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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

The Subtle Lie

I’m reading this morning and something hit me.

Beneath the subtlety of religion (which is a system of performance) is the lie that I’m not really broken, that secretly I’m okay.  And that if I just learn the right thing, know the right material, read the right book, do the right thing, or pray a certain way that I will be okay. Nobody will notice my indiscretions.  And the very nature of the lie is to convince me that it is true, and because I’ve believed it I hold out hope that the lie is actually true. The search for those things leads me down the spiral to captivity, yet to admit the truth is to let go, which I don’t want to do because then I will have to admit I am broken.

Just thinking out loud.

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If you didn’t see this presentation by Rob Bell you missed something important.  This was one of the more defining discussions for me in terms of understanding the cultural component of when the Bible was written.  And it means A LOT.

The insights into religion from this discussion still resonate with me today.

My review here.

Get it here.

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Emergent Village has a post that profiled a woman named Heather Kirk-Davidoff. The post profiled a dialog between her and a Dr. Forni.

“A story on the cover of today’s Wall Street Journal proclaims “Be Nice, Or What?” and it covers a disagreement in Maryland over Howard County’s “Choose Civility” campaign. The founder of the campaign is Johns Hopkins University professor of civility Dr. P.M. Forni, and the protagonist in this debate is Heather Kirk-Davidoff, pastor of Kittamaqundi Community and a member of the Emergent Village board of directors.

In the article, Heather questions Forni’s “25 Rules of Considerate Conduct” and says, “Community is never made by rules. … As soon as you set up boundaries, you invite people to regulate them. The first rule in my book is, ‘Be curious,’ and the second is, ‘Make room.’””

And when I read this something interesting stuck out to me. When Jesus reduced the law to love he was making a stunning observation about brilliance of love. In the law, we have the fine specifics that require massive amounts of memorization, understanding, contemplation, observations and astute reasoning in the application of any law. We have PhD’s and scientists, lawyers and doctors, politicians and police officers all making attempts at the application of the law.

In love we have an archetype of action. It can be performed by anyone, almost regardless of age, race, creed, nationality, color, sex, and even mental ability. My child can do it and so can my grandfather. It’s not limiting but empowering. It’s simple and at the same time rewarding.

What do I do here? Love.

And what do I do here? Love.

But what about here? Love.

In every case of human interaction we have a specific moral action that is defined by a smart group of people, who are usually trying to help but end up getting in the way, as with Dr. Forni above. Or we have love.

I choose love.

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This is from Primative Radio Gods song, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand.”

We sit outside and argue all night long.
About a god we’ve never seen.
But never fails to side with me.

Why is that?

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This reminds me so much of the modern vs. postmodern conversation from a few days ago.

Abstract vs. concrete thought

Greek thought views the world through the mind (abstract thought). Ancient Hebrew thought views the world through the senses (concrete thought).

Concrete thought is the expression of concepts and ideas in ways that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted and/or heard. All five of the senses are used when speaking and hearing and writing and reading the Hebrew language. An example of this can be found in Psalms 1:3; “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither“. In this passage we have concrete words expressing abstract thoughts, such as a tree (one who is upright, righteous), streams of water (grace), fruit (good character) and a unwithered leaf (prosperity).

Abstract thought is the expression of concepts and ideas in ways that can not be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard. Hebrew never uses abstract thought as English does. Examples of Abstract thought can be found in Psalms 103:8; “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger, abounding in love”. As you noticed I said that Hebrew uses concrete and not abstract thoughts, but here we have such abstract concepts as compassionate, gracious, anger, and love in a Hebrew passage. Actually these are abstract English words translating the original Hebrew concrete words. The translators often translate this way because the original Hebrew makes no sense when literally translated into English.

(Source)

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I found this while doing some research and it intrigued me.

“Greek thought describes objects in relation to its appearance. Hebrew thought describes objects in relation to its function.” (source)

Any thoughts?

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Scot McKnight recently discussed the concepts of intelligent design and the arguments for the existence of God. And his post got me thinking what it must feel like, from God’s perspective, to have people argue over His existence.

I can imagine God sitting back and saying, “I’m right here…in the butterfly and the oak tree. I’m right here…in the homeless man and the doctor. I’m right here…in the college student who gives up a career on Wall Street to feed the poor in Darfur. I’m right here…in the little boy who gives up his lunch money so his neighbor can eat. I’m right here…in the wind and the rain that always comes.  I’m right here…if you believe.

And this train of thought made me wonder if God doesn’t want to be stuck in a petri dish, pushed and prodded and proved? What if God simply refuses to play our game. The God of Scripture I see refuses to answer the requests of the people to perform on demand. In fact, he makes it virtually impossible to actually prove his existence, instead asking for faith that leads to this strange experience of the divine. We think He’s there yet wonder if it is real. We feels His love and then watch it disappear the next day when we lose our jobs. He doesn’t show up the way we want him to, instead revealing himself as he sees fit. And maybe that’s the way we need it.

And then I began to wonder what it would look like if I could actually prove He exists. What would it mean if I could perform some experiment that would undoubtedly prove God existed? Would I need him anymore? Would I somehow think I was now in control because I had figured God out? And would I use that against people for control, demanding that they bow to the God of the universe?

And if this is true, the call to faith becomes much clearer. The call to faith is actually for my good. It’s God refusing to give me the control I can’t really handle.

Interesting in your thoughts on this.

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