Thursday, December 23, 2010

Theology and Perspective (Part 3...)

First check out Part 1, and Part 2.

So, returning to my original quote: love isn't a feeling, it's a decision.

And I said, there's some truth to it. However - I don't think that's the whole story.

We all long for love, and when we think of it, imagine the amazing soaring heights: long walks in the woods; laughter; passion; kisses in the moonlight; being held by someone who just wants to be with you; that secret, hidden spark; being known and knowing, intimately, deeply, unjudgingly; the look that's meant just for you...

And Josh Harris et al. are right in saying it's more than just the feeling we get from these things (incredible, inexplicable, wonderful and rewarding though it is...), and we must have something more, a decision, an act of the will, which keeps us going through the dark times. Though thick and thin, health and sickness, better or worse, richer or poorer. The thing which keeps us going though we're angry and tired, and the one we love drives us mad. When everything goes wrong and we want to give up - that "not-giving-up-ness", is also love. And without it, all of the first list are just a crashing cymbal, or breath of wind, cool, sweet, beautiful, but perishable, and of no lasting significance.

But the thing is, I don't think that just the decision is love.

And I think we can - by looking at it, or teaching it this way - miss the fact that 90% of the time*, life isn't passionate highlights, nor terrible lows, but plodding along in the day-to-day mundane boring normality.
[*Yes, I know. Fictional statistic for the sake of rhetorical prose. Forgive me.]


Does that sound bad?

If you get married, and have kids, then by the time they are old enough to leave home, you'll have spent two thousand HOURS ... doing the dishes.

Is that bad?

No. It's an integral part of love. Without the details, picking up the trash and the dishes, vacuuming the carpets, driving to work, none of the "perks" of love can exist - nor would they mean anything if they did.

What we need, I think, is not to say "I have decided to love", but "I am love". Following God's description of Himself in John's gospel as love. The famous passage in 1 Corinthians comes to mind, of course, as well. So instead of thinking, "I've decided to love Becky", or "I feel in love with Becky", I must say, "I am love Becky." (grammarians, have fun)

Then the things I do, the things I think, the things I say, will all come from that. The who I am.

And it must become part of the who.

So then, how does this all reflect back to theology, and the my thoughts about our perspective on God?

Well, I struggle to connect a lot of the bits and pieces of Christianity.

The theology, on one hand, with the practical out-working on the other, loving people on the third hand, loving God on the fourth, loving myself with the fifth hand, spiritual experience with the sixth, and by this stage, I've more than run out of arms.

The Christian life is for Octopuses.

But back to the point of this - I believe we all long for the excitement and adventure of faith. Of being part of something enormously bigger and more fantastic than ourselves; of knowing something (someone) deep inside of our hearts; fighting against evil; forgetting ourselves as we proclaim with great passion and joy the great truths, of sitting discussing until the wee hours about how fantastically beautiful each aspect of our Creator is, delving deeper and deeper into something incredibly vast and unending, and also of going out amongst the poor and needy, healing the sick, giving up luxuries with joy, being a useful part of a bigger kingdom.
[Note the '3 winds', btw]


Adrian Plass jokes of his fantasy walking through a church hall healing people in wheel-chairs.

But the biggest thing, I think, within this is the aspect of "forgetting ourselves".

We're SO self-obsessed, and when we finally forget ourselves, and reach in the reality outside of our own pettiness, we truly live.

I've been thinking about it a lot. Why books can be so absorbing; why I want to escape to Narnia, or Middle Earth, or Hogwarts; why it's so much easier to watch an episode of "Top Gear" than to write emails or invite the neighbours 'round for tea...

I think firstly, losing ourselves; Not having to "think about number 1", and get away. But then there's also the other bits of faith - being part of something enormously bigger, deep truths and fighting against evil, growing deeper...

To me, Narnia and all that is so very attractive, as fighting dragons and hunting in the forests seems so much easier than the battles I face. Peter grows up and becomes a man through slaying the wolf of Queen Jardis. I must grow up by memorising verses and remembering to take out the trash?

I'm convinced that this "escapism" is not wrong. It catches us, with the secret "joy" that C.S. Lewis talks of, and awakens our hearts to the calling of God. I cannot believe that God did not intend us to be adventurous. Just as it takes forever for Gandalf to convince Bilbo that hobbits are actually very good at adventuring, and that a safe happy small life in a hobbit-hole is actually a wasted life.

What we need is to be those adventurers, those bold warriors, those royal alive on-fire Lords and Ladies, as we do everything. As we wash the dishes. As we scrape ice off the car. As we pay our rent.

Just believing the right Christian theology - isn't enough. Just making a decision - isn't enough. Just discussing the right Christian concepts - isn't enough. Just doing the right Christian things - isn't enough.

We have to be christians.

Most of the time, I don't even know where to start.

5 comments:

Richard said...

The reason why it's so difficult to be a Christian is partly because of the word - it tends to obfuscate the fact that we are called to be followers of Jesus who demonstrated this integrated life of love. Christianity (for the last few centuries at least) might be considered to have become schizophrenic - having a split personality with each personality demonstrated by a different group claiming to have found the complete truth.

Jesus demonstrated 'the way' of being love. When we say 'I am love Becky' we are not illustrating a grammatical problem, but a conceptual linguistic one with the word I which is seen merely as a noun (inactive) rather than a verb (active). 'I am' as a single word integrates noun and verb into an integrated concept.

Sadly, one of the problems we have since this split in mainstream Christianity is we don't see examples to follow. We don't have apprenticships to learn from masters. Of course, this is what parenting is, or should be, about. It is a bit of an indictment for us as parents that this is not so.

Bridget Tallon said...

You done gone and hit that thar nail on de head.
I was hoping you'd get back to your opening comments in the first part. Nicely put indeed.

dan said...

Note my use of capitals.

Maybe I'm using it backwards. I know of the contentions of using the word Christian (or christian), and deliberately used 'christian' (small 'c') to NOT mean "Christian in the political / religious / yada-yada sense".

"Follower of Jesus" / "Follower of the Way" / etc. may be better in some ways... but it's also:

(a) more wordy;
(b) sounds a bit pretentious at times;
(c) well on it's way to getting it's own religious / political connotations.

Alas.

The whole abstract / conceptual thing is a bit weird, to be honest.

Like, in some ways, I think we can easily over-abstractify everything. Which may well be were part of the issue with neo-Reformed dudes vs. Emergents comes in. They abstractify different things, and refuse to budge.

For the Reformed perspective, Jesus' life/death/resurrection is often abstracted and codified in to a bare and stark "Penal Substitution = IT", but then hellfire, brimstone, heaven, hell, etc, are left as un-abstracted literal absolutes.

Then in the Emergent camp(s), Jesus' life/death/resurrection is often left as a story - not that it's not true, but that it has layers of depth and complexity, and we must view it as a story, not a formula, and then heaven/hell/judgement/etc. become abstract.

The classic argument/nonsense between WotM and Doug Pagitt is case in point. The WotM guy is like "WTH? You don't believe in HELL and JUDGEMENT?!" and Doug is like "Dude, like, God interacts with you, when you die..."

Both sides are missing so much.

Funny thing is, I'd like to say it's a Modernist/Post-Modernist battle. But I don't think it is, after reflection and a wee bit of study. A lot of the gnostic, arian, etc. debates seem to be very much related.

Which could be a good historic argument against (systematic) theology! :-)

However, I find myself skeptical about alternatives.

Sarah said...

Octopi

dan said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus#Terminology

Octopus isn't a Latin noun, it's Greek, so Octopi shouldn't be the plural, I think. Octopoudes just sounds silly in English, so Octopuses.