tag : bright yellow-green apples: visions of God (b) transcendence

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Monday, November 08, 2004

visions of God (b) transcendence

figure 34.7. where do forms start and begin?

After dealing with immanence, it might be rather good to pick up Ruth Ann’s recent comments on theology. With particular reference to social justice.

“Then again, Jesus did teach us to pray, "Our Father", not "My Father", so perhaps we were never meant to find ourselves wrapped up in God as individuals, perhaps we were never meant to indulge ourselves with introspection and emotionalism.”

What is theology, but the stumbling attempts to understand the inexplicable? People have had visions though the ages, different windows onto the ground of reality that we all call by different names. Trying to paint a picture of the infinite that breaks into our lives, the idea that haunts us and moves us to try and live beyond mediocrity & inhumanity.

If God is to challenge us out of ourselves, if we are to allow the divine to shock us to encounter and radical love for others, then a sense of transcendence is vital. In an age of polarity, where leaders will claim a reckoning and a mandate to shape the world around them on the basis of their personal relationship with the God, and where people will angrily deny religion because of parochial kitsch sentimentalism, this much is becoming ever more urgent. God cannot be claimed like he’s some wall on a street end that can only be painted with one sectarian flag, God lives in the small rooms of all the homes.

Of course this might well be decried as sloppy pantheism, I can almost hear the curses of post modern relativism forming in the air as I write. But if we’re going to have any hope of holding the kernel of radicalism that the prophets of anchient Israel & Judah showed with great mastery, if we can keep the tradition of challenging the status quo, then we need the potential in our faith view to be able to challenge others, and for that to start with challenging ourselves. Complicit self-focused assumptions of completeness will not do.

Here is where some who talk of "re-volution" (marching under red banners, with loudhailers, and so on) might easily fall into an unrealistic understanding of the human condition: it depends on our own selves as people who make up communities in selfless relationship. And that needs constant organic challenge from the boundless reality to develop, rather than picking up a frozen ideology from the shelf to slot down over all the world. And in the case of us theists (I cannot speak for Buddhists or any others so surely), this can only come if we hold our God-views with the lightest touch, as if they were the most delicate butterflies. Giving God the freedom to come to us from the other and shake our foundations, to melt and reorder them dynamically through life. That way the pillars of dehumanising establishment, wherever it can be found, might be jolted with the spirit at work through us who can easily be a part of it.


Blogger Sarah said...

Firstly, although i didn;t understand the whole thing, the imagery was great :-)

I agree. The firmer we grip onto our prepackaged-cook-at-220-for-30-mins faith, the staler it gets and the more irrelevant it becomes.

I have been challenging this at cell group, bit worried about what affect i am having on the younger members of my cell, don;t want to warp and confuse their minds. (any advice? should i shut up?)

6:37 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ah I’ll beg that you excuse my language, as before with my poetry. But this slightly dense impenetrable wooliness is necessary to fulfil my aims (which certainly need revision, I reckon)

I like your culinary metaphor - it perfectly captures the organic nature of things, and ties in with metaphors in The Mcdonaldization of the Church(heck of a good book!). Your dilemma sounds quite familiar, and I think it needs some more consideration than this little space. Give me a day or so to come up with thoughts.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

oooh in retrospect i realise it is innappropriate to hijack other's blogs! sorry!

4:30 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Oh hijack away, I always welcome comments around here of whatever ilk and shade. It's all intresting imput, I shaln't complain. That goes for the rest of you, too, even those sat on the back desks.

12:31 AM  
Blogger ash said...

again, i empathise with the motifs here, which is not wholly suprising i grant thou (today feels like a Shakespeare day). it is most definately important that we learn from and grow in respect with other religious groups... whether that ultimately leads to pantheism, eclecticism or mutual respect remains to be seen.

Sarah- i generally like to work with the notion "challenge everything" (which i coined before EA Games stole it as an advertising slogan). we do need to ask questions, awkeward questions, if for no other reason than to make people think. I do this in my cell group to some extent, with a hope of leading the people there deeper into their faith than one can go if one signs a list of givens, frames it and looks at it everyday saying "how quaint." it's a risky thing, some may trip up over it, but i would rather help one or two come through a faith crisis than let every young person i know end up as "Christian Drones" who don't know what they really believe, and can be blown in all directions later. and that is also why it's a balance... a balance between pushing and not pushing too hard. a crisis in faith is hard, as we both know, and in all likelyhood they will have more than a few without our interference. people need to be pushed, and challenged, but not pushed over the edge. and it's hard.
although i have a feeling you knew all that and already do that...

4:36 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I recall having this very same dilemma myself at university, when part of the CU there, in both the main meetings and the cell groups. Some people seemed to find some of it so bewildering, even things that many of us might take for granted, like ecumenical stuff. But more, whenever I expressed any perspective which didn’t come from ‘the standard’ line given officially, there were confused minds and worried looks by some people. Not to mention those in charge. I was told specifically at one point that I should not say anything different to their line, in case someone’s faith was set off course by it.

But I would turn this round, based on a lot of my motivation for sticking CU out as long as I did. There are many people in that kind of situation who really need some sense of affirmation of what they are, which is not fulfilled by any homogeneity. To have anyone express a view which varies from the perceived norm in a faith community can mean all the difference to someone struggling with the faith they’re told to have, which might not be the one they naturally have. It took the public words of a few people to help me not to think I was at fault for being different, to stop trying to fit in and relax as myself. A couple of people helped me not to subsume what I was and follow the norm pushed at us, but follow the patterns that were in my religious DNA. For the sake of those potential other people out there, and for those who need to develop an appreciation of the variety of Christians for the sake of their ability to treat others fairly, I think you should carry on speaking out and challenging.

This is, by extension, something I consider right for the rest of life. I'm a big believer in honesty, whatever happens in practice, so often speaking your mind is a posative approach. Even if it can be hard in various ways for everyone...

12:26 AM  

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