A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Body

I often times feel inside my heart that preaching Christianity is useless....sorry, just using my blog to be honest here....perhaps I feel that more and more as time goes on. There are so many varieties of religion in the world, and so many fantastic versions of the Xtian faith that I tend to get a bit depressed. For example, if I had my past memory sucked out of my mind, where would I be? Besides having a difficult time remembering where to go to the bathroom (and why bathrooms are such a big deal, anyway) what would I think of Christianity? It's a question one can't answer because what we are has so much to do with our past. But would I give Christ a second look with all of the competing world views flying around in this world?

Not that there won't always be a place for religion at the table of ideas and feelings. People are always looking for something greater than themselves, are they not? Hence Christianity becomes Xianity - Christ drops out and we make it what we will, an "opiate for the masses" as the old man once said.

Right now, on this evening, as I listen to Amy Winehouse's new blues-inflected pop sounds and rest my knee from yesterday's brutal half marathon I honestly think there is only one thing that would make me consider giving Christ a second look. That is power. Power primarily demonstrated by the living body of Christ. Christ must be more than a savior who rose some two thousand years ago, rather, he must be alive and active. Moving, living and breathing in a community of people who love each other and move gracefully towards ethical purity and personal authenticity.

As such, power is found not in the grand building projects of the church or in the full stadiums or in the marches on Washington. This strikes me more as Xianity. Christ moves aside for the greater benefit of the large-scale projects. And if Christ were to get in the way of the project, well, all the worse for Christ.

But I find the greatest need for power to accomplish the simple things of the faith. The high calling is not to a large scale, but to a small scale. Love. Unity. Community. Purity of heart. Purity of life. Authenticity. Genuine faith exploration. True Worship.

85 comments:

Melody said...

I've never met anyone that became a follower of Christ because a bunch of people had community.

I mean, when I think of all the Christians I've known and all the different ways they've come to Christ...that just isn't one of them.

I don't know if that's because it isn't compelling or just because there isn't a good example of community to be compelling, but I tend to think the former.

I don't really understand how Christ calls people, but it just doesn't seem to have anything to do with us or how well we do anything...even community.

Jason Hesiak said...

Sounds like an isue of the metaphysics of presence and absence.

samlcarr said...

One obvious problem is that I as a Xtian cannot say that i am in any way better than the next guy because of my religious affiliation. I once asked John Stott, why as a whole I had difficulty demonstrating to those of other faiths that the Christian was better, and he had an interesting answer: "I think we are better persons as individuals than when Christ found us but perhaps we started as worse sinners than those that we seek to compare ourselves with" (not an exact quote). Perhaps Jesus just mostly calls those that are more desperately worse off!

Melody said...

Interesting thought, but most people who become Christians do so as young children, before they've had a chance to make any terrible decisions.

samlcarr said...

It's pretty hard to preach when the public face of my religion is as bad off as it is.

Here in India, Christian missionaries were renowned for three things, establishing good hospitals, establishing a lot of schools-colleges and for getting their hands on the best pieces of property in each and every town.

Most of these prime properties house churches, and some of these churches are well attended, but largely by the descendants of the original converts.

Needless to say, hospitals, educational institutions and prime real estate are three wonderful money spinners.

One also finds that the missionaries allowed the propagation of the caste system within the churches that they founded so that x church is known as a 'nadar' church and y church is known to be a 'vellala' (caste designations) church all within the same denomination.

Now, many of the people who populate these churches are 'salt of the earth' folks - quietly doing good and practicing love in their communities and in their homes but what is publicly visible is the denominational in-fighting, the tremendous amounts of money that are spent (in nasty ways too) on bishop elections and then the nepotism and corruption that follows, for each bishop governs a large area with many institutions controlling many jobs, admissions &c.

I guess this doesn't mean that preaching about Jesus is a waste of time. I believe in him and I sure as heck want to introduce him to as many people as i can, so, yes I agree that the small scale is what counts, but doing should also be accompanied by saying, at least to those that are curious.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiak: Sounds like an isue of the metaphysics of presence and absence.

How so? Presence of Christ ("Christianity") versus absence of Christ ("Xianity")?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: I've never met anyone that became a follower of Christ because a bunch of people had community.

Do you mind reminiscing about how people "become a follower of Christ"?

Melody said...

I don't - what are you asking?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam:
One also finds that the missionaries allowed the propagation of the caste system within the churches that they founded so that x church is known as a 'nadar' church and y church is known to be a 'vellala' (caste designations) church all within the same denomination.

Sounds like Xianity in action. Very sad. But yet it is simply our way of being human: Gravitate to the familiar, and use religion to safeguard one's self from the Other.

'salt of the earth' folks - quietly doing good and practicing love in their communities and in their homes but what is publicly visible is the denominational in-fighting, the tremendous amounts of money that are spent (in nasty ways too) on bishop elections and then the nepotism and corruption that follows, for each bishop governs a large area with many institutions controlling many jobs, admissions &c.

i can't help but wonder if this is something like what Jesus was going for in is "last will be first and first will be last" motif. Those who publicly proclaim Christ on a grand scale so often seem to be advancing some sort of Xian agenda, while those working in quiet are working to advance the simple and pure goals of the Gospel, rather than using the Gospel as a means of promoting their own agenda. They are not seen on earth, but in the later days of the Kingdom they will be praised - probably much to their own embarrassment.

Melody said...

In what I've read it seems that the caste system is problematic because if one insists that the church does not observe it only one group will come.

I know I'm not there...I just think it is a little more complicated than the missionaries being bad because they can't eradicate something from a culture that has existed for quite some time.

samlcarr said...

Melody, it is complicated, but this was a very definite area where the gospel challenges a culture, like issues like slavery in the West. Caste is also one of the tripod of essentials of the Hindu way of life.

The opportunity was missed though the missionary may not have seen this very clearly. At least at first, what happened in practice is that all the members of one caste in one area would respond to the preacher and with these converts a church would be formed - mostly made up of the members of one particular community.

But at least subsequently, once within the church, caste should have been identified as an evil and the death of the caste system and caste barriers been demanded as a part of repentance. This second step never took place effectively, so that even today caste is a major factor in Indian Christianity and caste politics is just as deadly within the church as without.

Sorry, Jon, I'm way off your post's topic!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Not really...I appreciate this line of thought.

Melody said...

Right, I'm not denying that the caste system doesn't work with the gospel...I just...I mean Christianity didn't eradicate slavery either. It took a war to do that (one of the reasons why I think it's cute when people say you can't legislate morality).

Christianity hasn't done away with any kind of evil, not with-in any congregation anywhere on the planet...ever.

Again, I'm not backing the caste system, I'm not saying churches should allow it within the church, just that I don't know how they would get rid of it...or any other wrong activity for that matter.

samlcarr said...

That is I think a part of the problem. We have Christianity and then we have the gospel. The two seem to often be on diverging paths.

if you ask me, I'd be happier to be known as an atheist who happens to follow the principles of Jesus and his kingdom rather than as a sincere Christian who spends most of his time and energy accumulating wealth by ripping people off.

Melody said...

That's just stating a preference for spiking one's coffee with cyanide rather than arsenic...in the end it doesn't really make a difference.

samlcarr said...

Sorry, I was actually reminded rather forcefully of an Australian atheistic friend who is a great admirer of Jesus (though he doubts the historicity of much of the NT) but nonetheless happens to live (by his own admission) pretty much in line with gospel principles!

The way i read the gospels, especially passages like Matt 25, he might make it to heaven and i may not!

Melody said...

I don't know, Jesus placed a pretty high priority on loving God.

Emily said...

in the end it doesn't really make a difference.

Actually, it does. One way, you go to hell but happen to be a nice person. The other way, you happen to go to heaven, but you mess up a bunch of people before ending up there.

Jason Hesiak said...

It took a war to do that (one of the reasons why I think it's cute when people say you can't legislate morality).

Christianity hasn't done away with any kind of evil, not with-in any congregation anywhere on the planet...ever.
----------------------------

I forgot. The State is responsible for justice. Implemented through wars, of course.

--------------------------
Hesiak: Sounds like an isue of the metaphysics of presence and absence.

How so? Presence of Christ ("Christianity") versus absence of Christ ("Xianity")?
----------------------------

First of all, I'm nost sure what you mean by "Xianity". I mean...I think I know what phenomenon in the world you are referencing, but I don't know the term "Xianity".

But what I was referring to was something like the following:

"I tend to get a bit depressed. For example, if I had my past memory sucked out of my mind, where would I be? Besides having a difficult time remembering where to go to the bathroom (and why bathrooms are such a big deal, anyway) what would I think of Christianity? It's a question one can't answer because what we are has so much to do with our past. But would I give Christ a second look with all of the competing world views flying around in this world?"

I find it interesting that your theoretical musings on a memory-less identity is leading you to a similar psychological state as the identity-less guy in American Psycho (I am referring to the depression rather than the urge to kill people, lol).

And on top of that the fact that this hypothetical question becomes a basis of the truth of Christainity to "the other" as well as your emotional state seems to indicate and affirm a certain loyalty to a Derridaian "metaphysics of absence."

Then you go on to make a statement that seems to indicate the absence of Jesus and his workings in man's institutions:

"Christ drops out and we make it what we will, an "opiate for the masses" as the old man once said."

That would of course in itself be depressing, outside of the question of the justice of the institutions' workings.

You then go on to affirm the need for presence:

"Power primarily demonstrated by the living body of Christ. Christ must be more than a savior who rose some two thousand years ago, rather, he must be alive and active. Moving, living and breathing in a community of people who love each other and move gracefully towards ethical purity and personal authenticity."

Then you seem to bring the two together in one final statement of opposition:

"As such, power is found not in the grand building projects of the church or in the full stadiums or in the marches on Washington. This strikes me more as Xianity. Christ moves aside for the greater benefit of the large-scale projects."

What was it when Hezekiah summoned the entirety of Isreal to recommit to their covenant with God?

Melody said...

Emily: That's assuming that the person who is known as a Christian is in fact a Christian.

Sam was talking about reputation and in either scenario the people the person encountered aren't going to be led to Christ through the person's actions.

But you do make a good point. It's better to be a child of God and obnoxious than to not be a child of God at all.

Jason: Yes, God appoints the rulers of this world and they are responsible for justice. Not the church. Interestingly enough.

And while I wouldn't say that the Civil War brought about justice, it did curtail much injustice that would have been done had it not taken place. Although, as I stated earlier, that was hardly it's purpose when it was declared.

Jason Hesiak said...

Jason: Yes, God appoints the rulers of this world and they are responsible for justice. Not the church. Interestingly enough.

You see this statement as cosistent with the following statement that the Civil War didn't bring justice?

And if what you're saying is true, then why would the following have been his proclamation of his messiahship?

1(A) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has(B) anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and(C) the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
2(D) to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

Jonathan Erdman said...

That's just stating a preference for spiking one's coffee with cyanide rather than arsenic...

Cyanide has a better texture, but arsenic is gives one a fuller flavor and a better aftertaste, not that aftertaste matters when your dead.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiakiah said:
What was it when Hezekiah summoned the entirety of Isreal to recommit to their covenant with God?

I'm not sure, but let's not confuse Hezekiah with Hesiakiah. Those are two different prophets. One spoke to the children of Abraham, the other spoke to the children of the blogosphere.

Jason Hesiak said...

First of all, you ARE a child of Abraham...or at least of the covennat. Second of all...was that a way to avoid the question?

Jason Hesiak said...

It is rather appropriate to my question that you just set up a dichotomous relationship between the ancient Isrealites gathered in an actual place and the blogsphere, BTW.

Melody said...

Jon:...but arsenic is gives one a fuller flavor and a better aftertaste

Arsenic doesn't have a flavor. I just thought you should know.

Jason: You see this statement as cosistent with the following statement that the Civil War didn't bring justice?

Yeah. What's the problem? God places people in authority that doesn't mean they never screw it up anymore than being saved means I never sin.

As for what-ever you quoted I hardly see how it somehow voids the places where God talks about obeying those whom He places in power.

samlcarr said...

I'm not going to quibble with you guys (Melody and Emily) much except to say that i stand by my reading of Matt 25, and many other sayings of Jesus, like; you know a tree by its fruits, and good springs will give you good water (my paraphrases)...and that's just what i would expect from a God who is just.

BTW, I think the main difference between arsenic and cyanide is in how fast they kill you. If you don't want any aftertaste, arsenic can be the really slow route.

Jason, you could try an i, /i between the <,>, thingies to set someone's quotes in italics.

samlcarr said...

Also, the Brits, for once, led by Wilberforce, actually did succeed in legislating the end of slavery. Your war on that behalf was a good half century or more later on.

Melody said...

Well Wilberforce was amazing - but that still doesn't count as the church getting rid of slavery.

samlcarr said...

You're right it wasn't a churchy thing as much as one man's crusade (as a follower of Jesus) and that perhaps comes back to the sort of 'power' that Jon is advocating.

samlcarr said...

Melody,

I've never met anyone that became a follower of Christ because a bunch of people had community.

I've been thinking about this and in fact I was once (a very long time ago in Cincinnati) part of a young adult fellowship where the quality of fellowship was really good, and this group just kept growing with so many visitors who would just come and 'get hooked', many of them not Christians when they first walked in. I think really good fellowship can bring people to Christ.

Melody said...

Hmmm...I don't know, let's ask him.
Jon, was William Wilberforce's personal mission to stop the slave trade the sort of "power" you referenced?

Well Sam, I'm not trying to say that a person couldn't come to know Christ because of community, just that I don't think it is a frequent occurance. God can work through anything - poorly prepared sermons, whales, obnoxious t-shirts ripped off from actual advertising campaigns, and yes, even communities.

But until your most recent post I'd never heard of the last one bringing anyone to God.

samlcarr said...

Well, the fellowship I'm talking about probably no longer exists, or if it does it may have morphed into something else altogether but it was called just College & Careers (C&C) and was run by a childless middle aged couple, John and Lois Pierce, who sort of adopted us, a bunch of single young adults. When I joined there were about 40 regularly attending and in its heyday the group was well over 200 strong. Many of those friendships are still going strong... I would say that that period was when I went from being a very casual Christian to a fully committed one!

Melody said...

Interesting. Ironic. I grew up halfway between Cinci and Dayton.

My sister and I grew up under the conviction that there weren't any real churches in Southern Ohio.

Not that there wasn't community, but the community wasn't really concerned with nurturing its faith. That was more of a pretext for being there.

Anyway, just ironic.

chris van allsburg said...

What the church needs is more programs, contemporary music that's culturally relevant, felt needs preaching under the guise of exposition, big stage props and mass media entertainmanet in the form of videos that pull at our heart strings regarding our day-to-day inward struggles, along with overpaid worship leaders who tell us we're all ok, and we don't have to strive to be anything for God--we just have to "be."

Melody said...

Overpaid worship leaders? Chris, you can't put a price on worship.

No, I'm just kidding, worship costs anywhere from 4-20 bucks at your local Zondervan. If a church pays their worship leader more than that per service they're totally getting scammed.

samlcarr said...

I guess things have changed a lot in the midwest since my time there! Actually Cinci had a number of good churches with vibrant worship, fellowship, and decent preaching.

There were also quite a few youth/young adult ministries, some of them very informal leftovers from the 70s, that a young person could join and if nothing else, fruitfully seek a mate!

Sounds like the whole scene has gotten sorta dry of late?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiakiah
Second of all...was that a way to avoid the question?

What is the reference on that Hezekiah prayer to which you refer??? Or the approximate area.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
Arsenic doesn't have a flavor. I just thought you should know.

How do you know?????

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well Sam, I'm not trying to say that a person couldn't come to know Christ because of community, just that I don't think it is a frequent occurance. God can work through anything - poorly prepared sermons, whales, obnoxious t-shirts ripped off from actual advertising campaigns, and yes, even communities.

But until your most recent post I'd never heard of the last one bringing anyone to God.


Sure, God can work through anything, even rocks, to bring people to Christ. But if he uses a rock, then what? Is the goal just to "get 'em saved"? Or is it to bring people on board and into a living and active body of Christ that continually spurs one another on towards love and good deeds. Ironically, the more programatic the church structure the more difficult it is to cultivate those last two. Love and ethical purity happen more in the context of a committed community. That's where I see power. (And, yes, I think that WW fits the bill of someone who put the power of Christ into action in his life.)

Melody said...

Sam, there might still be vibrant churches in the south-western area of Ohio, I just never walked into any of them.

Jon,

First: Why else would you use arsenic? It's no good poisoning someone if halfway through they spit it out because it's gross.

Second: No, the goal isn't just to get people saved - though in a pinch I guess I'd take just being saved from eternal damnation - but you were talking about how people come to Christ, not so much what happens after.

But if you'd like to deviate from the orginal topic, why do you think that a chuch having programs keeps people from love and good deeds?

Cuz, the places I remember seeing that most are places that were all programmed up.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody:
but you were talking about how people come to Christ, not so much what happens after.

I am committed to no longer drawing a distinction between the two. There is no coming to Christ without carrying one's cross and becoming a part of the body. Conversely, there is no coming into the body of Christ but through personal salvation. The two are one and the same in my mind. Only the narrow-minded, egghead theologians have made us dichotomize the two.

But if you'd like to deviate from the orginal topic, why do you think that a chuch having programs keeps people from love and good deeds?

Because all of our energy is invested in maintaining a program and not investing in people. We spend 10 hours planning a get-together that lasts for only 1 hour, and we wonder why feel disconnected in the American church today!

Melody said...

Ok, but there's still a before and an after and you were still talking about the people that are in the before.

We spend 10 hours planning a get-together that lasts for only 1 hour, and we wonder why feel disconnected in the American church today!

As opposed to wandering aimlessly which always helps people get connected.

I've lived with people and felt more disconnected from them than people that I haven't seen in three years. I don't think think the ammount of time spent with people is going to help.

Jason Hesiak said...

Yeah. What's the problem? God places people in authority that doesn't mean they never screw it up anymore than being saved means I never sin.

As for what-ever you quoted I hardly see how it somehow voids the places where God talks about obeying those whom He places in power.


Its from Luke 4: 16-21 and Isaiah 61. I previously quoted Isaiah 61. Here I quote Luke:

16(AB) And he came to(AC) Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And(AD) as was his custom,(AE) he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up(AF) to read. 17And(AG) the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18(AH) "The Spirit of the Lord(AI) is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to(AJ) proclaim good news to the poor.
(AK) He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and(AL) recovering of sight to the blind,
(AM) to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19(AN) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and(AO) sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were(AP) fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, "Today(AQ) this Scripture(AR) has been fulfilled in your hearing."

samlcarr said...

Jason, you really are a fast learner! It took me ages to get started with html.

Jason Hesiak said...

Sam,

Thanks! But to be realistic here...how long have you been conversing with me here in the blogsphere with my being clueless toward this html stuff? And I'm still relatively clueless, actually. There's still a lot that I don't know how to do.

:)

Jason

Jason Hesiak said...

As for what-ever you quoted I hardly see how it somehow voids the places where God talks about obeying those whom He places in power.

That God puts the "rulers" in place also doesn't mean, however, that His Church isn't a means or carrier of justice. Nor even does it necessarily mean that His Church isn't the PRIMARY means of bringing justice into the world. All it means is that we shouldn't go showing our rebellion against the State by breaking its laws indescriminantly. That brings the opposite of Christ-like humility (Romans 12, the chapter previous).

Jason Hesiak said...

Also, the Brits, for once, led by Wilberforce, actually did succeed in legislating the end of slavery. Your war on that behalf was a good half century or more later on.

Thanks Sam. Duly noted. But I have to say I would trust the members of the Church to treat each other justly before I would trust the members of Congress to do the same. Although neither is very good at it sometimes.

Jason Hesiak said...

When I joined there were about 40 regularly attending and in its heyday the group was well over 200 strong. Many of those friendships are still going strong... I would say that that period was when I went from being a very casual Christian to a fully committed one!

Interestingly the story of my own church is nearly identical. And I've certainly grown in Christ through participating in this community! And its a vary common occurance to hear of people coming back to our church because of the "community".

Jason Hesiak said...

What is the reference on that Hezekiah prayer to which you refer??? Or the approximate area.

2 Chronicles, Ch. 30

And there are numerous such examples. Like when Moses read the Law out to the whole congregation of Israel. Then I think Joshua did the same, recommitting Israel to God. I think David might have done it, too. And I think 2 Chronicles Ch. 30 is the second time Hezekiah gathered all of Israel together for something like this (in this chapter its the celbration of the Passover). I think the first was when they were refurbishing the Temple and randomly came across a scroll of the Law...eventually it made its way to Hezekiah...and he read it to the whole congregation, thus reaffirming Isreal's committment to God.

Jason Hesiak said...

I've lived with people and felt more disconnected from them than people that I haven't seen in three years. I don't think think the ammount of time spent with people is going to help.

That's because your so opinionated. When you share opinions with someone, it helps you feel connected. But most of the rest of us feel more and more connected with people over time...in situations both where we do and don't agree with them on things that we might consider to be quite important. And that's because our very being is woven into the fabric of time itself.

samlcarr said...

Now, take Jason, he's not opinionated - no suhrreee!

Jason Hesiak said...

:)

Jason Hesiak said...

As an example actually...over TIME I have come to be very very close with people who are quite different from myself. Over time actually our sameness becomes more apparent. Which has actually come as a surprise to me.

Melody said...

Jason - I still don't understand what you're trying to say with those verses. Obviously Jesus has all authority...I'm not saying he somehow signed it over to the government and can't get it back.

I just don't see anywhere that God charges the church with carrying out justice.

That's because your so opinionated. When you share opinions with someone, it helps you feel connected.

lol! Since when? I either get blank or evil stares - neither of which makes me feel particularly close to anybody.

I was posting in a hurry and it wasn't thought out that well - time with people is important to getting to know them. I just don't think that the disconnectedness comes from a lack of time.

Contrary to Jason's thoughts, I almost never feel connected with groups I'm a part of even when I spend a lot or almost all of my time with the people. So, I guess that's why I don't think time is the problem, though I don't think I could pinpoint something else and say this is the problem.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason, when you said, Over time actually our sameness becomes more apparent I thought you said "saneness"!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

For me your point about time is well taken. It goes back to many of my church experiences where I can spend a lot of time but still not gain anything substantial.

So, time spent must be purposeful, and within the body of Christ I think one of the most important purposes of spending time together is real and authentic spiritual openness. A bare-your-soul type of thing that can only happen in a smaller setting. But this has to be a purposeful thing. That is, it would be easy for a small church gathering to just become yet another Bible study (for us evangelical conservatives) or a time of fellowship (if you are not into the whole Bible thing).

Sadly, I think many churches have failed to have purposeful time in just about anything, let alone building open and authentic relationships. But without it the body is not truly whole and together.

Jason Hesiak said...

Melody,
I was being vescisous (spelling?) when I said that the "pinpionted" reason was your opinions. Glad your reactionw as the lol. That was the intent. And I'm not trying to say anything with those verses. The "justice" latent in wht Jesus is claiming to be at the heart of his mission in those verses should be obvious. That's what I'm trying to point out.

Erdman,
Actually I'd say that insane-ness seems to be becoming more apparent over time. And that's part of the "sameness" :)

So, time spent must be purposeful, and within the body of Christ I think one of the most important purposes of spending time together is real and authentic spiritual openness.

The people I've gotten to know over time have done this. Its definitely been central to our coming to know each other. But I think that this in itself happens in time. Time is part of the "medium" :)

Melody said...

Ech. Soul baring.
You have no idea how repulsive that is to me, but if you imagine several vultures eating a dead kitten - that would be close.

Now, I understand that soul baring is all the rage right now and that my disgust is tantamount to heresy, but it seems like a pointless indulgence at best.

Where in the bible does it say, "And then they bared their souls one to another as Christ commanded"? Nev-er. Thank-goodness.

People connect by doing stuff together. Not singing a song on Sunday morning, although I do enjoy that, but actual things that involve actual working together to make something happen even if it's something stupid or silly.

You know, things like putting other people's needs first or helping them out of a jam or even just playing Risk with them even though you hate Risk because spending time with them matters to you.

And maybe at some point after that a person might bare their soul, if they need to.

But you aren't just going to sit a group down and say, "Soul baring time!" and have some sort of instant cohesiveness. And, even if you did, you would only have a cohesivness between those two or three people and that's only helpful for those two or three people. That's not a community - that's a slumber party.

And so you've told people what's going on in your heart of hearts, so? What then? Nothing. You come back next week and everyone says, "How's that going for ya?" and you say, "Well it's still shit, but thanks for asking."

Beautiful, yes, lifechangingly pointless.

Sorry - I know I'm being awful. I just think it makes zero difference to have such groups. It isn't going to turn anyone's life around. It won't stop anyone from putting a bullet through their head. It won't change anyone's mind about the faith. The fact that it is more traumatic and tearfilled than your average sing-a-long does not make it any less an event.

Jason Hesiak said...

And maybe at some point after that a person might bare their soul, if they need to. But you aren't just going to sit a group down and say, "Soul baring time!" and have some sort of instant cohesiveness.

This is why time is part of it.

Sorry - I know I'm being awful. I just think it makes zero difference to have such groups. It isn't going to turn anyone's life around. It won't stop anyone from putting a bullet through their head. It won't change anyone's mind about the faith.

Oh yeah? Did it change Hagaar's desire to give up? Yes. Samuel's mom's life sure seems to have changed after bearing her soul to God. David and Johnathan did it...and it certainly helped David out. And David was constantly bearing his soul before God...and thus being "known" (biblical word for sex, btw, which of course we all crave)...and thus being in that sense "fulfilled."

The Jewish tradition associates death with alienation...from God and from one's community. Whereas the Greeek tradition associates death simply with mortality...with the limits of carnal life. That Abraham would be reunited with his ancestors was a basic aspect of his covenant with God! Far from being irrelevant and pointless, I think that connection with people is central to the very heart of the Biblical message.

Example - I said that the Jews associated death with alienation. God said that when you eat from that tree you will die. Then they ate from that tree. Then what did they do? The HID. As part of what will happen when things are restored: you will know as you are known.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

The honesty is good, and I appreciate it. But let me ask you this: You do or do not value time together? Up until now we would have dismissed you as a recluse (although I know better) who didn't want to spend time with anyone and probably had no life issues of sin that needed to be dealt with. But now you talk about playing Risk with someone even though you don't enjoy it - just to spend time with them. And you even acknowledge that there might be a time that stuff should be exposed "as needed."

But let me talk about sin. And let me talk about deliberate and purposeful soul-bearing. There is a reason that openness is "all the rage" these days. It is because we live in a disposable society where everyone is a consumer and a product with market value. There is nothing (or next to nothing) that is pure and authentic. And the churches tend to facilitate shallow, superficial relationships that fail to dig deep. People are hungry (albeit scared like hell) to open up.

In most religious circles you can share "nice sins" like pride and "impure thoughts," but if you talk about something else - a raging addiction to sex/alcohol/food/depression/etc. then forget it. You are obviously a lesser Christian.

And yet we live in a society where, for the most part, our generation is susceptible to addictions, disorders, and destructive behavior more so than ever. We need a living body of Christ connected with each other by the soul more than ever. But we don't have it. Why? One reason is that we are superficial. The other is that we are not purposeful about it. After all, who the hell wants to share about struggling with porn (especially if you are a godly woman - b/c, after all, porn is icky and only boys have that problem)? Or eating disorders? Or whatever.....We all struggle with darkness, but unless light shines on the darkness then it will continue to hold us back from our real potential in Christ.

samlcarr said...

I can identify with Melody. This (sharing deep stuff) isn't something that one does 'on demand'. I've been in umpteen groups and each one has its own dynamic. Some groups have been open and not judgmental, most have not.

Even in 1-1 relationships, there are some people that one can share some things with and others for whom to do so would be destructive or perhaps just meaningless.

I also agree that doing things together can be better than just hanging out. Very often the activity itself helps us to understand one another and to bond when that's a real possibility.

Of course, along with the risk of rejection, there's also the risk of being taken advantage of, and even worse of having garbled versions of what you said being attributed to you out of context.

It would be nice if the community of believers really believed and practiced living and relationships of complete openness, but that is not indeed the norm, and perhaps may never be!

Melody said...

But let me ask you this: You do or do not value time together?

Assuming I find the person and, to a lesser degree, the activity valuable...yes.


Up until now we would have dismissed you as a recluse

That's because I'm anti-social. The two have some kind of weird connection.

There is a reason that openness is "all the rage" these days.

Yes, because someone wrote a book with smart pop-culture references and used swear words so it would be "real".

It is because we live in a disposable society

As opposed to...?

And the churches tend to facilitate shallow, superficial relationships that fail to dig deep. People are hungry (albeit scared like hell) to open up.

I don't know...I mean, we're the church, right?

So isn't it up to people on an individual basis to have a deeper relationship - if they want that?

We all struggle with darkness, but unless light shines on the darkness then it will continue to hold us back from our real potential in Christ.

Here's the deal - in theory, I agree. In practice...no. It doesn't change anything. The people who were always going to be addicted to sex and drugs...they are. It didn't matter how much they talked about it or how much they were encouraged or how much people prayed. The people who were going to be relatively ok, they are - it didn't matter that they didn't talk about their stuff to anyone ever. If time is so bloody valuable...why waste it?

samlcarr said...

To make openness prescriptive of good community is also dangerous, in fact that's bordering on what i associate with being in a cult.

Jason Hesiak said...

Sam, us foolish young single people might one day learn the wisdom in what you're saying here...but for now...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam,

No doubt there is risk. And I, too, recognize the "cult" association as being a legitimate concern. However, the early church was also referred to as being something of a cult, which I can't help but think had to do with the depth of their love for each other and their radical sense of community. In their case it was for survival and mutual encouragement. In our case is it any less so? A generation that has exited the church in massive numbers.

And here is another interesting thing: we are encouraged to "consider how we may spur one another on" (Heb 10:24) and "encourage one another daily" (Heb 3:13). It sounds boardline "cult" to be doing stuff like that, because this is now intentional involvement in the lives of believers (on a "daily" basis if you are a good fundamentalist and take the Bible literally), and it is such that would require full access to the person's soul. For example, how is someone to "consider" how they can spur me on if I keep things hidden - even if they are the most personal things (i.e. the areas where I am most likely to fall into the "deceitfulness of sin").

No doubt it's risky, Sam. And I would not go about this sort of thing carelessly.

Yet I no longer believe I am called to a safe and secure Christianity. My generation is going to hell.

Melody said...

Facetious, Jason. You were being facetious.

And I agree with Sam, I always end up thinking of these creepy communes where people share everything, food, clothes, wives...that sort of deal.

samlcarr said...

Our model is certainly the early church as we see it happening in Acts and the epistles, but (and this may just be my assumption) but I see the entire functioning as voluntary. It is excess of voluntary freedom leading to indiscipline that gets Paul all het up, and his response, while sounding like prescriptiveness is actually a pleading, a persuasion, perhaps using the most powerful arguments that he can, but the result is still that each individual has to decide, choose, how to follow.

It looks communal whereas it is actually anarchic.

samlcarr said...

Viscesious

Melody, you really should google unusual words before you decide what they are meant to mean!

Jason Hesiak said...

CRAP...I lol-ed on that one...AGAIN! Man...no wonder I was so bad with spelling when I was a kid...

samlcarr said...

I think about the guy in 1Cor5. Now, it seems that there was no lack of openness involved, everyone knew about it and eventually Paul also finds out and Paul has so taught them of the liberty that they have in Christ, that to a follower of Jesus, all things are permissible, but he hasn't yet (it seems) given them the keys to figuring out what things are good and what may be detrimental.

So, openness is not enough on its own to solve all of the body's problems. Wisdom is also needed and that means that within the fellowship God would have given those gifts to some and they should be encouraged to develop their discernment.

Then there need to be mentors, those who live out their beliefs a bit more consistently and who are immersed in the gospel teachings and who can help those around them with the practical part of how to be better disciples.

But finally, people have to follow and grow in Christ by choice. Encouraging openness will help but openness will only happen if people feel secure and there is a strong sense of trust, and when they can see around them how being open helps with both growth and fellowship.

Melody said...

Melody, you really should google unusual words before you decide what they are meant to mean

lol - very nice

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam:
So, openness is not enough on its own to solve all of the body's problems. Wisdom is also needed and that means that within the fellowship God would have given those gifts to some and they should be encouraged to develop their discernment.

I agree, Sam. And I also agree about the importance of trust.

Seems as though you and I are on the same page so far.

But you also say:
Our model is certainly the early church as we see it happening in Acts and the epistles, but (and this may just be my assumption) but I see the entire functioning as voluntary. It is excess of voluntary freedom leading to indiscipline that gets Paul all het up, and his response, while sounding like prescriptiveness is actually a pleading, a persuasion, perhaps using the most powerful arguments that he can, but the result is still that each individual has to decide, choose, how to follow.

Sam, of course I agree that it is voluntary. But the question is what sorts of things are Believers allowed to opt-out of and still fulfill their high calling in Christ.

For example, communing with God in prayer is voluntary. I'm not going to stick a gun to anyone's head and make them do it. Nor do I want them to do it just because it's "the thing to do" as a Christian. It should come from a spirit and desire to worship and petition and know the Savior more deeply. Yet if someone is not spending time in prayer and has no intention or desire to do so, then I would suggest that they are not living up to their high calling. That is, prayer is voluntary but not really optional for a committed disciple.

I would say the same thing about openness. It is voluntary (just like anything else in life), but it is not optional for those who want to truly practice and live out the unity of the body of Christ as it should be lived out.

I'm going to stick with this despite the fact that Melody finds it "creepy"! Frankly, the idea of communing with God in prayer seems just as creepy to a lot of people. Some of our callings as Believers are both risky and uncomfortable, but that does not make them any less of a calling.

Melody said...

...and still fulfill their high calling in Christ.

Just for clarification: what are you talking about? What is a "high calling"?

I would say the same thing about openness. It is voluntary (just like anything else in life), but it is not optional for those who want to truly practice and live out the unity of the body of Christ as it should be lived out.

So...how would you feel about say...the whole bit with Mother Teressa recently where it turns out that she was really quite miserable even though she was pretending to be happy?

I personaly admire her perseverance in the face of extreme doubt, but it wasn't very open. Do you think that hindered her in some way?

Frankly, the idea of communing with God in prayer seems just as creepy to a lot of people.

That's because you use words like "commune" instead of "talk".

People don't think it's creepy to talk to God.

And for the record, I'm not saying don't do uncomfortable things. I'm saying don't do pointless things or worse, detremental things.

Jason Hesiak said...

Is the power of choice the place where man's highest value lies?

Melody said...

I hope not.

That would be depressing.

Really depressing.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Is the power of choice the place where man's highest value lies?

Maybe it is the will to power!

Or maybe the will to interpret.

Or perhaps the strength to love, ala MLK Jr.

Jason Hesiak said...

Dude that's fishy.

You said that deconstruction is imposed on us...that we don't choose it. Now...I'm not going to point out the contradiction between choice (of some sort) being the highest value of man and the fact that he doesn't choose to interpret. Lets just pretend that interpretation belongs to the nature of man.

What's fishy to me, though, is that...regardless of where our interpretations come from...the unconscious, culture, where-ever...we do it. What picture does that give to the relation between morality and ethics? If we ourselves, based on our interpreation of the world, assume our moral uprightness, then are we morally upright?

In the O.T. when the prophets say that Israel had "piled up guilt," they weren't referring to their "feelings" of guilt...which means the people of Israel didn't "feel" the guilt in their own personal "conscience" (shaped by their "interpretation" of the world). In fact, the prophets note that the people of Israel had no conscience.

And then on top of that...is salvation "personal"...do we in a sense partially determine our salvation based on our interpretatino of our sin and how Christ has righted it?

I don't think we ultimately have a choice about what is right and good. Obviuosly there's gray area...that's not the point. The point is its not up to us, regardless.

Jason Hesiak said...

Or perhaps the strength to love, ala MLK Jr.

If its the "strength to love", then that's more like participation in something prime (before us) that is outside of us than our choosing something as an extension out from and of our being.

And besides...does "love" "exist"? If so, then does it have substance? Is it present even if not purely expressed in one's actions?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiakiah:
What's fishy to me, though, is that...regardless of where our interpretations come from...the unconscious, culture, where-ever...we do it. What picture does that give to the relation between morality and ethics? If we ourselves, based on our interpreation of the world, assume our moral uprightness, then are we morally upright?

I don't think we ultimately have a choice about what is right and good. Obviuosly there's gray area...that's not the point. The point is its not up to us, regardless.


Morality is relative, friend. Don't you read the Bible???

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.\
Judges 21:25

Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.
Judges 2:11

What is "right" and what is "evil" depends upon whose eyes one is looking through.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: does "love" "exist"? If so, then does it have substance? Is it present even if not purely expressed in one's actions?

Good questions. I think Derrida would say that true "love" is impossible. Like The Gift. Like Forgiveness...but we've been discussing that at that other thread, haven't we?

Jason Hesiak said...

...but we've been discussing that at that other thread, haven't we?

Yeah. That's why I said "besides" :)

What is "right" and what is "evil" depends upon whose eyes one is looking through.

Well then obviously all that men see as good or evil is "relative to" what God sees as good or evil. On top of that God is good. There is no evil in God.

None of that has much to do anyway with what I'm saying is fishy, I don't think. The point is that God's goodness, and what God sees as good, ultimately define "the highest good" (or value). And not our interpretation of it. Our interpretation of it is exactly that.

And our interpretation only happens on this side of the veil, too. Well, I guess it does happen partially on the other side of the veil...that seems to be much of the point of deconstruction. But that's still different from the issue of our not choosing our own standards for what is good and evil. We may ACT as if we choose them...like in the book of Judges...but that doesn't mean that we are ACTUALLY doing what is good or evil.

AND...if goodness and evil ACTUALLY EXIST SUBSTANTIALLY "on the other side of the veil", then our interpretations OF good and evil aren't what GIVE EXISTENCE to good and evil. (this belongs in the "besides" stuff that is being discussed in the other thread)

Jason Hesiak said...

...and God didn't "send" Satan. He LET Satan do that crap. Satan said, "hey, I bet if...bla bla bla." God said, "Hh yeah? Go ahead and do what it was that YOU WANTED to do. You're wrong about what it is 'you bet'". That's different from there being any evil in God or God's being the source of evil.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiak:
he point is that God's goodness, and what God sees as good, ultimately define "the highest good" (or value). And not our interpretation of it. Our interpretation of it is exactly that.

But then you concede that God is still an interpreter, correct? Because we can look at an action and interpret it as "good", while God can look at the same action and say "evil." But it is still equally an interpretive act for both God and person, right?

We are all interpreters. The difference, according to you, is simply that you privilege God's interpretation as "the highest good." Why?

Perhaps this helps explain:
And our interpretation only happens on this side of the veil, too....We may ACT as if we choose them...like in the book of Judges...but that doesn't mean that we are ACTUALLY doing what is good or evil.

AND...if goodness and evil ACTUALLY EXIST SUBSTANTIALLY "on the other side of the veil", then our interpretations OF good and evil aren't what GIVE EXISTENCE to good and evil. (this belongs in the "besides" stuff that is being discussed in the other thread)


But this is not really very clear. Where is this "other side of the veil" that you reference??? In the heavenly realm? The "place" where God "lives"?

If so, then are you saying that because God's interpretation takes place behind a veil that this automatically makes his interpretation the "highest good"?

And does this tie in somehow with the torn curtain in the temple when Jesus was crucified?

Or perhaps it ties in with the Wizard of Oz: "Don't pay any attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Jason Hesiak said...

are you saying that because God's interpretation takes place behind a veil that this automatically makes his interpretation the "highest good"?

No I'm saying that God's "interpretation" "rules"...simply because He's GOD.

And in fact I'm saying that the very fact of His being God, in the particular sense in which I mean the following statement, takes away from the fact of His being an interpreter. The particular sense in which I mean that is: In the beginning was the Word. Obviously God is left to interpret OUR "words" and/or actions, which in a sense are OUTSIDE of who God is.

To me, though, there is both an inside and an outside of God's relationship to our actions or words. Its not really either/or to me. Our actions can't really be evil "in God's eyes" unless God is in some sense outside of the actions in question (putting Him in the position of interpreter rather than actor). But then at the same time, His goodness...and to me as well His Being...are the very reason why our actions can be judged as good or evil (thus putting Him in the position of actor rather than interpreter).

As for the whole "veil" thing...

I had said: And our interpretation only happens on this side of the veil, too. Well, I guess it does happen partially on the other side of the veil...that seems to be much of the point of deconstruction.

What I was referencing here was the same thing as where in the other thread Doyle notes that there are things that are not deconstructable...things that either "don't exist" or that lie entirely outside of existing things that can be or are being deconstructed (institutions, "things", words, texts, patterns of action). Those things that Doyle was referencing as things that are deconstructible are what I am referring to as lying on "this side of the veil."

My point is not that because God lies on the other side of the veil, then He's bigger and badder and his interpretation rules. My point simply belongs to the commonly accepted fact that there are things that belong to the other side of the veil; there are things that are hidden.

But then also my point is...some of those things ("love", for example) that are said to "not exist" (I guess under the pretense of an Aristotelian rather than Platonic viewpoint)...DO. I think its not actually so much an issue of Plato vs. Aristotle as an issue of whether the universe is a dust-filled vacume or an animated (sort of) cosmos filled with substances (some of which are hidden to us).

So that should answer: But this is not really very clear. Where is this "other side of the veil" that you reference??? In the heavenly realm? The "place" where God "lives"?

So far as I know there are a couple of main meanings to the ancient Jewish word for "heaven". They are: A) simply "air", and B) "the unseen". But regardless, it would have been taken to be something that is what we would now think of as substantial, even though it was hidden...and even though there was not yet any such thing as "metaphysics".

So how this relates to how both of these curren threads got going is...the whole "exisential angst" thing. "Existenstial angst" occurs in the void between something and nothing. You said that deconstruction is no-thing. But I think that most of the "things" and "no-things" BETWEEN which deconstruction occurs are actually occuring between two things! In other words...I think its our modernity and not the very structure or nature of being that is depressing.

Additionally: We are all interpreters. The difference, according to you, is simply that you privilege God's interpretation as "the highest good." Why?

Simply because He is God. As per the above. What else is it to be a "god"?

So: But then you concede that God is still an interpreter, correct? Because we can look at an action and interpret it as "good", while God can look at the same action and say "evil." But it is still equally an interpretive act for both God and person, right?

So...yes it is an interpretive act for both, but...at least the way I'm seeing it...it is not equally an interpretive act for both. God's "interpretation" "rules", simply because He is God. As per the above (again, what else does it mean to be a "god"?).

And does this tie in somehow with the torn curtain in the temple when Jesus was crucified?

Yeah, I'd say so. What were you getting at though?

Or perhaps it ties in with the Wizard of Oz: "Don't pay any attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Yeah and I think that's my whole point here. That its just some old fatso behind the curtain carries with it a hidden and underlying message that the only thing that really exists behind the curtain is nothing. Hence the existential angst imparted upon us by the modern vacume. Thank you modernity for giving us our greatest annoyances but for being just enticing enough to screw us over even if we do a lot of complaining against you.