Thursday, February 23, 2006

on the tee

it seems like a trend is developing. about this time last year (perhaps a month later or so, but whatever) my friend icarus issued an open letter to christians, challenging them to articulate why they believe what they believe. recently, kinkazzo sent me an email (exerpted below) asking many of the same questions.

now is it the weather or is it me? i don't know. maybe it's simply that these are the questions that inevitably come up once some time has passed and some dialogue on the things of life has tanspired between spiritual beings having a physical experience. perhaps its just that everyone is getting restless, having been golfing at those virtual golf places all winter. enquiring minds want to know...

Why are you a pastor, why are you a "believer"? How can you possibly hold to a "religion" knowing that our concept of God is invalid? Why does a rational being accept by faith some belief like yours? Why do we pray if God cannot intervene?

well, rather than simply copy and paste last year's testimonial (, i decided to try to put this whole faith experience into new words a year later... here's the 'e-pistle' i sent to my friend in response...
so i thought about it a bit and i guess that there are two questions that come to mind:

why do i respond? how do i respond?

the first one's easy: because you asked and because i am learning things about myself by talking to you... there is also that amazing growth thing that happens when one is required to somehow articulate the things he or she believes in the face of strong reasons not to...

however, the second one is a little trickier for me. firstly, there's that whole business of trying to sort out where another person is going ie: whether this note is simply a psalm of lament--- a proclamation more than a prayer per se... spoken about God rather than to him, although loudly enough for him to hear--- full of rhetorical questions intended to express ideas rather than gather them, or is this note and the questions contained therein a quest for understanding as experienced between two friends?

Why are you a pastor, why are you a "believer"? How can you possibly hold to a "religion" knowing that our concept of God is invalid? Why does a rational being accept by faith some belief like yours? Why do we pray if God cannot intervene?

i agree. it would be foolish to hold to a religion, knowing that the concept of God is invalid. i'm just not in any way convinced that this is the case with God. my concept of God, (my theos logos, if you will) may be flawed, but these flaws do not do anything except keep me humble- they don't humble God at all, any more than some strange belief on the part of another concerning who i am actually makes me that belief. a misconception is a misconception and, if nothing else, this example underscores for me the importance of ensuring that my talks on sunday mornings are backed up really well by scripture, commentary, exegesis and other Christian teachings so as to not be relegated to simple theological gossip.

in my view, the validity in the 'concept of God' is in the fact that it is life-affecting (i would like to say 'life-changing' but the reality is that i was born and raised as a follower of Jesus Christ and the things that changed the direction of my life forever or just awhile were not so much the holy moments as the unholy ones... but that's a whole nother blog.)

but why pray? c.s. lewis' response has always worked for me:
prayer doesn't change God, it changes me.

the problem with using that soundbyte in this context is that if this were a proper response to your earlier question about prayer then it would also hold that prayer is "a hopeless exercise. Maybe a gestalt? At time replaced by the therapist's couch? A cheaper way of finding mental comfort?" (these are kinkazzo's words from later in the email) nope, there's got to be more to it for me than a pat answer or some church-childhood leftovers or i wouldn't bother.

is it enough to say that i pray because i know i'm not in charge? perhaps prayer is an ongoing exercise in surrendering my existencial stranglehold on things too big for my little hands anyway. i recently wrote a song that headed in this direction. although no music can heal me and no poem can make me whole (kinkazzo's words again), for me poetry and music are means by which i get in conscious touch with that which is taking place in my subconscious mind (the unconscious mind stuff is a little easier for me to lock in on because i remember dreams vividly... occasionally i can even interpret them in terms of the messages that they invite me to answer or respond to in metadialogue.)

i'm the one who walks upon the wire
i'm the one who works without a net
i'm the one who dances through the fire
i'm the one with nothing to forget

i'm the one who keeps the pie-plates spinning
i'm the one who knew it all along
i'm the one who gambles with his winnings
i'm the one who is yet to be proven wrong

the eye in the sky advises you to find another route home
avoid the twisted metal and broken glass
a crowd has gathered
debris is scattered for miles along the way
one by one people, shudder as they pass

i'm the one who insults in order to flatter
i'm the one who knows how to beat the odds
i'm the one who believes in mind over matter
i'm the one who has no time for your little gods

the eye in the sky advises you to find another route home
avoid the twisted metal and broken glass
a crowd has gathered
debris is scattered for miles along the way
one by one people, shudder as they pass

the eye in the sky advises you to find another route home
how long you'll have to wait is hard to say
the crews are working into the night
to clear away the wreckage
of a car that hit itself going the other way

i think that prayer is, for me, more than a mental discipline like meditation or the like. it is one way that i keep balanced- both big enough to do some things and small enough to let go of others. it is an expression of my belief that relational dialogue is possible between creator and created- a belief that is realized in the interaction.

i do not believe that it is impossible for God to intervene in circumstances, although there are times when i sure wish that i could somehow see the redemptive element of something painful or tragic. however, rather than abandon faith in looking for reasons (or perhaps looking for reasons to abandon faith), i am slowly learning that there are things towhich i am not entitled to understanding, no matter how important i think i am. prayer is the cord i use to lash myself to the mast of faith amidst the worst of storms- it supercedes my sloppy logic and my ever-humbled intellect by providing understanding and peace when there wouldn't be any without it.

however, what God does with things like the crusades and the holocaust (Kinkazzo had been to germany recently and had been profoundly moved by visits to the 'camps') i have no idea... they tell me who or what humankind is at its worst, when humankind is furthest from the heart of God, who seems to be about the weak and the weary rather than the privileged. that people use God's name to increase their privilege or work out their own power and dominance issues on others just reminds me of how small we are. this doesn't change who God is.

but why does God not intervene? is it because he can't or won't?

good questions, but when i ask them, the asking is usually coming from the place that shouts 'foul' rather than that which seeks relationship (and maybe rightly so- for questions such as this question God's justice and who seeks relationship with cosmic injustice? what would be the point of that beyond some good ol-fashioned codependency?). perhaps one needs to be in a certain place to even be permitted to ask such questions- the psalmist speaks of a contrite heart being the thing that God will not deny. when i ask them, questions like these presume to somehow have an understanding of justice that is greater than that of the author of justice. how could that be? is that contrition or pride? subjected to time and space, can i truly comprehend being outside of them, or must i, at best, only imagine them? upon what do i build my imaginings of the unknown but upon the fabric of the known? being spiritually blind, the best i can do is imagine spiritual sight in physical terms- how is this anything but metaphor and how does metaphor work its way into reason?

and then i wonder why God doesn't email his reply immediately.

perhaps God waits patiently while i sort through all the attitude and the intellectual clutter in order to get to the only question that ultimately matters to every soul in the end: how do i recognize and realize my role in all things? insofar as i am involved in this life, what is the chief end of this man? i don't need to be wealthy or experienced or anything else if i can just be real and know that who i am becoming is progressively closer to who i am meant to be.

sure- my road to this realization involves the answering of these questions... or even my place is to question. that's pretty comfortable. i have a friend who prides himself on asking questions that nobody (not even he) can satisfactorily answer. it allows him to remain in charge doesn't it? a constant to which everything else is to relate. as long as i keep bringing up the holocaust or the crusades or tsunami producing plate-tectonics as evidence of God's injustice or questionable nature, i don't have to actually take responsibility for anything because it is clear to me that God does not take responsibility for the things that are, by his silence or lack of intervention, his sins of omission. easy to blame God in order to sleep at night.

so many of our questions can be procrastinations- like checking the direction of the wind, considering various drivers, waiting expectantly for the crowd gathered to be silenced and so on rather than actually approaching the golfball on the tee.
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

(john 20.27-29)

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Blogger jollybeggar said...

upon receiving my lengthy remarks, kinkazzo qualified his quiry this way:

"It's fundamental for man's sanity to have a waterproof (or watertight) explanation for his existential purpose, be it physical or spiritual"

nicely said. good reasons for asking become good reasons for answering, yeah?

Blogger SocietyVs said...

Interesting, almost seems 'sermon' like in it's conception, but the epistle (letter) will also do in this case. I am guessing, never read the whole extremely long blog, that this was a case of defending the faith (so to speak), or at least your reason for faith. I commend what i did read, seemed well thought out and blended the unknowable(God) with the knowable (human).
I am in there somewhere in defense of the Christian faith, and I was a staunch defender at one point in my life. My question is why does God need defending? I see you were answering a question from someone else and that's cool, if they are seeking then you should help them to that knowledge. I guess I have a new defense for my faith.
Answering questions and defending the faith are 2 different things, I may be in the wrong suggesting you are 'defending' your faith but I'll assume, in my ignorance, this is a type of defense.
Why defend God? Who speaks for God? How do we do it, if we are the ones 'called' to speak? I give up in defending words. If they wanna burn a bible in front of me and say they destroyed the word, oh well.
I think defending the faith is not so much in the defending but the 'showing' them the faith. Be it this is a blog we have to use words...which sux. I guess I prefer living the beliefs over the consumption of dialogue. People only question this 'faith' because they can't ever see it in 'action'...and we call it personal spirituality. Personally, I realized this over the past few days (weeks even)...we have a duty to show others our 'faith' by our 'deeds'.
I started something called the 'Action Group' to do things for others and not just mention some rhetoric from a bible, but to follow the teachings of Christ the best I could in 21st century Saskatchewan. I figure they wanna question words but how do you question action? I am more than willing to help the helpless, even those that ask the questions. No dividing line (doctrinal) but just a helping hand. Ask the unbelievers to deny that, even they are welcoming some help too.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I guess I prefer living the beliefs over the consumption of dialogue."

right on. thank you for your thoughtful comment, societyvs. i agree with your idea that eventually dialogue just becomes too much talk, not enough walk, so to speak.

moving out of the land of ideas and into the land of action brings us all closer to what God intended for us. i have been discovering this first-hand as my involvements in ministries have evolved over the past year.

and, yeah, these last couple of blogs have been long. however, if you follow the link to kinkazzo's blog you will see the phrase 'long blog' redefined! i have been acting upon the premise that if a guy writes the way he does then that guy might also read that way...

so many things seem to come down to speaking the language of others. isn't that part of your action group's mandate... to speak the language of life with a heavenly accent?

Blogger SocietyVs said...

I guess my goal for that 'Action' Group is to speak the language they understand, but also to attack their needs like no one has ever done before...and my guess would be that no one has before in this breadth & depth. I guess being a friend to someone requires committment, but bring a brother requires more.

Blogger SocietyVs said...

You have been added. I guess I can ask you sometime to lend a helping hand if you have the time...there is one situation I am working on that you may want to partake's a labor of love. You know that 'dude' Shawn? I think you have read his blog a few times, and even may have met him. Well I am planning on giving some help around the house and if you feel like you want to help I am sure he would appreciate it. I can be reached on mssngr for further it an act of kindness from a couple of samaritans.


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