I haven't written anything like an essay in weeks. That darned facebook thing has become way too much of a time sponge, and much of my writing comes out as barbed statements, snide commentary and such like stuff. True enough, I do enjoy making punchy loaded statements, but too much of that kind of thing is unwholesome. Facebook is a bit like television, a sort of chewing gum for the mind.
A second reason for the hiatus is that I often conclude that nobody actually likes my writing anyhow, and so, why do it? But, the fallacy here is that I do not (in fact) write in order to entertain or inform others. I write because I enjoy laying out ideas, and making snarky comments now and again. It's fun! Yet, it does remain true, that a bummer-spiral wherein I just quit trying is pretty darned accurate, as an estimate of my "character", so it does remain as part of the big quiet. So anyhow, lame excuses aside for now, I do enjoy writing, even if nobody enjoys the reading! So, on we roll.
My November thoughts are not yet a full set, cookies which are cooking are not yet fully cookied, nor are they still but blobs of dough; they are midway. These comments are a bit like those mid-cookies, we can't yet taste; but we can sniff, and we can get the gist. There is a strange tension inside Christianity which I would like to discuss today. It is linked often to escathology, also it shows up in the talk of "victorious living". Sometimes, a general "take" on sanctification causes the topic to bob to the surface.
In my mind though, there is a problem in speaking about this idea-set; from any of those viewpoints. The main reason being, that we have so muddied the water that we often forget what the topic was. Such an approach normally yields quote and counter quote of scripture in a "can you top this?" ascending disorder. I have no interest in that.
So, let's us try a more roundabout method to see if we can spot the topic, and stick with it for ten minutes eh? There is an American train of thought, you would immediately recognize. We see it in sports, it shows up in gossip magazines, politics is heavy with it. Strangely, it is almost everywhere and at the same time; we normally don't take much notice of it.
In this land, kids are taught from their earliest years to want to be a winner, to become a success, or alternatively to become a "somebody", that is; to seek fame and fortune. The very undesirable inverse of this, is being a loser. The language is in the form of a threat; "What? Are you some kind of drone, just another nobody?". In politics it is about being popular and wielding power. In sports it is about prowess, agility and smarts. The link of money to success, although nowadays somewhat muted, is still the clearest marker of whether a body has attained "somebodiness". It is a divide in our culture, our families and our own minds. I call it a "polarity". Imagine a world with no middle but only poles, what kind of world is that? It's our kind!
This polarity in us, and manifesting around us; has frequently caught my attention over the years, but it is only this month that my spinning brain has begun to gel on the matter. The polarity shows up in our world, our minds, our churches and we almost never think about it, because it gets very confusing, very quickly. As an indirect route of inquiry then, let us consider war to the death!
Think of three famous battles and what they have in common. Dien Bien Phu, The Alamo and Thermopylae. In all three, the "good guys" are wildly outnumbered. Each features a defensive posture for the guys in white hats. In each case, said defensive position is finally over-run (but at tremendous cost) by the hordes invading. These battles have captured the imagination of a lot of writers over the years, and perhaps one reason for that is our polarity issue we have in mind here?
In these battles, who here is "the true winner"? Or perhaps, how do we go about determining such? See? In this type of scenario, the advance knowledge of certain death does not sway the warriors from continued fighting. Santa Ana really did sweep the Texans, but who has the final victory? Which side, the Persians or the Spartans is remembered by a hundred generations? To fight to the last man, fully aware that none shall leave alive is a different kind of war making than we are used to. There is a third dimension creeping into our flatland, and our simple win/lose framework cannot hold the freight.
I don't know about you, but so often, the "extra reality" of this sort of "dimensional" look is lost on me. S.O.P. in my brainstem decrees that I prefer to see things as a "flat" layout, wherein the victor is the victor, and discussions to the contrary are a waste of time. Simultaneously, I am also dissatisfied with my own attitude? It is like; "Very strongly disagreeing with myself . . . in principle!". There is an un-ease in me, a pesky discomfort at the thought of a "flat polarity" being the real deal, either "out there" or "in here", and yet I very much function as if it were really the interpretive guide to favor. Weird.
Perhaps a similar discomfort in others has spawned the industry of "participation trophies", wherein "All of our kids are winners!"? Beats me.
So, there is something both desirable and also undesirable to each leg. If we bifurcate reality into an up-down schema, then neither is "fully" what we want, nor is the undesired completely without merit. And so very nearly immediately, there is talk of "compromise", or that; "things are not so black and white as all that". Recall that I warned of confusion here.
There is a lot of material flowing from this tree, but most of it is pretty lousy stuff to try and file in the brain. We are thus, in search for a "captcha" which will allow for a victory-in-loss so to speak. Or perhaps conversely, we are interested in that mysterious rich man who somehow remains humble and accessible?
Not being able to locate these, we collapse again backward into speaking of diversity, and of overcoming challenges and whatnot. Much of that talk also rotates around this button. We are trying to get to "a place" in which success (but not too much of it) compensates for our fear of going un-noticed or leading a pointless life. So, we try to blend up with down, or left with right in order to get to "the place" but ordinarily, you just can't get there from here.
The problem with success is that it makes you one. Money bends people, and power twists men. There is no end to success, one cannot have "too many" billions. And to us down here at the bottom of the food chain, it seems to require the loss of money-power (often) for a man to possibly resume being human, after having been bent by power. So, there is it appears; a kind of "failing" which is better than mere success, but it (the better option) is not something we would be in a position (as a success) to ever desire! I have spent much of my life in one fashion or another examining this set.
For years (no, that's not true; for decades!), this mess has just never really settled into a recognizable shape in my thinking, except that I was quite confident that I did not want "success". And that was simply because of what I saw it doing to people.
In the mike-book, I reject the notion of pop psychology which asserts that; "The abused become the abuser". The simple knowledge and memory of what it was like being at the bottom, ought prove strong enough fuel for me to nix the offer of up-ness. This sort of analysis may not be altogether true, nor do I fully execute it; but something very like it has guided much of my life.
This sort of reasoning is why I chose to begin with battles-famous, rather than a discussion of the "prosperity gospel" versus orthodox faith. The topic (lately, this month) seems clearer to me if we focus upon loyalty and courage to the death, rather than whether a "prosperity" (or not) is in the offing. Next, the whole messy bag of various spins on the end of the world also displays the polar thing but so sloppily! This same winner/loser scheme; which is so "America", is clearly also in the church. But, by the time we doff our Sunday best and brush up on dogma, we can easily forget that we agree-somewhat with both ends of the spectrum! By then it is too late, and compromise becomes a dirty word.
Everyone loves a winner, but nobody loves an arrogant one, yet by definition he owns bragging rights. By gaining the desired, he himself becomes undesirable, and this, applied to theology is just a mess. The real issue at hand (says the plumber), is courage. Yet, in the theology end of things, that C-word has almost been emptied of meaning.
In our era, the feminine push to (forever!) treat the central axioms of scripture as "developing relationship" (gaack!) and "working toward true intimacy" just has no place in its' lexicon for any such thing as a blood and guts, fierce warrior ethic. There is no file available to find the tab called "courage unto death" in our system. And I mean certain death!
In this school of ours, The Almighty is verifiably NOT "A Man of War", and so (says me), the only working solution to a flat polarity (which is loyal courage to the death) is permanently out of reach for us. We cannot find a way out of the maze called "does God want us to succeed or fail", so we keep getting muddled with some sort of homogenized mental gymnastics until it tires us out. Whether we are to rise or fall, to live or die is war talk, and in this plenum, the answer (in Christ) is "Yes and Amen!"
The actual situation on the ground down here is that we live in a war zone, and the same poison which ruined angels and men is still active in us. As it stands, none of us are getting out of here alive. The usual exception being unless (of course) we are here to greet the Maker upon His return. Now, for purposes of this discussion, we will discount (for now) that exclusion clause. I flatly assert; "We are all going to die". The question has never been whether we will die, but crucially; shall we die well?
Twenty centuries and more of faithful men and women doing just this, leads us to believe that He certainly has an interest in the matter! There is a peculiar statement by the King referring to Himself. We have either a stone which is stumbled over, or a rock which crushes. We have the Psalmists' lament that; Your people are being led like sheep to slaughter. We have the Saviour talking this odd upside down riff where the high are the low and vice versa, the last are the first.
My basic take on the schmeer in question over the years has been to "opt low". If the basic premise; "You cannot serve both God and riches/power" is guiding our thought, then to be a "failure" is clearly better than its' opposite. But the polar flat layout itself crashes! At this point, I usually throw up my hands, and announce to Him; "I don't get it. You (Sir) appear to be telling us to aim low, except not, aim high? Am I following the drift here? Go down, which is to say, up? So, the dimensionally flat paradigm yields flat contradictions or pointless paradox, and hooray for that?". The missing element, the Anointed One is out of the loop here, and minus Him, we get nonsense, but shouldn't we have been able to predict that?
Think then of the three tossed into the seven-fold heated furnace. They went willingly, and were joined in the heat by "A fourth, which looks like a son of the gods!". The premise here is that death comes to all, and the way "out" is not escape-from, but deliverance-through. So, the three become social zeros by not bending, and also become rulers by submitting willingly. In the Coming One then, both poles are Personally occupied, redefined and reapplied. And I say it is in the war construct, just here; in the bloody pointless death of good men, that victory is won. This is weird, let's face it!
We get results in our lives when we walk by faith, and left to ourselves we will never walk by faith, both are true. The key here is that we have not been, are not now, nor shall ever be, left to ourselves. Moreover, we are to personally see to it that we do not! Both/and, not either/or is the drift.
It doesn't really matter how hard you "try" to live gody in Christ Jesus, if He ain't present, and we request His presence. It is both. So, the third dimension is a uniting of abstractions back to The Person. He is uniting us back to abstract things like; home, truth, peace and safety. Oddly then, the safest thing is to waltz into the meatgrinder. The peaceful option is reached via a warring unto death with the foe. The truth is found when we freely admit our lies, and half-truths. Home is realized in the cauldron of a nomad life, ever-wandering. He is the One who binds the opposites into meaningful patterns, with Himself at the ends and in the middle.
With this sort of gist in mind then, the November thoughts are to this effect. The pursuit of orthodoxy, if correctly executed ought yield objections by others of cultural, familial and ecclesiastical high heresy!
In light of the cultural, the plain rejection of greed, of sly dealing, of sneaky personal empire building; makes His folk seem downright bizarre. The inexplicable is that when an opportunity to personally benefit is purposely overridden, we are violating the cult-ure around us.
Likewise, to be a familial heretic might best be seen where Christendom has only begun to capture hearts and minds. A typical Muslim converting in Muslim lands becomes an insult, an embarrassment both in the community and pointedly in the family, not to mention possibly getting murdered in the deal. These two, in our favorite polar fashion, format the norm, but what of being named heretic amid the congregation of the faithful? Here, just here is where "the fourth man present" is mainly ignored think I.
Although for publicitys' sake, the phenomenon does not officially exist, there remains a definite insider/outsider model at work in the Kirk of the Living God. May as well deal with it? There is a most favored status inside the organization, and so there must also be "invisible" persons present as well. Hey, I can testify to that for sure! Here, a flat and polar scheme would generate (I presume) a disgruntled demand for inclusion on one hand, versus a professional form of patience-with, or a discipling-up tendency. And here (especially!) The third angle, the surprise of the fourth man amid the fires gets lost, forgotten and unapplied.
Now, my previous stategies on this type of thing have included a bold, and in-your-face rebuttal occasionally, sometimes a weak retreat and finally a quizzical kind of amusement at how very strange humans really are. But, the November spin is to point out that all of my previous copings with the polar flatness in the Kirk also themselves defy and deny the fourth man amid.
As a kind of thought experiment then, in hopes of courting an aggressive; "You are a heretic!" charge from one of the insiders at church (so to ratify orthodoxy as it were), think on this.
The three axis approach is always and about union with The Messiah. There lives life, there victory wins, there death dies. I hope you get the idea? With this in mind then, consider the future.
The apostolic tri-axial emphasis of faith, hope and love are bandied about as if we were to "get good at them" for fairly certain! And it appears to me, that it is precisely here that the flat and polar index is at its height. Some claim to have "mastered" the three you see? The pre-December insight then is to reconstruct presence just here.
My tentative first atttempt then will be to blow the sucker out of the water (as usual). And with this, I shall let the matter rest for another day, and another C.P.E.
I have noticed that I can cause the innies at church some real discomfort by talking about faith in a certain way. The norm on that topic is that we are to have faith "in" Jesus. But what then of the faith "of" Jesus? Simply said, out of the entire race there is found precisely one faithful man. He grants to us, a measure of His faith, and so we do indeed believe! That is disturbing que no? But when we apply this same personal interference model to hope, it becomes downright obnoxious!
We have become so used to the God-Man assertion central to right doctrine that we have made the King into an omniscient man, which is to say; not a man at all. In our model, it really doesn't make much sense to speak of Jesus walking by faith, even though He flatly asserts that He does so. The problem here is our unfounded belief that in humbling Himself to be joined to man, He yet retained exhaustive knowledge. Sorry, but you are going to bust a braincell or two if you try that! Here and there, He confesses His ignorance of certain things. He does not know it all, and (like us) trusts! This, we profoundly ignore. But, the even worse message is hope.
We do not know how far and how deep our transformation will be. What a "celestial man" is like, is clean beyond our ken. But hope asserts that when we see Him, we will be made like Him. The bizarre result is that Jesus hopes, because if He didn't we couldn't! The rebuilding of us from the ground up (the resurrection coming), will display the "new creature"; us! Hope is here, and He is here, awaiting us. We are joined to His hope!
This then is preaching a profound and unthinkable reduction voluntarily undertaken by God, the Son. He has put Himself in the pickle of utter dependance upon the Father, to the point that He trusts and obeys! With Him, in Him, we walk also in faith (His), and expect good to come (hope) from disaster. This can mean but one thing!
He is the One hoping, and we are invited to join Him in it? Boy, if this doesn't get me trouble with the innies, nothing will!