Monday, September 13, 2010

Which would God prefer, our worship or our colleague-ship

I loathe the idea of talking about our human experience solely within a Christian context, even though the Christ Event has been a deeply meaningful experience for me, and has significantly shaped my sense of reality. I recently responded in a comment section to a blog entitled "Experimental Theology", written by Dr. Richard Beck who is a professor of psychology. I like his work a lot, though we differ in that he mostly is referencing a Christianity framework. And I'm not.

Still, I'm interested in influencing how we think about GoD and the Christ Event. And I thought this response to David, a man who typifies well, an evangelical pov (I'm not singling him out) might give you a glimpse of some of my own theological thinking. But first a caveat:

I'm using God language here for the sake of communicating with brevity to an evangelical culture. I wince when I use God language. Please allow me some grace as you read my comment- whether you hale from a God culture or don't- and see the spirit or mind behind my writing....

David, in an earlier thread, you challenged my claim that we are called to be adult colleagues with God in the making of Life together. I would like to answer your challenge here, and utilize the style of Jesus' approach to this discussion, by utilizing modern sewer systems as an underlying analogy for my point.

It is argued, that when it comes to the increased longevity and health of human being in the modern era, this increase doesn't stem from modern medicine, but from modern sewer and water systems- simply because they deal with the micro organisms causing illness in the first place.....

If this is the case, how is the making of competent sewer and water systems NOT a "Kingdom of God" activity?

Out of all the animals God creates, we of the Human species are the ones, who on the seventh day, when God rests, are invited to join Him in a picnic- as the story goes. Doesn't this sound like we are truly invited to colleague-ship? In contrast, I Love my dog and the feeling seems mutual; but I have yet to experience an adult human relationship with him.

We like Heaven when its free and we don't have to do the work and create it. In fact, we would rather huddle in worship and pine away for life on a platter. However, I bet when God witnessed our civil engineering to make sewer systems and modern bathrooms, there was a proud tear welling in His eye.

We think that God's essential nature is morality- not Creative Power.

In Reality, morality is easy. Creating is where the hard work is. But we relegate creativity to an afternoon at church camp where everybody gets to make Christian lanyards. At evening services we thunder about morality. The reality of morality though, is that all you have to do is paint the world in black and white and us and them. Then choose a side, puff up your chest and fight away; all the while luxuriating in the bigness of being on God's side: And explain away--that is wax theologically--how every one else is the problem.

Meanwhile, everyone else is maintaining sewer systems, and developing needed energy systems in order to create sustainable thriving for the whole planet. (You know, the thing we're given real creative responsibility for?) Is this the Life that Jesus went to the cross for? That we should take all the genius of God, which we get to embody, and huddle in quivering masses and await that "glorious day"?

In the paradigm of animal sacrifice, God says in Jesus' crucifixion, "look- you guys are still afraid of me. I'll tell you what- if sacrificing your first born child is the most powerful act that you can do to make me be on your side, then I will sacrifice My first born child: no act can be more powerful than this. Let it be settled then; I AM FOR YOU.

The ONLY reason we won't see ourselves as colleagues with God, we who are called to co-create Life together, is because we would rather be afraid, and justify our fear through a theology that God yearns to eradicate in the Life of Jesus.

If Christianity means that I have to dumb down my Human self, dumb down the genius God creates, dumb down Jesus' belief about God, then I would rather give up my Christianity.

But I refuse to give up the Christ: I refuse to back away from my true Humanness, which is a call to co-create real life with our Creator.


  1. Mike, perhaps you can define humanness in a slightly different way.
    We can argue over "free will", but within the limits of enabling restraints we can and do to choose to do things that other members of the animal kingdom seem not to do (or want to do).
    For example, we have seen dogs in space, but not yet cats. And it may be shown that dogs did not get to volunteer or vote for their rides - so perhaps an aspect of our humanness is our ability to choose for, and sacrifice others in our own self-interest?
    We can argue that we exhibit creativity, but it can also be shown that many animals, plants, and birds express themselves creatively with their nests and plumage manipulation.
    Some have pointed out our ability to make complex calculations in our heads, but you only have to watch a monkey or a cat work our how to jump from one place to another to realise this is not unique to humanness.
    Discretionary choice would seem to be almost uniquely human, in that we often freely choose to kill and maim in the projection of our political beliefs, whereas other animals seem to limit their viciousness to food gathering or defence of the heard or pride.
    I could go on and on, but my point is that perhaps the one unique ability we have is in the application of our minds in the pursuit of abstract thought.
    No matter how you rationalise it, god and or religion is something that only humans seem to have come up with.
    The need to find a higher being or in fact just the "meaning of life" seems to be limited to homo sapiens.
    As the meaning of life has been successfully proven to be "42", that just leaves the "higher being" search.
    Perhaps that is what our humanness is all about?
    And if so, shouldn't we ask "why?"

  2. And to your list of atrocities we humans have mis-spent our privilege by, I would add that we have weaponized God in order to kill Others we were uncomfortable with.

    I think the irony you bring out PJ, is that every other animal lives with Life pretty well, while we, the animals with opposable thumbs, neo-cortexes, and- super animal powers that we call human- we oftentimes fail to live with Life as well as "lesser species".

    So the question gets begged, "who really is the more intelligent?"

    And yet here we are, you and me, considering things, not in terms of our literal biology, but in terms that result from having a different kind of mind than any other species; a mind that traffics in the 'Meta' layer of reality- which might be the same as your use of the concept abstract thought.

    To your sense of pursuing abstract thought, I would add, we have the ability to transcend literal-ness.

    And now I have to laugh because Math pivots on literal-ness....

    Yet- how can mathematics exist unless we were able to traffic in a Meta level by transcending literal being?

    I don't think the creativity of the universe is any less present in molecules than in human being. I will argue though, that compared to anything else existing, human being has the most response- ABILITY; and therefore, is endowed with the most responsibility.

    Hmm, now I'm wondering if the difference between the human animal and any other is that we are in a position to be culpable?

    Mike, a very timely and excellent post! if you/we could learn/elaborate/show how to change that A to an I it would MEAN a/the world to me at least.

    A:"Fiat ars-pereat mundus (Let art be created though the world shall perish) had become Fascism's creed and influenced its actions."


    I:“Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change. … What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” - MLK

  4. Alex- some great references! I hope every one checks out Homo Modernus....

    PJ raises the question of our knack for engaging in a higher being search; I wonder if this connects to your concern of how do we change that a to an i? Or in words I would also put it, how do we come to deeply value the human life as one of co-creating, and/or co-evolving, with Life itself? A pursuit of Life in the way we're speaking of it here, stands in sharp contrast to the more common pursuit of bread and circus.

    So another way of asking PJ's question is to ask, why isn't a sufficient supply of bread and circus enough for us to feel ourselves flourishing, in a way that truly satisfies us at the depth of of our bones?

    I think the way you bring Love into the mix here Alex, is a profound one, as you connect it with power and by implication with work; certainly, your line of thinking here has to be part of our long term inquiry.

    Physics of course, completely understands power and work. But- can power and work be PROFOUNDLY understood without understanding in an equivalently competent way, the nature of Love?

    And- how do we learn the nature of Love in such a competent way?

  5. Yes! Creativity is the connective process through which Love is actualized. There's something of a correlation here to the verse "Faith without works is dead" (to continue the invocation of Christian thought).

    Your discourse in this post cuts swiftly through the religious flesh (and fat) to the bones of the issue. The real mechanics that play out in the name of faith are incredibly paradoxical.

    I think you're right in pinpointing the roots of the issue in culturally-instated (or at least maintained) fears taking precedence over the creative potential of love - open-mindedness, acceptance, collaboration... actively creating scenarios of mutual benefit.

    Nonzero, by Robert Wright focuses on a less poetic side of this examination (maybe the opposite side), using the lens of game theory to broadly address biological and cultural evolution. Basically, he describes a tendency of all interacting life processes to gravitate towards non-zero-sum games... games in which both parties benefit (as opposed to zero-sum games, where one must lose for the other to win). This 'natural law' can be witnessed among bacteria, cells within an organisms, animal societies, and everything in between... and it is the basis of the development of culturally-cherished institutions that revolve around love.

    It may be a stretch for some, but for me it seems evident that there is an impetus compelling the entire progression of life (biological as well as emotional/aesthetic/otherwise metaphysical life created by humans) towards a certain state. And this revolves and depends very deeply on love and other closely corresponding values.

    Of course, it will always be our responsibility to implement love as conscious action. We will not be sustained if we expect divine energy to intercede and rectify as we remain passively disengaged.

    Your writing is thought provoking and encouraging as always, good to see you back.

  6. Stephen, first, thanks for the encouraging words; they do encourage me.

    You've really added to a great comment series going here; I'm especially drawn to your thought about *an (the?)impetus of Life to seek a certain state. I'm going to have fun considering this in contrast to the more common sense of "an impetus to survive".

    And your last paragraph (not your sign-off) WOW! talk about being hit between the eyes with pure density and efficiency.

  7. Haha, thanks!

    I am torn though between recognizing an all-encompassing progression of order... and the possible derogatory effects of focusing on the 'end state' of that progression. I find beauty in exploring the ever mounting and interacting layers of order in life, but on further consideration... I can't imagine that it will ever stop once it reaches a certain state! Either way, I believe it's best to focus on implementing perspectives in order to more so appreciate the richness of the present (like wine!)