Often I discover just how unfree, defensive and protective of myself I am… I bump up against these realities in others too...
“…Although you may think you are walking through life with your eyes open, they realised that in truth we may as well have our eyes closed. So they metaphorically shut their eyes and embraced the bumps and blows. They found it was not only therapeutic, leading in time to an unexpected inner tranquility. They found that actually they discovered far more about life in the process because they could tolerate, even welcome, what life threw at them. To use Freudian language, they became far less defensive…”
A good friend recently sent me via e-mail a copy of a blog post by theologian / scholar Scot McKnight. I didn’t get to read it straight away, but found myself reading and reflecting on it last night. It’s a post about ideology, the power of ideology to negatively influence and shape us.
He makes his points with the use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his essay After Ten Years.
McKnight begins, “One of the most pressing question for humans in the depth of their existence is this one: How can humans go silent or compliant or, unfathomably, become even more committed to the leader and the cause and the ideology when their leader becomes a tyrant?”
He continues, “…First, moral blindness is more dangerous than malice. Reason is not an option.
Second, moral blindness cannot be reduced to “an intellectual defect but to a human [character] one” (43). It is not so much “psychological” as it is a “sociological problem” (43). This is why I don’t think the word “stupid” is a good enough translation. People, he says, are made morally blind in consort with others — this rarely happens to the person living in solitude.
This is where Bonhoeffer gets to the core of his insight in seeking to comprehend the German problem: Third, “every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with” moral blindness (43). That is, as power increases moral blindness increases. Without it the power could not increase; without it the moral blindness would not increase. Instead of acting, the morally blind person is filled with stupor and quiescence…”
Her latest single (Oct. 2014 UK release), Late Victorian Holocaust (audio here on Sound Cloud), off the soon to be released Give My Love to Londonalbum. This single is written by Nick Cave, as was the song above. Both songs feature Bad Seeds / Dirty Three / Grinderman multi-talented musician Warren Ellis on violin. Haunting in both, but particularly in this new song. I’ve always loved Faithfull’s voice, but in both songs it’s the music that really gets under the skin.
I was struck by a quote blogged by Jason Goroncy (via Kevin Ward). It was taken from an interview between Ed Stetzer and Distinguished Professor of History Dr. Phillip Jenkins (Baylor). Its an interesting quote and much in it rings true, especially as I reflect on the local churches in my town, and what I see in the wider denomination in which I find myself on the “inside of the outside.”
The quote in question is highlighted in bold text almost immediately below. The first part of the Phillip Jenkins interview can be found here. The second here, and the third part (which contains the quote) is here.
Dr. Phillip Jenkins: So much of this change has happened very recently – within 30, 40, 50 years, which in the span of Christian history is not great. It's hardly surprising that some institutions have not adapted fully to take account of that. Other churches, however, recognize it. On a typical Sunday, there are more Assemblies of God worshippers in the greater San Paulo, Brazil area than in the United States. It's a radical change.
Let me suggest to you that in 30 years, there will be two sorts of church in the world. There'll be the ones that are multi-ethnic, transnational, and multi-continental. They are constantly battling over issues of culture, lifestyle, worship, and constantly in conflict, debate and controversy. And those are the good ones. The other churches will have decided to let all these trends pass them by. They'll live just like they've always done with an average age in their congregations of 80. Personally, I'd much rather be in one of the ones that is recognizing, taking account of the expansion with all the debates and controversies.
We are dealing with a movement that comes out of a uniquely American birth. I don't think anyone would argue that Pentecostalism was born anywhere else. But one of the great challenges is how do America and other Western nations make the transition from parent to partner with these other countries that are now taking the lead in some respects.
Ed: What are some of the principles or characteristics you've seen from churches or movements that have successfully moved into partnerships, moving away from the parent/child relationship that defined missions for centuries?
Dr. Jenkins:Sometimes the greatest mistake that an organization can make is deliberately trying to be flexible or accommodating or have any particular policy at all. I sometimes tell the story of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French finance minister, calling a meeting with a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs in the late 1600s. Colbert asked the men, "What can I do to help you?" They replied, "Let us be" or in French "Laissez-nous faire," which is the origin of the phrase laissez-faire.
I sometimes think that instead of trying to come up with policies about how to do this, the answer is let things evolve. Let things emerge.”
The Spirit of Things (Rachael Kohn) recently featured a show titled: Progressive Spirituality: How Far Can You Go? It reflects on the inaugural Progressive Spirituality Conference (28-31st August 2014 / Programme here).
“The Rev'd Glynn Cardy switched from Anglican (St. Matthews in the City) to Presbyterian and the Rev'd Brenda Rockell is about to switch from (Cityside) Baptist to Anglican. Both are on a search for a more embodied faith that is less about doctrine and dogma and more about living a holistic spirituality with Christ at its centre. From radical politics to ritual expression both ministers were key participants at the inaugural Progressive Spirituality conference held in New Zealand. Includes Pop up Poet Dietrich Soakai and Hamilton parishioner Catherine Polglase.”
An important insight, that over the last few years, I’ve found to be very true:
‘If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, to be set off-balance, to wait on the ever-spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. … If we will not balance knowing with a certain kind of open ended not knowing – nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called 'faith' and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension. We have to be trained how to do this. The only two things strong enough to train us in this are suffering and prayer.’
~ Richard Rohr OFM, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2009, p. xx. Quote taken from this fascinating document (PDF) from Moot.
I’ve valued the Jesus-following journey embodied by Australian Dave Andrews. I’ve valued his books (the first one I read being Christi-Anarchy),and the good number of interviews I’ve listened to over the years. I also had the privilege of reading a Masters thesis, which centered on Andrews and the Waiter’s Union in Brisbane.
About Christi-Anarchy Mike Riddell writes:
'This book is a radical but loving reconstruction of the movement of Jesus Christ, in protest against its distortions. Dave Andrews, one of the leading prophetic voices of our time, brings all of his passion and insight to bear in a way, which will both disturb and inspire. Christi‑Anarchy has that uncomfortable air of a message crying out to be heard, and I hope it is widely read.'
Mike Riddell, Author, alt.spirit@metro3, Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West, and the bestselling Godzone
The lads at Nomad (UK) recently interviewed Andrews. Here’s their promo.
“Dave Andrews has committed his life to serving the poorest and most marginalised people through small, local Christian communities. He's clearly a man who knows Jesus intimately, and has gained tremendous experience and wisdom. So why doesn't he consider himself, or even strive to be, a 'great man of God'?”
A number of friends have walked the Camino to Santiago De Compostella. It sounds like a fascinating experience. Over the last few days I’ve been catching up on some old podcasts centred on this pilgrimage walk.
“In the April of 2010, Ailsa Piper, actor, director and writer, hiked for 1,200 kilometres along a little-travelled Spanish pilgrims’ road called the Mozarabe. On her back she carried a strange cargo. Anger, pride, envy, adultery, white lies, gluttony, sloth, vengeance, selfishness and gossip. Ailsa was walking in the manner of medieval pilgrims. She had been paid by colleagues, peers and friends to carry their sins from Granada to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela and thus gain indulgences for those sins. It was a task that was to prove heartbreaking, exhausting and, ultimately, both illuminating and uplifting, and poetry played a crucial part in it."
You’ll find the Poetica show (2012), written and presented by Ailsa Piper here (35 mins), and the Spirit of Things interview (2013 / with Fr. Tony Doherty) here (53 mins). Also, a food lover's pilgrimage with Dee Nolan and Lucy Malouf through the culinary landscapes of ancient Persia and to the tiny villages of Santiago de Compostela. You’ll find the radio conversation here (30 mins).