Friday, February 13, 2004

Tourette's and the Other (estastic utterings, rendered meaningless by my inability to communicate)

Okay, I'm going to try to tackle Jake's post concerning the other. It's difficult to respond to, because I don't want to nit-pick certain things I might have problems with, but answer, as best I can, his big picture. I think I might have failed (since i'm writing this after I wrote what's below), but maybe Jake can clear up some things if he doesn't think I understood them correctly.


It seems like reconciliation, at least in the Biblical sense, isn't quite a done deal, because it needs to be a mutual decision. While we might be reconciled to God through Christ's redemptive work, God is not reconciled to us. I know that sounds a bit heretical at first glance, but it makes sense when you think about it. God, in his sovereignty, has given us the ability/power to reject his gift of grace. In effect, some have decided not to reconcile their relationship with God, even though he is reconciled to us. It's strange to think of it that way, because it seems to elevate humanity more than we'd like. But if we adhere to a free will theology....

So Jake, I agree wholeheartedly that our role is not to bring people to reconciliation with God, but rather to point to the Christ's reconciliatory work, realizing that the Holy Spirit will be the one who prompts people to join the reconciliation party. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. Party on J.C.

Counting Equality

I have to honest here, I'm not sure what it means to "not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..." Maybe I should repost the verses. "Who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Ph. 2.6-8)

I guess there are a number of ways to interpret "grasped." Cognitively? Emotionally? Physically? (As if...?) Socially? Spiritually (as in the Holy Spirit)? I'm very unsure. It seems from the context following the phrase that when equality with God is not grasped, it means taking the form of a servant, human form, the likeness of men, obedient (as all men are) to die when his body failed. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like the verse associates servanthood with humanity, not just in a Creator-creation sense, but in a creation to creation sense. What I'm getting here is a(nother) justification of the Christ command for Christians to be servants, not necessarily (though definitely not excluding) an "identification with the other."

Following that, I don't know if one could use this verse to justify a Biblical command that the Church "must be obedient to the point of death, both socially and physically" as Jake wrote. While I think obedience and submission to the authority of God are Biblical concepts, I don't know if this is the ideal place to look for justification of it. Again, I have to be honest that I don't have a clue what it means to die socially. So I'll defer that for another time.

Broken Fragments of Application (in other words, a homilitical example of how not to end a sermon)

As far as application goes, I would broaden what it means to be "sick" in order to be identified with the other. I could go into a list here, but it take me all night. Those living with STDs (who can hide their sickness if there is no visible sign of it in every-day life), those plagued by illnesses of the mind, those indoctrinated with prejudicial or racist philosophies, those deceived by the illusion of the "American Dream," those caught in cycles of abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, drugs, hate, etc., etc., etc.

My point is not to make a definitive list, but to simply state my opinion that to be poor in spirit is to be in true need of the Gospel. I used to interpret "blessed are the poor in spirit" as those who are identify with the poor -- who act as if they are poor no matter their income. I don't anymore. Poor in spirit means those who are truly destitute in their spiritual life. Just as most of the poor need assistance to get back on their feet, the poor in spirit need assistance getting on their existential feet. They need to find meaning in life, which is why Magnolia is such an incredible example of the poor in spirit. Here are a group of people who have no concrete reason for existence, who simply float through life in constant pain and disillusion -- that is to say detachment from the very things we as disciples are attached to.

The Gospel, our Gospel, is a message of grace that resonates existentially as well as socio-economically. Christ is both the answer to the quest for meaning in the universe, and the liberation sought for by those in physical captivity. I'm not sure how eschatalogical those are (meaning or liberation), maybe that's something to think about (and talk about here).

So to be identified with the other, in my mind, is to identify with the poor in spirit. Not to look back at before we were saved and remember how much it sucked (some of us can't even do that), but to take an active interest in those who have not reconciled with God (who are still suffering from the first rebellion in the Garden). Maybe that's too broad, and not what we're supposed to be going for, but it's what I think.

One final note on defining "Other"

I'm just getting more confused as I type, so I'll try to keep this brief. Popular culture today has a counter-culture that's not always the church. For every group that we could identify as "other" in America (the poor, the sick, drug users, homosexuals, the IRS, radical greens, vegans, the porn industry, professional soccer players), there is a counter-cultural group, that while not involved in those actions or states of mind, chooses to defend those involved in such actions/lifestyle choices. So the problem is, in a culture which embraces pluralism, is there such a thing as the definitive "other" anymore? Liberals don't see another class when they see the poor, abusive, etc., they see themselves (or rather, what could have happened to them under different circumstances).

Christ didn't live and minister in a culture like we have today. Since right and wrong were black in white in everyone's mind, and since the entire culture was a religious one, when he went against culture, he had to inevitably go up against religious culture. Do we have the same black/white options Christ did? If I decide that gay marriage is a good thing, sure, I'll have to go up against the conservative culture, but I don't go up the entire culture (because there is a large minority of our culture that's for it). I don't even have the option of going up against the entire religious culture (because some churches are dandy with the idea).

So how do we identify with the other, when there is only an "other" in modern conservative culture? Which begs another question, which I don't ask facetiously. In light of this, could conservative culture (or maybe a more Limbaugh/Gingerich radical form of it) be an option for the other? When there is no consensus on the other, could there be more than one other? (Now I'm losing myself...)


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