Archive for August 2012

Being myself …

Anyone that knows me knows that the last year has been a theological and emotional roller coaster of self discovery. I have been to the depths of me and re-examined my core beliefs and my standard scripts, realising that I live like most people behind the mask that I think will be accepted by the people around me.

When Jim Palmer posted a quote from the song Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls I was struck by the raw frankness of the statement.

I want you to know who I am

I do I want you, my friends, to know me, the real me but at the same time I am scared. Scared of judgement, scared of being isolated and pushed away, scared that the real me is not worthy of love. When it is said that most people live out some kind of quiet desperation, I think this is where it starts. The refrain of the same song echoes out our fear…

I don’t want the world to see me, cause I don’t think that they’d understand.

And so we hide, in fear, as we play out the Christian script which funnily enough is supposed to be about a love so strong and deep that it drives out all fear. And we learn all to quickly that when we live behind the mask only the mask receives the love. The coming out process seems to scary, to daunting and we fail again and again to trust love.

Well this week is coming out week in my hometown of Malmö do we dare, do I dare?

Truth and grace revisited

I love my blog readers, they are not many but they are faithful. Recently a new but dear friend has been reading my blog from the beginning, charting the twists and turns of both my life and my faith. This has provoked more than a few very interesting questions.

One of the more poignant questions refer to a post I posted back in 2006 where I write:

In the spring 2001 Warren Downey preached on the subject. He said most young Christians start out with 100% truth as they tend to forget the grace God has extended them, as we get older in the faith and we fail more frequently we start preaching grace more and more because we ourselves do not measure up to the standard God has set. The more we sin, the more we tone down the truth so that we will be more acceptable in the light of our own words. We often mistake this for humility. Where in sad fact it is often watering down of the gospel to ease our own concience.

I also wrote the following:

A fluffy bunny soldier is a soldier who no longer recognizes the authority of scripture and therefore promotes a fluffy bunny version of Christianity, it is the opposite and counterpart to no compromise and therefore is a compromised soldier, one whom has fallen in love with the world and want to make the gospel as easy as swallow as possible and therefore round off any sharp edges, removes the thorns, and leaves only the the lovey dovey message of a God of grace but not a God of truth or Justice.

Do still believe this? The answer is, as it so often is these days, yes and no. I believe that the dynamic of moving from truth to grace is a journey many Christians make, I also believe that their motivation often is their own failing to live up to the religious standards they have set up for themselves (or that the institution have set up).

So in a sense I believe this is still true. Although my perspective has changed more than a little.

1. The human condition

When the post was written I was convinced that humans are evil, born in wickedness and incapable of goodness aside from what god inspires after you have become born again and a new creation in him.

Problem: there are loads of good people who are good doing good who do not claim to be born again. Also young children are not evil. They may be selfish and socially unskilled.

Now I am convinced that there is such a thing as original glory. Human beings where cated in the image of god and have an inherent capacity of goodness. I do believe that we live in a broken world, we have lost he glory and innocence of Eden (I believe this is a beautiful image of the fiercely egalitarian hunter/gatherer society). The kingdom/vision/dream of god is to bring us to this place of loing relations with god self, the natural world and the people around us.

2. The scandal of God's grace

I used to believe that while god's grace was enough to forgive anything it was tempered by my ability to please god. Hence the truth/grace dichotomy. By this view God's grace is limited by the truth of our sinfulness, while god forgives, god only does so when we repent (which means we are ally, really, sorry).

Problem: the first problem here is that our sinfulness becomes stronger than god's grace.

Now I see that god's grace is truly scandalous (or even vulgar as Brennan Manning would have it). There is nothing I can do or say to expedite god's love. The most central belief I hold is that god is love. We have been taught that love is Agape, Phileo and Eros. Agape is god's unconditional love and guess what, it's unconditional! It does not require us to change or even repent. Phileo is the fiendship love this is god's way of relating to us as co-workers, co-creators, colleagues. Eros is the creative, passionate love of god where we become more than friends, more than children but as intimate at lovers, where god fills us up and blends with us god's spirit mingling with ours god's essence imprinting on us.

3. What is sin

I used to see sin as a transgression against the law, deserving of punishment. Becaus god was holy (in the sense of set apart) my sin was an obstacle between me and god and while I could leave sin at the cross and bridge the divide between god and me this only really applied before I became a Christian and after only if I was really, REALLY sorry. When I sinned the holy spirit left and I was alone to deal with the mess I had gotten myself into. Additionally sin was defined by a long list of dos and don'ts. This list was decided by whatever pastor or institution we where currently in, different churches viewed different sins as more or less serious.

Problem: Again, sin overpowers god's grace. Most importantly it becomes my job to transform myself as I must first deal with my sin before the holy spirit can transform me into holiness.

Now I do no longer view sin as a crime but rather as immaturity. Paul clearly states repeatedly that we are free from the law, the law holds no power to convict or condemn us any more. Sin is simply the ways in which we are not yet mature, when we know better we do better. Our relationship with god is unaffected by our sin, like the loving mother god works with us in the middle of our sinfulness to help us grow and mature. What is affected by our sin is the consequences of our poor choices that we face in our every day life. now sin is all the ways that I hurt or screw up my relationship to the world around me. Sin is also all the ways I miss my cue, I miss the opportunities to live out of the love of god and embody god's kingdom, vision, dream in this present moment.

4. Spiritual formation/stages of faith

Back then growing with god meant only one thing, sinning less and by that becoming more holy. Hopefully this would then mean a closer connection to god.

Problem: when sinning less only means, not smoking, not drinking, not swearing, not lusting or simply conforming to our own new legal code it does not result in a better relation to god. It results in a life governed by rules and regs as opposed to a life of freedom.

Today I see spiritual growth not as sinning less but as loving more. Not only showing love but being love in every situation and relationship. Someone said, where there is love, there is no sin. So maybe the one gives the other

I also believe that we move through these stages of faith (the best example I've seen is Fowlers six stages of faith). When I wrote the blog post of 2006 I was clearly in stage three, communal faith, where my faith was not owned by me, rather I believed whatever my faith community believed and any dissenting thought was a threat to my faith and stability. I am in a very different place now.

Water or wine

So have I become soft, a fluffy bunny? Have I simply watered down the gospel to accommodate my own sinfulness?

I seriously do not think so, while the love priority and it's unconditional love and grace may seem like a cop out. It is a much more demanding way to live, to love. Rather than watering down the gospel it is instead transformed into a strong and full bodied wine.

Celebrate with me, friends!

Raise your glasses—”To life! To love!”

(Song 5.1, Message)

 

Taking the G out of the kingdom ….

I was listening to a Homebrewed Christianity – Theology Nerd Throwdown (TNT) when I was struck with this beautiful idea.

It was Tripp Fuller who said (Not the exact quote, though these are his words)

If you take the G out of Kingdom you get kindom with no cock and no crown.

The kindom of God, the extended interdependent family of god not ruled by a Patriarch or King but by a loving nurturing parent who is genderless or rather transgendered (as I have written before, not trans as in going from one tend to the next but as in more than both the one and the other).

We are invited, not as loyal subjects and subordinates, but as family members and co-creators. We are invited into the perichoresis the divine dance of interdependence and mutual, loving submission.

 

Why tolerance is not good enough.

Tolerance has long been a hobby horse of many within the evangelical movement (to make fun of and hate it) and the liberal movement (to advocate it).

Recently my friend and former pastor Peter Baranowsky have been blogging about the book the new tolerance and it seems to me that Peter and possibly the authors of the book hav confused what tolerance means. The main argument seems to be that if you are to tolerate people's different point of views (because there is now ultimate truth according to the post-modern philosophy) you must also accept these views as your own.

My experience is however that this is not what tolerance means or what is the practice of tolerance. The traditional dichotomy is that according to conservatives tolerance is evil and should be avoided as you will be forced to accept unacceptable truths and the liberals argue that tolerance is good because it promotes love and understanding.

I want to argue that tolerance in general only lays the foundation for bigotry, hatred and holier-than-thou attitudes. Tolerance simply isn't good enough to be worth our time and effort.

To tolerate something is simply to allow it to co-exist while still not accepting it. To tolerate someone is to deign to co-exist with them as an act of charity on your part. The language of tolerance is always hierarchal in that condescending top down way. Next time you meet a friend try to “tolerate” their clothing:

Me: I am ok with you wearing that shirt, in fact I actually have several friends that wear shirts like that and I am ok with them. Even if I would never wear a shirt like that, I have no problem with you wearing it.

Friend: WTF?

How would your friend react?

Tolerance is neutral at best and can be pharisaical, bigoted and downright racist, sexist, homophobic etc. at it's worst. Tolerance is aimed at the periphery, on external qualities and behaviours instead of core issues like human value, dignity and sacredness. No, tolerance is simply not good enough by Christian standards.

Jesus commands us to love one another. Love is the standard by wich we must live and co-exist. The funny thing about love is that it does not require us to agree or to accept whatever external, peripheral value or behaviour as our own it only requires us to accept that this person is a living being, created in the image of god with the divine right to exercise their free will as am I, and as do I. Love is graceful, it accepts brokenness as brokenness. You are the person you are right now, just as you are, worthy of love and grace. This does not mean I want to be you or have your brokenness (I am quite busy with my own, thank you). It simply means that I get to live you regardless.

Me: I love you!

Friend: What do you think of my sweater?

Me: I hate it.

So I agree with the conservatives who say that tolerance is evil, not because it forces me to accept opinions I do not agree with, precisely the opposite, because it allows me to pretend to be nice and still judge them.

So I agree with the liberals we need to love our neighbours and grow in understanding when it comes to customs and ideas we are not familiar with but tolerance, I find, is not the way to go as it does not help me to love but rather builds a barrier where I do not need to even try to understand.

 

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