Thursday, September 6, 2007

oh yeah? well tear down your own idols, tall hairy man!

okay, i will.
disclaimer: lots of people can see clearly enough to know the difference between what's a healthy tool or form, and what is being focused on with too much importance and not enough self-awareness. lots of methodists know that the communion liturgy they use , or the Book of Discipline, or the connection structure of the denomination, is not the point. or whatever denomination and their stuff - jews and the torah, baptists and immersion, episcopalians and liturgy, catholics and mass, eucharist, confession, etc.

although, now that i say that, maybe there are lots who don't.
i can't count how many people from all sorts of faith traditions have asked me whether those things are essential or not. forms of baptism or communion. particular ways to read the bible. moral codes. one man just said, "am i going to go to hell because maybe i don't practice christianity the way my parents did?" and he meant it.
i said, good god, hell no, absolutely not, let go, be free, fuck that.

but how to know? my wise wife has said, take everything you believe, and boil it down to the rock bottom, absolute essentials. the things that you know are true about god. the things you cling to and know are deep down worth holding on to. and then say to god, I am willing to give even this to you, because it is still not who and what you are.

that's getting rid of anything that is not The Thing Itself.

leonard sweet is a man who teaches church leaders about the need for the christian church to change and evolve because the culture has. i heard him say at a speech to some traditional christians, "i know you love gospel music and hymns. your children and grandchildren don't; they find gospel and hymns as off-putting as you find rock music. if you insist that their music not be part of christianity, then you are willing to send your children and grandchildren to hell. are you willing to do that?" that's what i'm talking about.

and so, what might be some journey assumptions as to what is holy but not The Thing Itself?
we're not like other churches. it's what we're all about.
we love being together. it's what we're all about.
we go help the poor. it's what we're all about.
our pastors are cool and funny and laid back. it's what we're all about.

all of those are not The Thing Itself.
maybe it's a mistake to say that ANYTHING is The Thing Itself.
The Thing Itself is the unknowable, ineffable mystery, and our best response to it might just be awe and humilty and fluidity and openness and joy and fear, and that's about it. everything else is just shit human beings make up. and if it's an effective tool that helps us - in journey's case - love god, love ourselves as god loves us, and love others in the same way - then that's a good thing. but none of it is The Thing Itself.

3 comments:

bob c said...

there are some words that just f*&^ me up

ministry....oooo it's magical work
facts....proving somethings often drains the meaning
personal faith...it seems VASTLY over-rated

i am so fascinated when the tribe of israel (a) related to god just like talking to a neighbor and (B) did not call god by name

nonprofitprophet said...

Ricky D at his finest. I've got to get back down there. My soul aches.~npp

revrin rick said...

bob c - absolutely. they walked with god and yet knew better than to try to capture god with a name, a title, a box.
we oughta learn somethin' there.
i figure the best way for us to get over our own definitions of our personal faith is just to shut up and look and listen, yah? at the sky, at another human being's face, at the wind, at nothing. but not at our own documents.

npp - you're always down here, brother.