Sunday, October 29, 2006

Western-Centricity [Macro part 1]

La and I attended a talk and presentation by Laurie Anderson [a multimedia and performance artist] at the McWane Center last night in Birmingham. She said a lot of things that stuck with me, but two in particular are relevant here.

First, she mentioned that she worked for a while with the main architect who is currently attempting the rebuilding of the Parthenon in Athens [in Greece, not Alabama, no Georgia] by picking up the pieces and seeing where they fit. She was awed by the amount of philosophical thought that has been borne out of that area [she quoted it as being 14 schools of thought] and asked why the architect thought that the world wasn’t a better place for it.

His response was that years ago folks would bring statues and sacrifices to worship the Greek goddess Athena. The sacrifices didn’t seem to bring about any worry or strife within the people. The statues, however, did. Apparently [as human nature directs] people would come about to build and bring bigger and better statues. The place was filled with them. The area of the Parthenon was so filled with them that people stopped coming to this place of worship altogether. One of the worshippers was asked why he didn’t come to worship and he said, “I cannot worship in an art gallery.”

The point in what she was saying was that more often we are satisfied with merely believing rather than knowing.

The second point [which was actually made prior to the first] was bought up in a comparison between the eastern culture of the Japanese and the western culture of the United States. Out of our Greco-Roman heritage there is always a central and identifiable hero. There is always an antithesis to that hero. In our story of the hero there is a beginning, climax, and an end. In the Japanese culture there’s no definite story line of beginning, middle, and end. There’s not often a definite hero. The society and belief system function in a peculiar way [to us] wherein things exist but do not often find a solid or happy resolution [that is, if they ever find resolution at all].

When we talk about Christianity, we often equate it with Western thinking without realizing that our faith was borne out of the middle of east. Currently, when Christianity is preached it is spoken of as the creation of man as the beginning of its epoch, the first incarnation and coming of the Messiah in the flesh as our climax [and hero], and His second coming as His glorious victory. The truth, however, is much broader than this in its scope. If we look at the implications of what we know about God as per the Bible, we see that God is. He not only is, He has always been and ever will be.

Scripture, in this, communicates the characteristic of God in his infinitude.

It only seems proper to start there as it seems a good base to understanding [or understanding our lack of comprehension] God’s attributes. If God is infinite in his being [existing from eternity’s past unto eternity’s future] then his attributes must be similarly thus. Things get sticky for us, I think, when we say “God has done X because we have done Y.” In fact, we really don’t know the specifics of why God has done X. We can look through scripture and understand that God acts upon, intervenes in, and sets forth everything in creation. We can understand that all things are from, through, and to Christ. We cannot say with much certainty that God will do X if Y is performed by us, however.

Here’s the crux of the issue; in modern American Christianity we make out many antitheses to our central hero [Christ]. So then, the Muslims become our enemies because they hate Christians. Gays become our enemies because they are not living according to God’s prescription of right living. Abortionists become our enemies because they are killing all of God’s children. Anyone who is against America and American Christian values is a part of the formula of absolute and spiritual death.

What is so revolutionary about Christianity is the fact that not all enemies are enemies and not all friends are friends. Sometimes the people who seem to be closest to us can be so far from the truth, and those who are against us will be turn from an absolute hardness of heart unto life.

Some of us we’ll take portions of Scripture and end the search of knowledge with the characteristics we understand. God is holy and hates sin, therefore he condemns and punishes those more quickly who are involved in gross sin. The obvious examples of this are those who would assume that natural acts are judgments of God against the heathen scum of the Earth. What it is, in fact, is a statement of belief formed by shallow reading rather than a true knowledge formed by intimation and delving into the infinite character of God.

What the gospel tells us is that God takes those very enemies and makes them into children [that is, the gospel that is described in the old and new testaments of the Bible]. That being the case, the lines in the plot get a little more blurry as we never really understand of terrorist X, abortionist Y, or homosexual Z will be an enemy forever. The impetus for us to love the very people that hate us is that God has done the same thing for Joe American Christian. The storylines become blurred as beginnings are no longer beginnings – everything really starts off backwards compared to the optimistic hope of utopianism. We come into existence still borne, at some point we are shown what is real and what is fake, and then we progress from being less alive and less aware to more alive and more aware.

What we are called to is even more of the antithesis of how “faith” functions in most circles. “Faith” doesn’t tell me to believe that infinite characteristics lead to specific actions. Faith tells me that Christ must be the object of my affections to some degree and that what I believe about Christ has been generally quite misconstrued. Faith tells me that while I can believe in something that has happened historically, I can’t necessarily place the same mold on every subsequent event that happens.

Now, you may feel like I am babbling about this, but I have a point. The truth is that Christianity isn’t necessarily about belief. Our convictions should be changing [a better word would be “progressing,” perhaps]. There are historical points wherein we can say, “I believe that,” but to say that our faith is about mere belief is pretty foolish. What makes this idea of “faith,” so impoverished is its redundancies in belief. “Look at how wealthy America is, it is so because God has blessed us for our belief!” as it is stated. We take acts of God from the past and apply them to the present as truth, and that is a redundancy in belief as it does not take the infinitude of God’s character into account.

We take what has happened in western culture and we ask, “What is God trying to communicate to us in this.” We take these happenings and say “God is thus and must be saying etcetera.” Given the infinitude of God, how can any man necessarily know the mind of God in his current actions? What we are called to as Christians is to know God, not to believe in God’s attributes. The difference between the two is that of definition and intimacy. If we believe in his attributes, we might be able to recount various verses to define those attributes. In knowing God, we move beyond the mere definition of who He is unto a deeper intimacy than that which can be necessarily defined. There’s a lot more to be said about this, but I’ll end with the incomplete thought for now as this is almost 2 ½ pages.

What are your thoughts? We’ll camp out on this for more than tonight’s blog...

*If you liked the illustration, visit here for more.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


In the book I’m reading right now [Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen] a reference is made at one point wherein Machen harkens to a time 75 years preceding his own where times were “better” and cultures more “Christian.” Growing up in Huntsville, we had a wonderful and devoted youth leader who decried the sin of our times and looked back to an era that looked more to Christ. Even now I hear people around me talking about how things in the past were not only different, but better and more spiritual.

I don’t think that the arguments are wrong. There may have been a time where our culture seemed to be more influenced by Christianity. What ends up happening so often is the scare that our lives, as we know it, will end. Endemic in the modern American church is the modern American mindset. It is not only western-centric, but also individualistic, consumer driven, and very often myopic in its scope of culture and society.

Instead of pointing the finger, I would like to open up my heart to you a bit [but no more than necessary]. When I look at myself, I am often western-centric, individualistic, consumer driven, and very often myopic in my scope of culture and society.

Over the next few blogs, I’d like to explore these four areas in a micro and macro sense. Fell free to voice your opinion or response. To let you know, I am choosing to span it out because if I put all the thought into one blog, I doubt anyone would read it [though, I sometimes doubt if anyone reads it as it is].

What had me thinking about it is the way I’ve been regarding a lot of the complaints I’ve been reading in other areas of the web. It makes me sick to think of how putrid some of the thoughts of the church are. It makes me sick to think about how putrid some of my own acts towards those who are in the church are. My aim then, instead of complaining, is critical analysis.

I don’t think this will be extremely entertaining, but I’ll try to make it engaging as best I can.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vanity and the pride of life...

I’m listening to Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

I’ve started a new blog.
No worries [as if you have any], I intend to remain dedicated to both. The natures of the two are such that I do not believe they’ll intersect in content.

Our trip to Colorado was wonderful. You should be able to check out our pictures here. The Rockies are just a strange and beautiful place altogether. There are some there who have ancestral roots to miners who worked themselves to death for the hope of finding the “mother lode.” Then you have others whose wealth defines their existence – those who will shell out a few [or more] million bones for a winter home.

There’s so much that I learned about myself and my family – much of which won’t be shared here because I don’t think that it would be appropriate to share [that’s called discretion].

One of the conversations La and I had while driving alone through the mountains was about creation. We had a bit of an argument about it. What was borne through it was evidence of our sin [beyond the argument]. A question I posed that was brought back to me was whether or not I thought about God the creator when I look at his creation.

“No. No, I don’t think I do,” is how I responded.
“But I’m trying. I’m praying that He would help me to.”

This wasn’t the first time I had driven through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. I’m sure that it wasn’t the first theological conversation I’ve had there. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.

So often, however, the gloss of creation sates my appetite for the magnificent.
So often I find myself praying, “I believe, but help my unbelief.”

It’s so easy not to think about Him – because when I do, there are hard questions that I feel like He has to answer. In fact, He’s probably answered them in some way or another, but I want to be the clay that tends to buck at the potter and in the economy of God, that doesn’t really work. I am so easily duped into believing that God likes me more when I act like an ass even though he hasn’t called me to be his work horse.

He’s called be to be His child.
He’s called me to be a good brother to others.
He’s called me to be a good husband – to have my relationship with my wife model His relationship to His people.
He hasn't called me to be his mule.

In my enjoyment of creation, He reminded me that I just don’t think about what He’s called me to enough. In my enjoyment, He reminded me that maybe I’m too easily amused.

Friday, October 06, 2006

re: Weddings

This may be a little known fact: I love weddings.

Another interesting fact is that I witnessed more people crying at my marriage to La than and other I’ve been too. There were literally people coming up to me afterwards who told me that they usually don’t cry at weddings, but that they did at ours.

It probably didn’t help that there was a six foot tall, one hundred ninety pound groom crying at the time [that would be me].

There are certain passages of scripture that imprint themselves onto the fabric of my soul. For the longest time [and even now] Christ’s sermon on the mount was one of those [particularly the section wherein He reminds me that whatever I do to the least of these, I do unto him]. Another is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes about the relationship of a husband and a wife as a reflection of Christ’s relationship to the Church.

I don’t care much for the fluff of weddings. My favorite are where Christ centered sermons are preached and wonderful hymns sung. My favorite part of the wedding is to see the rear doors of the sanctuary open, to see the bride in radiant white burst through, and to see her walking towards the man who has decided to die to on life so that his bride might live for a new one.

When La walked in, I thought of Christ who has pursued me. I remembered how I loved her before she cared for me – and how Christ did the same. I remembered how much more deep His love is [however] and that while I don’t deserve it, it is mine for the taking. I wept because I was reminded that one day Christ will come again to claim His bride – His bride that He has washed, and cultivated, and loved.

The difference is that He has never been the one to stand and wait for her to walk down an aisle. He’s the one who runs out of the Holy place to bring His bride out of the whore house that she’s decided to make her home. He’s the one who purchases her freedom from that life, who makes her clean and who promises that he will keep her forever.

For me, the wedding isn’t about all the pomp. It’s about the representation of Christ coming to His bride, of his whispering of redemption, and of His bold actions to break his bride from her captor.

Today, I’m sitting in Vail, CO. It’s the furthest I’ve ever traveled for a wedding.
In two hours, I will see a picture of the reality that my spirit longs for.

[***Of note: New header; expect them to change as often as the seasons as long as my wife continues to be as interested in the blog as I am. Soon to come: a blog on running - keep a lookout].