Bondage A Bit Further

Sorry to have disappeared off the face of the earth for 10 days or so. I left town to compete in my race (Kansas Ironman 70.3 with race report here) and then embarked on an amusement park trip with my family to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City and then Disneyland and Laguna Beach. Got back last night. We were supposed to go to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, today but Jack developed an ear infection so we decided to delay that part. I’m a bit motion sick after 4 plane rides and 3,000,000 roller coasters so am glad to put that part on hold. But I failed to get a notice up before I left town as I intended. So now I’m back and ready to get going again.

I started a book on the plane called The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark. Just saw it on Amazon as I was looking around one day. It had good reviews so I decided to try it. And it’s good. Real good. Maybe as good as Crazy For God. It rings home with nearly all of the things I have been going through over the last 2-3 years. Very affirming.

My last post on bondage struck a chord with a few so I wanted to go a bit deeper. When I refer to the church and systematic theology as bondage, I am referring to the ideology that develops with everyone becoming strictly like-minded. That can be very destructive, and it is one of the bad things about the church as a whole. Dark captures that in a bit of a different light on page 22-23:

“…Religion is born out of questions, not answers. Only a twisted, unimaginative mind-set resists awe in favor of self-satisfied certainty.

We often call such a mind-set ‘fundamentalist,’ but we might simply call it ‘bad religion.’ And for the sake of humility – a characteristic crucial to sacred questioning – we might do well to confess that we’re capable at any moment of such bad religion ourselves. We’re capable of reducing other people to a cartoon character or caricature. We tend to be unwilling to treat what we perceive to be the opposition in a proper manner. Instead of dealing with others with a sense of graciousness and fair-mindedness, we devalue them in the very ways we fear they devalue us.

More humility might characterize our talk of God if we believe that the whole truth can never be entirely ours and that our attempts to nail God down are always well-intentioned human constructs at best and idols at worst. We might become more self-aware and pay closer attention to how our ideas about God affect the way we treat other people. We might commit ourselves to asking and receiving questions. Living in this way, anyone – even someone sporting an offensive bumper sticker – might be a bearer of the wisdom we need and a speaker of a word from [God]. Perhaps we should occasionally place our hands together like Buddhists and bow to them. Or, as a Celtic prayer has it, we might sense the spirit of Christ in the heart of the one we speak to and the one we listen to.

When we don’t speak agreeable to someone with whom we disagree and don’t know how to ask questions because we think we already posses most answers, we’re practicing bad religion. We aren’t curious or kind (save to our fellow believers) and we can’t be made to question, even for a moment, our fear-hardened beliefs. As best-selling atheist Christopher Hitchens put it, we’re breathing in the religion that poisons everything.”

This nearly exactly describes the situation to which I awoke and found myself in the middle of. The answers I was getting to honest questions were “you need more faith,” “you just have to trust more,” “you aren’t close enough to God,” “you aren’t giving enough of yourself.” These may be well intentioned, but they are not remotely helpful and are more about shutting me up and keeping the peace and keeping me in line than they are about giving honest answers to honest questions.

So what do you think about this quote from Dark? It’s a great book. I’m only a few chapters into it. And I promise you I can find a way to tie it to The Matrix.

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4 responses to “Bondage A Bit Further

  1. Humility is a prerequisite to learning and we always need to be in awe before God and truth. Truth may come to us from almost any direction. But we will always try to assimilate what we experience into some sort of explanation. We need to make sense of it as far as we can. Yet every explanation has a tentative element to it because further and deeper insight is always possible. A wise Christian leader, John Wesley, allowed for experience as one avenue of input to his understanding of God. He also considered Scripture, church tradition, and reason. However we put our explanations together, our understanding and experience will always be growing.

  2. i’m getting that book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I wanted to add a clarifying comment regarding what I meant by church tradition. I don’t mean something rigid. I mean the accumulated thought and experience that develops over the years and gets passed along. But even in churches that seem rigid, change goes on, however slowly. Questions are always a part of the journey because we never have the complete picture on all the answers. Scripture says, “we see through a glass, darkly.”

  4. “So what do you think about this quote from Dark?” (Doug)

    I applaude and it agree with 100%. I find myself in a lot of disagreements on a variety of blogs with a variety of people all over the Christian spectrum (or even athiests)…and I always remember the simple thing – we should be able to talk and not have to scream. He who speaks the loudest is not the smartest.

    I agree that good religion is about awe and mystery – and the room for what can only be called ‘faith’. We don’t have all the answers – we have some – others have some – even our wives have some (lol). Life is not concrete — we are in constant movement and this is what faith looks like to me.

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