I think that there are many people, from all sorts of backgrounds, that are finding themselves at the tail end of the process given below. That is where I find myself.
The law of existence: First life, then theory. Then, as a rule, there comes still a third: an attempt to create life with the aid of theory, or the delusion of having the same life by means of the theory. This is the conclusion, the parody, and then the process ends — and then there must be new life again.
Take Christianity, for example. It came in as life, sheer daring that risked everything for the faith. The change began when Christianity came to be regarded as doctrine. This is the theory; it was about that which was lived. But there still existed some vitality, and therefore at times life-and-death disputes were carried on over “doctrine” and doctrinal formulations. Nevertheless doctrine became more and more the distinctive mark of being a Christian. Everything then became objective. This is Christianity’s theory. Then followed a period in which the intention was to produce life by means of the theory; this is the period of the system, the parody. Now this process has ended. Christianity must begin anew as life.
Recently I have had more than passing thoughts about the importance (or lack thereof) of doctrine to living the life of a Christian. The tomes of theology do not seem to bring me any closer to acting on charity, compassion, mercy, justice, or love. If it is less important to pass on in-depth theology than to model the life of Christ, what then is the role of preaching to Christians? Why do Christians sit and listen to it every week?
Christ did not establish any doctrine; he acted. He did not teach that there was redemption, he redeemed. Christ’s relationship to God, nature, and the human situation was conditioned by his activity. Everything else is to be regarded only as introduction.
I have been reading Provocations – spiritual writings of Kierkegaard off and on for the last 6 months (warning, PDF download). It really is provocative, and I cannot read too much at a time. The goal of much of his writing is to incite the reader to choose, and to force the reader into self-examination. This makes it a book that cannot easily be read straight through.
Kierkegaard was famous for his “Attack on Christendom” and as such, is often dismissed by modern Christians as a “non-Christian”. He is also sometimes called the father of Existentialism, although he would burn with anger if he were alive to hear it. Kierkegaarg’s central passion was to “make people aware of what is essentially Christian.” His aim was to provoke the individual to become a true individual. He did not think much of intellectual enlightenment, and rather sought to evoke inward change.
He lived in a “Christian” country, where the Church leaders were wealthy, owned land, and held political clout. People were born into church, and church was just a part of life. Everyone went to church, but it did not necessitate a change in behavior. Kierkegaard reacted to a culture that studied, lectured on, and talked about God and the Christian life, yet did not seem to imitate Christ. It is in this that I find resonance.
So I will begin posting a quote from the book, and maybe a little bit of response. Here is the first:
This is Christianity: Let a person begin seriously to realize his need for Christ. Let him literally give all his fortune to the poor, literally love his neighbor, and so forth, and he will soon learn to need Christ. Christianity is a suit that at first glance seems attractive enough, but as soon as you actually put it on — then you must have Christ’s help in order to live in it.
Well, besides Radio Paradise and my own little iTunes station I listen to last.fm where I tell them what music I like, and they make me a custom station. If you happen to have broadband and use last.fm, you can find me as Samaritan and listen to my personal station. Current band list:
B-Tribe, Bettie Serveert, Conjure One, Delerium, Dido, Eastmountainsouth, Fiona Apple, Gabriel Rios, Jeff Beck, Jem, KT Tunstall, Kasabian, Kirsty MacColl, Mich Gerber, Michelle Shocked, NAMASTE, Nikkfurie, Ollabelle, Portishead, Thievery Corporation, Turin Brakes, U2, Yello, Zero 7, dZihan & Kamien, Emogen Heap, Morcheba, Afro Celt Sound System, Cibo Matto, Emiliana Torrini, Lulu Mushi, Sufjan Stevens
I have had a link to Confessions of a Christian Agnostic up on the links list (used to be under friends we don’t know), but I have never referenced it directly. I do so now. But before that, I will bring your attention to the other links up there: SoMA Review, Bad Christian,and Orion. These are all publications of a sort that reject the form of church and Christianity that spatters our world and culture today. Of the four, Christian Agnostic is the most encouraging, and the least feisty. In a way, that means it is the best for me. I can read it every day without getting all worked up. It is a calendar of little essays (I really cannot stand the term devotional) that brings one back to the basics of faith by questioning the things we have accepted as part of our faith. It is a good daily reminder of what this whole thing is about. By “whole thing” I mean life, not church or Christianity. Orion on the other hand, tends to get me a little riled, and makes me want to jump to action, which is usually a good thing, but sometimes just frustrating. Here are a few of that type of article: What Fundamentalists Need for Their Salvation and The War on Common Sense.
These sites appeal to me because I question the foundations (walls, towers, keep, dungeons) of church. I find myself questioning everything. Some questions are the usual “Why do we worship like this?” type, while others are a little more pointed like “Why is spiritual leader an occupation?”, “Is theology important to faith?”, “Why can’t someone ‘become’ a Christian without praying?”, and “Can someone be a Christian without knowing what a Christian is?”
I love the people, it is the shadows on the wall that I doubt. I have seen so many different shadows on that wall, but nothing quite lives up to real life spirituality hinted at by Jesus, and sometimes felt in nature. I don’t just want to escape to reality, I want everyone to join me there. Anyone willing?
Credit for the words that fit my questions goes to this piece from Simon Cozens
After having my shoes off since around April, I am now putting them on the other feet. I am heading up missions at our church and I am charged with writing policy. I am somewhat of a skeptic, and policy always has a nasty ring to it. Those that I looked up seem to have a goal of objectivity, and aim to make missions a structured program, manned by elected committee members and approved by the Board. Very democratic, and stuffy.
Many of you out there have either experienced missions, or have participated in policy creation. Is there a way that policy can be written that is flexible, uses ad hoc groups of people to get the man work done, and is focused on enabling people to do what needs to be done? Is there a precedent for a living policy that can be easily changed by the people who perform the actions that are guided by the policy? I want people to feel more empowered than constrained, and I want it to be easy to use resources to help others quickly. Agile would be the word.
Warning! Potential backlash ahead!
Why are they detainees, rather than prisoners of war?
Another, less simple question:
How can any American who grew up watching Rambo and other war movies that involve a foreign power torturing a US soldier think it is ok to do the same?
Next step up is a big one, and not simple at all:
Will our leaders be talked about in the same way that we talk about Hitler and Co.? (Fundamentalist Christian Leader promotes a system of government and uses force to spread a governmental doctrine.)
While I am not political in general, there are a few things that bother me about the way things are going. I really don’t like seeing a government that represents me debating whether or not it is ok to use coersion (torture), and the folks who wave the banner of faith and family also the ones who want to make sure we can cause pain and debasement to our (possible) enemies who have been captured. It seems…. very wrong.
I have had my little respite from the moors of Internet dialog/journaling. That was not the only reason for my temporary departure. I wanted to do other things for a while, including set up a gallery, read books, talk about other things with family, roast coffee, take pictures, setup other web sites, camp, and the like. I did those things, and I think I am ready to create a little room for blogging again.