I was intrigued with the title of a Paul Krugman OpEd piece in the New York Times last week. While the contents of Mind-Changing Events may only be of interest to a quasi-economics geek like myself, the title got me thinking.
I wonder how many of us are open to faith-changing events? What would have to happen in order for you to change a basic tenet of your faith? Just the other day I shared with a new friend something that I've often said: I've been a believer/Christian/Jesus Follower/whatever my whole life, but I probably don't believe a single thing I believed a dozen years ago.
It seems to me that if my faith is based on a key set of propositions, and the requisite correct answers to or positions on those propositions, then faith-changing events are something to be avoided, feared, and defended against at all costs. And faith-changers are heretics, worthy of our avoidance, if not our scorn and derision. Ocassionally they may need to be burned at the stake.
Last week I had an email conversation with another friend who was reflecting on something theological and asked for my thoughts on the subject. We worked the idea back and forth a few times, which stretched both of our thinking. Finally, she said it felt right, and it felt liberating. Then my friend came up with one of the best lines I've heard in a while:
"I'm going to have to 'push the furniture around' in my head to make room for it."
Now that is being open to faith-changing events, faith-changing thoughts.
This leads me back to a recurring theme I've been thinking about lately. That is the evolution of consciousness, the evolution of humanity, and what that does to and for our faith.
In a nutshell I believe that not only do we as individuals transform, but so do we as a species. What's more, I believe this reality is factored into God's plan to redeem all of creation. A quick example would be the recent thinking on empathy, and how humanity is starting to display a latent tendency for it. This excites me. Imagine, Jesus told us we should love our neighbours, and scarcely 2000 years later a little DNA Love Bomb goes off in our brains to help make it possible to love them! It's almost like it was planned that way.
This notion has been fascinating for me, particularly because of the way it intersected with my life. My own faith experience--my story, in other words--brought me around to this way of thinking before I found any empirical evidence for it.
I stopped thinking that the point of Christianity was where we went when we died, and started thinking that the purpose was how we lived.
I stopped thinking of the kingdom being something/somewhere/sometime else, and started thinking of it being here and now.
This got me thinking that Jesus' teachings were actually instructions on how to live now.
But--hang on a minute--they're hard teachings. "How then can anyone be saved?!"
And now it seems that if we choose to cooperate with the Spirit, we can evolve/transform/grow into citizens of the Kingdom of God. The impossible becomes possible.
Back to the furniture pushing.
In a few conversations with Christians on this subject of the evolution of consciousness a funny thing has consistently happened. Because we don't all move/grow/transform/change at the same time or pace, the conversation must out of necessity come around to 'levels'. And Christians generally don't like that because it sounds an awful lot like judgement. And yet we like to talk about the "journey, about "growth" and "transformation", all of which imply moving from one place, one state, one level to another.
And as we evolve our understanding of God should change. Our faith should change. If you're in the car but the view out the window never changes, then that car is probably up on blocks, with the weeds growing up around it.
UPDATE: Yesterday I took Richard Rohr on a hike through Burns Bog (via my iPod) and listened to Christ, Cosmology, and Consciousness for what must have been the 5th or 6th time. (To my mind this is the most comprehensive teaching of Rohr to date and I highly recommend it. Anytime you have a Franciscan quoting Ken Wilber, Eckhart Tolle and Gerard Manley Hopkins all in teh same talk you know you're nto something special.)
Back to my point. Rohr said something that pertains to my point here. Our notion of God must be dynamic, not static. It must be organic, if you will. I love the use of the word organic in particular. Our understanding of God must be allowed to evolve, even as we evolve.
I'm intrigued this morning (read 'frustrated') with the number of folks out there who seem to make it a point of pride that they haven't read Love Wins, they aren't going to read Love Wins, yet they will continue to express opinions about Love Wins.
Obviously you can choose not to read any book, but then have the good sense to stay out of conversations about that book.
"But I'm not talking about the book, I'm commenting on the furor around the book." Fair enough, but if you try to do that without reading it, you're coming at it from a position of ignorance.
A more pointed variation on that argument is this: "But I'm not talking about the book, I'm engaging in the theological debate around the book." On this I'd like to comment. (Yes, I've read the book.)
This is not a theological debate, not in the traditional sense of the term.
Hell - Yes or no? That's a theological debate Hell - Who's going? That's also a theological debate
It seems to me that what Rob Bell is doing here (and I'm dramatically simplifying) is asking this:
Hell - What?
That's not a debate. It's not an easily identified position with a counter-position. In my view it's an attempt to change the conversation, to elevate the way we think about this issue, and in broader terms, about our faith as a whole. Think first-teir and second-teir thinking, if those terms resonate with you. We can only directly debate issues located on the same level of thinking. Otherwise we're talking two different languages, comparing apples and oranges, etc.
It's the theological version of, "Do you still beat your spouse, yes or no?"
So read the book, or don't. Embrace the thinking, or reject it. But recognize that Rob is not going to answer your questions to your satisfaction, because those questions don't make any sense in this discussion.
I posted this on the other WorD last night but figured you non-Tumblrs in the crowd should see it too. This is incredible. Oddly enough I came across it via two of my favorite authors, Douglas Coupland and William Gibson. Come to think of it, these look like scenes out of something they could have written.
Skye and I went to Soi Cowboy and spent our evening in a go go bar called Cowboy 2. The girls there dance topless, and there were many girls in the bar that night. One girl named Ow came to sit and talk with us, and was instantly friendly. When it was her turn to go up and dance, Skye noticed that hanging from her black high heeled boot was a cross. When her shift was finished she came back to sit with us, and we asked her about it. She told us that she has Jesus in her heart, and that there are at least three other girls at that bar who also know Jesus and go to church together. She then ran to the back room and came back with her bible which she keeps with her and reads while she's working. I have to say that Skye and I felt schooled (read "put in our place") to be reminded yet again that Jesus has gone ahead and is in the desert in very real and transformative ways. It filled us with so much hope amid the darkness to think about how many other women were dancing that very night, knowing Jesus and on a journey with him to dignity and freedom.
These aren't your mother's missions trips, and the work isn't for the faint of heart. All that being said, I love the theology behind this. Some might find it upsetting, but where else would Jesus be?
I've been listening to the live version of Lippy Kids since it was released a while back on video. I watched the video. A lot. I stripped the audio out and listened to it. A lot. I know it inside and out. Its nuances, its subtleties, its movement. So, I was unprepared for the disk version.
I know it's because Sue is in Bangkok. It happens to me all the time when she's there: I'm distracted, and I've very emotional. All I can say is I shouldn't have listened to Lippy Kids while sitting in my Surrey office. The very subtle choral addition is remarkable.