why television is a bigger glut than it’s ever been and why that’s ok with people–why do we keep on watching? And how a Spanish Romantic Game Show is the best hour on TV from 7-8pm PST, M-Th.

8) faith without doubt is dead

9)  why I increasingly feel out of sync with churchianity–and what to do about that.

10) The pretentiousness of music snobs like myself–not being able to craft a better pop song and calling that art

11)    The CHOICE of “the dark night of the soul” versus the EXPERIENCE of it

12)  Why I’m cranky these days

13) Sufism and spinning

14) Enneagram and why every person serious about a personal journey needs to question their motives and acknowledge their shadow

15) the fact that empiricists (Christian, secular, and otherwise) sound idiotic at best.

17) being hearers of the word and doers

18) how I sold my soul for 2.50 in 9th grade to a guy who later went to Fuller (it really explains so much in retrospect)

19) why having an agenda is a guilty pleasure–no one admits they’ve got one but we all do…and maybe we should…

20) …there’s a lot more where these came from…

Which side of love?

There’s a parable I’ve found particularly beautiful in recent days.  Pete Rollins shares it in his book “The Fidelity of Betrayal”.  

A man dies and and appears before the gates of heaven.  There is St. Peter ahead of him, welcoming him in.  The man is giddy and thrusts part of himself through the doorway into paradise.  As he does however, he turns ever so slightly and sees a great throng of people standing nearby…on the outside of heaven.  They are Buddhists, Jews, killers and crucified, Muslims, Catholics, kind or criminal, homeless, Eastern Orthodox; they are ugly or beautiful, gay, atheist, poor and rich alike…and he also saw many of his own friends.  Looking up at St. Peter he asks, “What about them?  Are they coming in too?”  Sadly St. Peter shook his head.

“No,” shrugging his shoulders, “you know how it goes…only the right people.”  The man thought about that for a minute.  He allowed a thousand faces and feelings to well up inside of him.  He considered the words of Jesus, his teacher and savior: a bastard, homeless, drunkard, heretic, traveling companion to terrorists, lover of prostitutes and priests alike, and in the end one who died as a common criminal. Knowing what he had to do, he looked up at Peter, withdrew his one foot from the threshold of heaven and said,

“Then I can’t come in either.” And he walked away, joining his friends.  As he walked away a faint smile broke out over St. Peter’s face, who whispered,

“At last…at last…”

———————–

Along the same lines, a news anchor who gets “love” more than most Christians I know.  This is called “the love speech”…and regardless of issue (though it is an important one), the words and thoughts remain the same for any friend of Jesus. Which side of line will we stand on?  Which side of the threshold will we choose?  The heart of Christianity–the core–the best of Jesus and his earliest friends, encourage, always, the choosing of the powerless, marginalized, minimized, and disaffected.  

I hope this clip is refreshing to you also.  Thanks for sharing it with me Ryan:

Beyond

I’m learning that if we can approach God in reality at all it is in the simplicity of wonder and awe. It is in shining darkness and screaming silence. To have our eyes opened to the light of God is to be struck blind along with Saul of Tarsus. In that moment, the sightless eyes of our heart, can faintly make out the glory of God.

It’s not exactly the revelatory, joyful, ecstatic experiences I thought it would be…rather it is an ambiguous even doubting cry of “why have you forsaken me?” This absence of God is, for me, the presence of God…the fellowship of His suffering…the knowing of Christ crucified…powerless, weak, wondering, and looking towards a hope not yet realized. That’s the place I find myself in…and this too is Christ.

Trinity!! Higher than any being, any divinity, any goodness!

Guide in the wisdom of heaven!

Lead us up beyond unknowing and light,

up to the farthest, highest peak of mystic scripture

where the mysteries of God’s Word

lie simple, absolute and unchangeable

in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence.

Amid the deepest shadow

they pour overwhelming light

on what is most manifest,

Amid the wholly unsensed and unseen

they completely fill our sightless eyes

with treasure beyond all beauty.

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