Jesus didn’t just hang there on the cross,
he melted in the sun.
our fondue savior
who flows down
for us
to reach out and dip
whatever we damn well please
into his substance.
and we take
and eat.

The past 12 months or so have seen the most drastic changes in my journey within Christianity, and I find myself engaging with it through two different images. The first way in which I see my relationship with the Christianity of my heritage is me standing along the coast and hurling it at the sea. In a sense, the Christianity I knew and have been shaped by is no longer something tenable in my life. The second image that comes to mind is the dramatic, edge of the cliff rescue scene. Every great action movie has a scene in which the hero is gripping onto the hand of someone dangling off of the edge of a building, a cliff, or something else from which one dangles from in fear. In this scenario, though, I’m not the one pulling anyone or anything up. I dangle. And sometimes the people dangling and holding onto the saving hand decide that it is better for them to let go and yield to the certainty of gravity. In this scenario, I’m not sure whether I get pulled up or let go. Suffice to say, my relationship to the faith that nurtured me is tenuous at best. And for any one reading this who is where I am, or has been there, it can be a weird and uncomfortable, confusing place.

Somewhere in the midst of my seminary education faith became really complicated. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews claims that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is that something by which we participate in the story of God. But this statement from the epistle is an oxymoron. Faith is the assurance? Anything which is assuredly so cannot be faith. By this definition of assurance, I have lost faith. But in its wake I announce hope. I have a hope that aligning myself in the story of Jesus is a life-giving and others-focused way in which I can make sense of life, even change lives, circumstances, moments; a way that challenges and questions the powers, inequality, exclusion, and lives differently. I have a hope that this both reveals God and experiences God.

But all of this crumbles when other people––those whom I claim to live for––need my faith more than I do. When my sister––suffering the side-effects of chemotherapy––asks me for prayer through the painful sores on her tongue, she needs my faith. She needs a faith I’m not sure is in me. When a friend comes face to face with the darkness and comes to me for light, he needs my faith more than I do. When I face that darkness myself…

I’m left to sit in this chair and face the darkness with resilience. I’m left to listen, to grieve, to hurt, to enter into your pain with you, to curse that which steals life from us. And to dance when life comes back, when light comes through. This is how I pray for you. This is what my faith looks like for you.

Though I want to lower you all through the roof and bring you to the feet of Jesus, I don’t have the arms to dig through it.

My brother, Uzzah
reach out your hand so that I may touch it,
take hold of it,
joining our lives together.
My brother, we shall touch god.
We shall look with wonder and awe
and love,
and touch everything we see––
like small children we will grab a hold
and thrust the world into our mouths––
we will taste and see that the lord is good,
and we will not surely die!

we will stretch out our hands
and strike down the pillars propping up the heavens,
unzip the sky
and bring such otherness crashing to the ground,
collapsing into our beautiful this,
beautiful here,
beautiful everyone.
the god which we cannot touch shall not be our god
for we have touched things far too wonderful for god not to be within them,
and we did not surely die.

here,
underneath our feet
is the dust and dirt which is the very slow-beating pulse of god,
both holy and unclean,
the ground underneath our being
and the ground of our being!
for in it
we live and move and have our
being.
oh, the world is an ark
that each of us carry,
stumbling along and dropping it.
My brother, we will reach out our hands
and touch the presence of god
and keep the world steady
and we will not surely die!

 

A little over a year ago ago a buddy of mine told me that I needed to see this documentary called Catfish. I hadn’t heard of it, but he told me it was very awkward and weird it was, so I was completely curious. If you haven’t seen it, here is my Twitter-style synopsis:

Guy meets a cute girl online and the two become friends. Inconsistencies in the girl’s story begin surfacing. Girl is not who guy thinks.

After Catfish was released and gained notoriety, Nev, whom the movie follows, began receiving correspondence from people with Internet friendships that they were becoming suspicious of. Nev began following up with these stories and Catfish the TV show was born. One person shares the details of their mysterious Internet friend with Nev. He then does puts his Internet stalking skills to the test to find out as much as he can about who mysterious internet friend says they are. He contacts them and tries to set up a meeting to bring the two friends together. This roll of the dice is where the magic of the show happens. Who exactly will the person on the other side be?

Like a lot of other Millennials, becoming friends with people over the internet was a significant and important part of my adolescence. I never met these people (except one, actually!), but we developed strong connections through sharing life stories and experiences and beliefs and all of our adolescent, earth-shattering complexities. I never doubted who these people were. They were real. They were who they said they were.

Catfish fascinates me. Sometimes the person on the other side is exactly who the other thinks they catfish_revised_logoare, and their meeting is full of happiness and excitement and joy. Then there are times when the person on the other side is someone completely different than their internet persona. Deception, lies, half-truths, and bewilderment now muddy the connection the two had established through social media, instant messaging, texting, and phone conversations. There was a real person on the other side the entire time, yet there was a different face or body or story or wound that was hidden and is now revealed. The one deceived is put in the position of navigating how to connect to someone they knew but never really knew.

Catfish fascinates me because it narrates my experience of God.

––––––––––––––––––––––––

How do I know that God is the God who I’ve been talking to all along? Why won’t God ever meet me? What does it mean to love and feel connected to this God whom I do not see or touch? Is this even real?

I came to know God through a particular set of stories and epithets and texts that I read, heard, and was fed. I eventually had doubts about who that God was and doubts about who I was. I needed to meet that God and find out who he was. I needed to know whether or not I was really as terrible as I thought, and whether the people who didn’t love God really were terrible. I had questions about the nature of love and about goodness and pain. I had questions about questions. I did meet that God.

She was nothing that I expected and everything I hoped She would be, wanted her so badly to be. And I saw Him in the trees before they became paper and before there were words printed on them that told me who He was.

And He loves. Really loves. Is love. She is that which takes my breath away in the moments when I am so struck by peace, and He is that which fills my lungs up with air when I am dumb. And He invites me to love. She gives me a voice that is her voice. He gives me ears to hear and eyes to see. I’m called into another way. The way of prefigurative grace, where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved, and where power is set aside and I’m just your brother, your servant, never your master.

I met that God and He was not what I expected. But I’m still here. I still want to know Him. I still want to walk in Her light, if ever I can find it and its warmth and share that warmth with others. Will you show it to me and invite me inside it?

Yesterday I found a forgotten essay that I wrote for a class I took over the summer. The class, Poverty and Restorative Earthkeeping, explored the intersectionality of race, class and gender in relation to poverty and the environment. This short piece was written as a reflection on a theme found in Larry Rasmussen’s Earth Community, Earth Ethics.

Are there other metaphors or avenues for engagement that you have found to be particularly helpful for dialogue between Christian practice/ethics and care for the Earth? How does our being embedded in and embodied on the earth influence or shape our theology?

The essay is embedded below, but if you’d rather read it as a pdf, you can do so here: Earth as Oikos

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Final Reflection 1

Final Reflection 2Final Reflection 3
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Mark Driscoll has weighed in on Washington’s recent legalization of marijuana. As Driscolly as ever, he writes:

driscoll-thumb-400x270

“Also, many will attempt to treat marijuana usage as analogous to alcohol. But while the Bible does speak of alcohol, it never mentions marijuana, which means the issue requires a great deal of consideration before arriving at a thoughtful Christian position.”

Source: http://theresurgence.com/2012/12/06/puff-or-pass-should-christians-smoke-pot-or-not

Unfortunately for us, the Bible doesn’t mention a LOT of stuff. We might be living in sin because we have not thoughtfully considered the ramifications of engaging in things that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible.
Here is a list of things that are not mentioned in the Bible, and which we must arrive at a thoughtful Christian position about.
  • Crock-Pots

  • Litterboxes

  • Cars

  • Netflix

  • Electricity

  • Cheesecake

  • Executive pastors

  • Coffee

  • Yoga (totally evil)

  • College

  • Christmas

  • Gluten (conveniently)

  • iPhones

  • the Internet

  • Brita filters

  • Magazines

  • 401k plans

  • Pizza

  • Eyeglasses (aw shit)

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Hopefully this has been an edifying list that gets you thinking about just what is and isn’t biblical. Feel free to add to this list things that are not mentioned in the Bible. Because what is the BIble if not a big book of things we can and can’t do?

bible-Sunlight

As an introvert, most of my thought processes struggle to achieve some form of articulation. Often, they just sit in my mind like a pot of old coffee. However, there are two things that have been simmering within me for a few weeks now, and both of which have recently found their way past my lips and become real to me. In a way, confessing them has given them an ontology.

1. I’m more fascinated and captured by what people do with God and sacred texts than I am by God. Faith has become increasingly difficult for me. I do not see this as a bad thing. My optimism urges me to say that this is a phase. Regardless, the ways that I have previously regarded the beliefs of my Christian tradition no longer feel genuine and honest. This influences the ways that I approach and participate in communities of faith. I am still figuring out the best ways for me to freely and truly be me in a church community without being disregarded as unbiblical and liberal, and stripped of my voice because of the way I read the biblical text. That’s a valid concern, right?

2. God doesn’t make sense to me outside of community. That is to say, the practice of Christianity is lost on me without a community to practice it with. I think this second realization is a good thing. I also think that this second realization and the first are closely related. I haven’t been a part of a believing community in about 7 months. Seven months is definitely not a long time in the scheme of things, but it is the longest I have ever been outside of a church community.

I thought that I could be one who could sustain my faith in a happy, post-church bliss. I can’t. Church is weird, and it’s difficult for me to get past that, but I am ready to try for the sake of community and for the sake of nurturing something that is so central to who I am. I’m torn between feeling like this is a twisted and dysfunctional relationship or something that marks some semblance of maturity and grace.

Thoughts? Have you recently returned to church? Still outside of a church community? How has your faith been strengthened or diminished apart from or outside of a church community?