Thursday, December 28, 2006

Therapy of the confession...

I used to rail against the secrets that would come in the form of blogs whose sordid realities would never caress the tenderness of a friends ear. I'm still no great proponent of speaking of such upon the web that would never be spoken of upon the person, though I still find great delight in reading others' secrets.

Last night, I read a short interview with Frank Warren [of
postsecret notoriety] on A wonderfully insightful quote reads, "...I think these cards represent something more than we can see. Maybe for these people, sharing their secret is a search for grace."

I think that it's such a beautiful thing to search for grace, but the indication and impetus that he's placed on his writers is that so many of them are writing their secrets out of a deeply ingrained and socially damning guilt. Why would you, or I, or anyone else search for grace if we didn't feel like we've all done something terribly wrong to someone else or something terribly wrong period? Maybe it goes without saying, but I agree with F. Warren. I think that my agreement moves beyond the bounds of his website and really encompasses much of the web community.

So much of what I read is an escape from what actually
is. Words, thoughts, feelings, and implied actions tend to be so disjoint from the same in the physical world. I thought about going on with a discourse on the subject, but BP sums it up best on the front page of his blog saying, " blogworld, I can attempt to replace everyone else's perception of me with my imagined self." In that, he is describing this great disconnect of who we are and who we perceive ourselves to be. Blogs, pages, and similar venues tend to be rife with the sort of assumption of the recreation of self without the hindrances of outward assessment.

This isn't all bad, however.

On a fundamental level, the quasi-anonymity that people believe they have while surfing the web works to lower the social guards that people use in attempts to deflect embarrassment and shame [That's essentially what F. Warren says in his interview anyways]. Being the case, t
here is a sense that man [or man with the wo-, as the case may or may not be] is subsequently fundamentally deeper than what is generally revealed in social settings. What the web provides then, in this "search for grace," is the general acceptance and encouragement that we need in order to bring this "deeper self" to the forefront.

What the web doesn't provide [except in rare cases, as I've heard] is the accountability that's usually provided when a close friend comes to you after a comment or an action and says, "Wow, that's not really like you."

Gene Veith says that the postmodernist would say that our identities are linked solely to the situations that we may be involved in so that my person as an employee may not be the same as my person as a father or a husband and that who I portray myself to be is an act to fill the conditions of my social identity [though, I don't believe he is a proponent of the view]. I would say that we
are who people think we are and not who we necessarily believe ourselves to be [though, there are some exceptions to the rule]. It's not to say that we are defined by our societal responsibilities and stations. It is to say that our societal responsibilities and stations tend to actually reveal the jewels and junk that are buried in our character.

The web offers this atmosphere that doesn't judge, criticize, or correct. Generally, we are free to create our realities as we wish them to be.

Maybe the hope of some who send their secrets into the oblivion of the WWW really believe that their guilt has been cleansed through the act of confession, but there's no grace with that...there's no redemption there. The act of confession therein is equitable to splitting doves and cattle, salting the meat, and burning an offering on an altar. The act as described is a strange work of righteousness t
hat alleviates the consciousness of guilt without really addressing the root of the action that caused the guilt in the first place.

Of course, this is all on the assumption that folks are posting their secrets and searching for grace.

*a few books by the authors mentioned in this post:

Monday, December 11, 2006

I was once a bully...

I grew up in a kind of rough neighborhood in Huntsville. It wasn't the worst, but it was not the best by a long shot. I never knew it, but I kind of remember my dad saying something about not really liking living in Huntsville after we moved out to the burbs. There was an apartment complex nearby called Jackson Square - my parents never wanted me or my sister to go there. Part of their fear [and I kid you not] was the fact that mostly black people lived there. Part of their fear, too, was the drug dealing that was going on there. Part of their fear was the violence.

To be honest, I didn't hang at Jackson Square much. I just didn't have any interest.

I did, however, hang out with the kids who lived behind me a lot. We used to always pick on this kid named Donald. I was a real jerk to him. Every now and again we would just beat on him - looking back, I can't even understand why we would put a child through so much hellish brutality or why that same child would just keep coming back for more.

The "ringleader," so to speak, was a guy named Ron. Ron was pretty indiscriminate with his blows though. I think I probably received the hardest hit from him of us all in more ways than one. I remember that he was once so mad at me that he just walked up to me and hit me in my face [really, on my chin] and then he just walked away.

There was a time when I seemed to simply thrive off of violence - whether dealt or endured. When we moved out to the burbs, however, all that seemed to change [kind of]. I wasn't as much of a jerk as I was before. To be honest... a lot of that changed when I moved from elementary to middle school. I had changed from a neighborhood bully to a band geek.

I know God's forgiven me for all that crap that I put other people through, and I'd like to think that he could give me the ability to forgive others in the same fashion. In college, I remember being overcome with conviction so much to the point that I hand wrote a letter to Donald - a letter apologizing for what I did to him. He wrote me back. He said he forgave me. He said that the whole neighborhood had changed during the decade that I was gone. He said that Ron became a Christian and that everyone was better. He talked about how good everything was now.

That was nice, but I'm not sure I believe him.
Just like the bully - always right in his own.

My wife and I were talking one day about her artwork. She is incorporating a lot of people, events and artifacts from her past in this piece she's working on now. We discussed how we are the sum of our experiences and how who we are now communicates who we were. The Christian is more than the sum of his own [or her own] experiences though. What makes a Christian is not so much this one experience with a God who swears He was once a man, but a hope of an experience that can come all at once or never in our lifetime that has it's roots in another experience that happened all at once so long ago. Even in a world that doesn't acknowledge God, there is a sense that we are more than the mere sum of our experiences.

When I loved violence as a child, I didn't necessarily love it because I experienced it. I observed it. I had knowledge of it. But I didn't experience it first hand. Is knowledge the same as experience? I would think no. I watched westerns and war movies with my dad - he had experience with violence as a soldier. He would tell me stories of some of the actors - how this man had fought in this war and what was significant about this move and the heroes portrayed. Those were men and times who were familiar with the experience of violence. So, when I inflicted violence upon others, was it necessarily because I had experienced violence?


It may be hard to follow - but we are more than what we can see. We are more than what we are doing, or what we have done. A similar thought came over me last night as I was walking through a local K-Mart [yeah, they still have those here]. I looked at all the people wearing red vests. I thought about how they drone about. Then I started to wonder where they live. I wondered if the corporate heads tried to make them seem inhuman by making them dress in uniform. I wondered if there was a more devious motivation to all of it. I digress. Here again, these are more than the sum of what they do. They are more than the sum of their experience.

In a way, I guess we are a sum of all of human experience in a non-reincarnate way. As a Christian, I believe that part of who I am is built upon the experience of Adam in the garden in his disobedience. As a Christian, I believe that who I have become and who I am becoming is built upon the experience of Christ in the garden in his prayer of obedience.

So...sorry for going from entertainment to deep thoughts. Caught me by surprise too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Theology of the grocery...

I was standing in line a Bruno’s in Inverness earlier this week. This particular Bruno’s [for those of you who aren’t from the Southeastern United States, Bruno’s is a grocery store] is outfitted with 4 “Self Checkout,” lines. I usually gravitate towards these lines so I don’t have to make awkward conversation with the people who work at any given grocery store.

This day, there were only three functioning lines. But to clarify, apparently none of them were truly functioning correctly as all of them had workers assisting the people who were using them. Unfortunately, there was only one line which was not “Self Checkout,” but it wasn’t moving any faster.

I had two bags of beef jerky, a small iced sweetened [with Splenda] tea, and a Krispy Kreme Donut [the urge hit me while in the store].

And I stood and watched while three middle age plus women struggled to work machines labled “Self Check Out.” Needless to say, I was becoming impatient.

I love technology.
I love technology that frees people up – makes things simpler and what not.
I love people learning how to use new technologies [I love that people learn period].

I hate contradictory situations that stand in the face of logic. Part of this is that I believe that God has created things in a logical [albeit, a supranatural (yes, supra-, look it up)] fashion. Men and women whom require the help of cashiers in a “Self Checkout” line are simply living in sin because they’re striving against the naturalness of things.

My turn did come. I scanned everything with little dallying. I had to look up the donut as they don’t come equipped with UPC symbols. As I was selecting the item one of the cashiers walked up and said, “Oh, you found the donut?”

“Yes, thank you.”
I swiped my card, and left.

The analysis, I suppose, is found here: I should have been more thankful – right? Maybe a little more longsuffering? The things, or concepts, which seem to come most natural are often those same things or concepts wherein we find the least amount of patience within ourselves – at least, that’s my human predicament. I walked away complaining in my heart. I complained in my truck on my way back to work. I complained to my wife. And now, presuming that you’ve read this, I’ve complained to you. There’s little distance that this complaining has brought any of us, to no surprise. In the very essence and nature of complaining, I’ve live against God’s design even as these middle aged plus women have.

Is it at all right for me to complain? Not to throw out a Clintonism, but it really does matter what your definition of right is. In a technical sense I may object to the fact that these women have technically breached the law of the line – it was clearly a self service line and they were clearly taking a full service approach. In a moral sense I may object because these women were clearly rebelling against authority. If Christ is the head of all authority as the writer of Colossians states, then these folks are in a bit of a predicament as they have clearly run against the authority who has placed the sign that states “Self Checkout,” in this store.

In a technical and moral sense, however, Christ would have me to be patient with all men and women. The conundrum in which many Christians find themselves is that they are little willing to show any of the same patience, love, and transcendence that Christ has shown to Christians. Therein lies one of the biggest weaknesses within the Church – the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of grace. There is a sense wherein the call to holiness is seen as a calling to live and work as the bleach that would purge the sinfulness from the human race rather than showing the human race the One who would gladly wash those who would believe in His own blood – making them so crimson…so clean. My anger towards these women is exemplary of the same anger, impatience, and misunderstanding that we as the Church [as I would count myself as one amongst the Chruch] would hold over, against, and towards a dying world.

In the same way, Christ is our hope – our salvation.
Regarding the way I acted…or felt in my heart of hearts…I am an awful man.
Thanks be to God that he would show grace to this awful man.