Thursday, July 31, 2014
Lately, I’ve been noticing subtle differences between the popular ‘spirituality vs. religion’ and ‘faith vs. religion'
Some prefer ‘spirituality’ because it only implies one’s own spiritual self or soul (sans any god at all). So hiking the mountains is ‘spiritual’ because it nurtures the soul. True enough. However, I personally prefer to speak of ‘faith’ because my spiritual self or my soul has been freed and fed by a Love greater than my own … and indeed, faith freed me from religion in a way that spirituality hadn’t. As one Orthodox priest says, ‘Religion is a neurological disease and faith is its cure.’
I’m also conscious that there can be positive takes on ‘religion’ -- as in the encyclical of St James, where it amounts to practices of compassion and empathy). Religion in that passage is more a neutral word for 'faith practices' but only IF one adds the right adjective. And so when we critique 'religion,' we typically attach negative adjectives, such as ‘toxic’ or ‘moralistic’ religion.
Many such adjectives exist, but I’m starting to think that some of them actually hide the real problem of toxic religion in a sneaky way. For example, we often castigate ‘organized religion.’ But is the problem that it’s organized? Some faith communities are simply organized enough to gather and become a safe place from spiritual abuse or religious domination. And being 'disorganized' would be of no advantage to such dangers.
Other times we critique ‘hierarchical’ religion … I must say that hierarchy can be and has been the venue for all types of brutality. But so has anarchy. In fact, at times the ‘hierarchy’ in my faith tradition has been the main instrument protecting me from spiritual abuse, rather than afflicting it. I would say the limited 'hierarchy' of some 'organizations' makes them safe and also efficient. For example, my experience of PTM.org, which champions 'Christianity without the religion,' is that it has a clear structure with a caring and non-controlling 'chain of command' ... Greg Albrecht is a real leader (no anarchy there) and Laura Urista is a brilliant manager (no disorganization there) BUT they cannot be charged with 'religion.' So structure or lack of it may or may not be a problem, but fixating on that may also mask the real and deeper insidious side of religion when things have gone awry.
So the trickier question is what real toxins might lurk behind our secondary misplaced adjectives of organization or hierarchy?
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Jarrod McKenna's talk on 'Zoeology' was part 7 of a series at the Meeting House entitled 'We Believe: Christian Theology, learned, loved and lived.' Jarrod McKenna the National Advisor for Youth, Faith and Activism for World Vision Australia. He is a peace award winning founder of EPYC and co-founder of the Peace Tree Intentional Community in Perth. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
When I sit to restring the guitar I don't just attack the strings with a wire cutter and start pulling them out. First, I'll start with the two middle strings - the ones whose tuning pegs are at the top of the headstock. I will loosen those strings all the way, a quarter turn at a time-by hand. Using a string winder puts too much unnecessary stress on the neck. Then I'll continue moving outward alternating strings bottom to top until I've loosened them all completely. I still haven't cut the strings for many reasons. A cut string has a unique ability to find your hand and stab it with all the force of a piercing needle thrown by an air compressor. It hurts, trust me. Once all the strings are loose, I'll finally start cutting, again working from the top of the headstock down, cutting them close enough to still leave me a piece to hold while removing the leftover from the tuning peg. If there is a broken string, I don't cut it again, it's already broken!
After carefully removing the smaller pieces from around the tuning pegs, I'll start removing the bridge pins, carefully making sure I don't let the piece of broken string fall down in the guitar. At this time most might just start throwing their new strings back on so they can get back to playing. Not me. I'll spend time cleaning every crevice of my guitar, removing dust, fingerprints, sweat (gross) and anything else foreign that has found a home in or on my guitar. Once it's back to it's pristine shine, I'll start restringing.
Is there a time you remember when something happened or someone said something, and suddenly the lights turned on and everything went to color? I picked the artwork below just for the colors. When do you feel alive like this? Is there room in the kingdom for the untidiness of this?As I reflected on my own spiritual journey, I couldn't help connecting such epiphanies to Jesus' promise of abundant life ... and the contrast of soul-withering experiences of dead religion. The former were usually messy interruptions of joy through those the world regards as 'least' ... especially the wee ones on the margins of society: little children but also friends who live with disabilities or addictions.
By contrast, the colorless phases were often self-inflicted, but others were also imposed by religious cultures that could not abide coloring outside the lines ... if color were involved at all. I have had many marvelous moments in the context of loving faith communities. But I've also known what it is to be strangled by the need to maintain "a testimony" by what I can't do, where I can't go, what I can't eat or drink, what I can't wear. I've known the mini-martyrdom of sitting straight in wool slacks on wooden pews in stifling heat in order to 'be good' ... but happily, also the explosive exuberance of cross-cultural worship or chain-breaking revelation. Clearly, two very opposing spirits are at work ... sometimes even in the same setting!
It's not just a case of casting off all restraints and doing whatever I please ... I tried that and found it too can become its own form of bondage. In fact, these wonder-moments never seem to be generated by me at all. Not even my own striving for greater freedom. Rather, they represent the intrusive grace of God ... a breaking in of Love that shakes us loose and lifts our chins and may even move our feet. Jesus called this the kingdom of God.
Suddenly, the blind see ... our eyes are opened to the truth that even in this life, there is more going on than we know. I can't make this happen. The best I can do is to wash the mud from my eyes and wait for the next flurry of light, sound and color.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
A while back, Jerry Seinfeld created a little internet series called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" -- a chance to improvise the chemistry of spontaneous moments with various actors and comedians from his world. The episode that grabbed my attention was his connection with Michael Richards, who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," the sitcom about nothing (by its own testimony). The Richards episode of "Comedians in Cars" is viewable here:
What struck me were Richards' reflections and regrets on that fateful night at the Comedy Club when he reacted to hecklers with some racist slurs. Someone recorded the exchange on a smartphone and posted it to the internet. Call it one of those "Mel Gibson moments" (more on him later) ... a meltdown that you can't just rewind or delete. It becomes part of your 'permanent record.'
Seinfeld's brief and unscripted exchange with Richards about that night, seven years past, comes back to me frequently. Here's the transcript of those moments:
Michael Richards: I think I’ve worked selfishly, not selflessly. It’s not about me; it’s about them.
Now that’s a lesson I learned seven years ago, when I blew it in the Comedy Club, lost my temper because someone interrupted my act and said some things that hurt me and I lashed out in anger. I should have been working selflessly that evening …
I busted up after that event seven years ago. It broke me down. It was a selfish response. I took it too personally and I should have just said, ‘Yeah, you’re absolutely right, I’m not funny. I think I’ll go home and work on my material and I’ll see you tomorrow night.” And split or something. Anything.
But you know, it was just one of those nights.
And thanks for stickin’ by me. You know? No, really.
Seinfeld: There was no issue with that.
Richards: Well, I mean, it meant a lot to me. You know?
Seinfeld: That’s nice.
Richards: But inside, it still kicks me around a bit.
Seinfeld: Well, that’s… Okay, well, that’s up to you.
Richards: That’s a big cup too.
Seinfeld: That’s up to you, to say, "I’ve been carrying this bag long enough. I’m going to put it down."To clarify, Seinfeld sounds colder in the transcript than in the actual video, but it was clear that these are two dear friends, with a high level of mutual trust and the ability to shoot straight with each other. It's not for me to psychologize the conversation or critique Jerry's advice or how Richards received it. Rather, the chat struck a nerve for me because we all carry bags of regret ... often for years and years.
Richards: Yeah … yeah.
This is especially true when we have hurt others -- especially those we love -- and even more so when the harm done is ongoing.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Meah Shearim by Eric Lubiyov
Lately I’ve been giving a lot of interviews on my new book A Farewell To Mars. It’s a semi-autobiographical confession of how I moved from being an enthusiastic supporter of war American style to proclaiming the peaceable kingdom of Christ. Since I’ve marched among the ranks of sincere war-endorsers for most of my life, I’m sympathetic with well-meaning Christians who believe in the way of Mars. I try to tell the story of my conversion honestly and gracefully. I level criticism, not at soldiers, but at myself. My aim is to take the reader on a journey where Jesus and war are examined in the light of an unencumbered reading of Scripture.
But in a twelve minute radio interview there is little time for narrative and nuance. Instead, the interviewer usually leaps to what they consider “the heart of the matter.” In every interview I’ve been asked this question: “What would you do if Hitler invaded your house?” Well, it’s not exactly that question, but in every interview these two questions have come up: What about Hitler? What would you do if someone invaded your home? Hitler and home invasion. These are the two arguments that allegedly make the Jesus way of peace impossible. So let me address them. I’ll begin with Hitler.
When I claim that waging war is incompatible with following Jesus, the knee-jerk objection is always this: “What about Hitler?” The problem with the “Hitler objection” is that we have stepped into the middle of the story. It’s 1940 and we’re asking, “what are we going to do about Hitler?” As legitimate as that question is, we need to back up and ask this question first: How is it that Christians could wage war at Hitler’s behest? How did the land of Luther and the Reformation become the land of Nazis and the Holocaust? Hitler is as much a problem for Christian Just War theorists as for Christians who oppose war altogether. After all, Hitler waged his blitzkriegs with baptized soldiers sporting Gott mit uns on their belt buckles. How did this happen? How was Hitler able to convince Christian soldiers to kill other Christians in Poland, France, and Russia? Hasn’t something gone tragically wrong with the church when Christians can be persuaded to kill other Christians in the name of ideology and nationalism? The enduring catastrophe of Constantine subverting the kingdom of God was that the politics of Jesus were set aside for the interests of empire. This eventually led to the shame of the crusades where Christians killed under the banner of the cross, and then to the horror of the two world wars where European Christians slaughtered one another by the millions.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
A Farewell to Mars: Brian Zahnd's Timely Send-Off to the God of War in an Age of Religious Violence by Andrew Klager
Monday, July 7, 2014
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.—Philippians 3: 18-21
|Copyright Dominic Jersak 2014|