Restore Unity

You know that thing about never talking religion or politics? I pretty much follow that rule as closely as possible unless I’m with really good friends or if a lesser good friend has fed me too much wine.

I’m the first to admit when I just don’t know much about something; I try to stick to topics I do know . . . like my own mind, Phillips- vs. flat-head screwdrivers, subject-verb agreement and how to wrestle a thrashing 2 year old “tiny dragon” into footed pajamas (sit on it). Theology is one of those things I just don’t know anything about, and although I pretend to not give two shits, I really do. Because deep down I really want to be RIGHT.

I keep finding that more and more areas of my life are deeply affected by both religion and politics. It seems I can’t just have a rational opinion about anything without having to commit to an actual belief. And heaven help us if my rational conclusion isn’t somehow backed up by Scripture. And I’ll be right on my way to hell in that handbasket if my politics don’t line up with someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. I get myself into quite a world of trouble over the Bible, actually.

As part of my recovery program (you know, RCA, Recovering Christians Anonymous) I tried to unburden myself of as many previously held “truths” as possible. I tried forgetting, I tried unlearning, I even tried an ice pick to gouge out those parts of my brain and soul that were harboring old bits of dogma. It’s a sickness, you know, a mental health disorder even, this needing to be RIGHT at all costs. But that’s what they told me I was: RIGHT.  RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT.

And then they handed me a sword and sent me to war.

But the problem with war is that loads of people get hurt. Some even die. And I don’t really even like to fight.

So Rachel Held Evans proposed the Rally to Restore Unity, and I thought I might join in because I’d rather have the freedom in the church to say what I believe and follow Whom I believe than to always have to worry about being RIGHT. Plus, we’re raising funds for clean water projects WOOT! Here’s to putting down the swords.

(the only thing I ever won in a sword drill was a mini-Snickers)

  1. rick said:

    There are two ways to be right and they are not easily distinguished. The first is a quest for power in which one strokes one’s ego in finding a right that excludes and marginalizes the wrong. If you might recall from some science classes, little children often attribute this to teachers: “What is it? Some kind of power thing with you?” I scoff. Yes, it is power, but a power I already hold; a power of knowledge and authority, not something usurped or granted as they suppose. But their fear is legitimate for there are those who seek to be right as a means to power and influence to inflate themselves. I think we know plenty of these people and they are the ones who should avoid discussing religion and politics for they possess a polarizing right.

    The other is a quest for truth. Deep down we all want to know what the right answer is, whether the question is what is 2 + 2 or what is the chief end of man? At stake is the point where we harmonize our souls with the reality that is around us. Some of us close ourselves off to this, whether through denying that truth exists or denying that we can know it. Because we have seen truth used so badly in our lives to oppress or subvert, we deny its power in our lives. But it is there. Why? Because the One who matters the most said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Our quest for truth is a quest to know even as we are known.

    Seek the truth wherever it may be found for therein lies relationship. As for saying in church what you believe to be right, well, not everyone is questing for truth. Learn the power of good questions and how to use them well. Be more than a jaded skeptic. Be instead a pilgrim on a quest. Ask for directions and point out the landmarks you have found on the way if those who think they are right provide you answers that you have already found wanting.

    • alltheseblessedthings said:

      Thanks for this response, Mr. Presley. I appreciate it.

      • rick said:

        And I appreciate your blog. Thanks to you, I’ve subscribed to Evans’ blog which has proven popular with many of our readers on the ill-legalism Yahoo discussion group. Keep up the good work.

  2. Surf Missionary said:

    I spend a lot of time asking a lot of questions myself.
    I really don’t think the “Sword” was ever meant for the purpose of battling doctrine or dogma.
    The whole context of God’s word being a sword was that of spiritual battle, not religious disputes.
    To hear people argue over interpretation of scripture to argue their organizational dogma is like listening to a couple of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons, “my crystal ether x’s 4 + my purple wizard goblin and 5 battalions of the legion of dread declare war on your imperial army of elves and dwarfs.”
    I can’t help but yell, “Dork!” “Spend your time and brilliance doing something with purpose.”
    No doubt we need to seek and explore what we believe because this is what fuels why we do what we do.
    And perhaps not all that we’ve been exposed to or taught through our formative years has to be completely discarded but simply filtered…though scripture.
    Because it’s easy to discard what’s uncomfortable or what we don’t like for the ideas and teachings of those we identify with or are comfortable with.
    These are the things I spend way too much time contemplating. Faith without works may be dead, but doctrine will live forever. The more I can put my faith in action, the less I will be a Christian version of a geek with a level 7 World of Warcraft acct (or whatever it is they strive for.)
    I happened to read I Cor. 2 this morning I it gave me a lot to think about.

    • alltheseblessedthings said:

      I understand the context, BUT more often we are taught to use Scripture as a weapon against this world–and each other–offensively and defensively. I see that being truly problematic when it comes to applying works alongside faith. What if my faith-works are built around serving “the least of these” (Mt. 25.40) and someone else’s are rooted in “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thes. 3.10)? Pick a verse out of context, slap it on the bumper of your car and go live by it . . . talk about damaging. And we all do it. And then we fight about it because we feel like there’s a higher power sanctioning it. I just want outta that game.

      And I think you’re overlooking something with the gaming analogy. I mean, if you’re talking Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m talking Mario Bros, there’s virtually no way for us to have fruitful conversation; we aren’t even *in* the same conversation. Because you’re all “purple wizard goblin” and I’m all “jump over that pipe thing” and so we aren’t even speaking the same language (this is all I can say about this topic because I don’t know any more). We do huge disservice to each other in the assumption that we’re talking about the same thing when we’re totally not. I think this is often at the heart of every heated theological debate: the miscommunication about how we each approach Scripture.

      But I agree with you that faith without works is completely useless. “Spend your time and brilliance doing something with purpose” is awesome . . . as long as my something with purpose gets to look different than yours.

      We can talk about all this sometime; I’d really love that.

  3. Bridget G. said:

    Rachel~ Whether people agree with your point of view or not, whether people want to kindly redirect your way of thinking to be in alignment with theirs, you’e a very good writer and I always enjoy the way you present your thoughts and ideas!!! And the best part for me is that you have a wonderful sense of humor (even when talking about heavy topics) and I always get a laugh when I read your stuff!!! I really think you could have a career as a writer if you wanted to. Thanks for sharing!!

    • alltheseblessedthings said:

      Aww, thanks so much, Aunt Bridget! I’m happy that you read here and that it makes you laugh. I’m not a very serious sort of person about too many things. :)

  4. Linda said:

    In order for anybody to pick up their cross and follow Jesus, we need to know who Jesus is and what He commands us to do. So where do we go to know who He is and what He command?

    Are we following the Jesus of the Bible or a Jesus of our own choosing? Do you want to know if you are following the real Jesus, then listen to this powerful poem …

    • alltheseblessedthings said:

      I feel like your questions are meant to be rhetorical…but I’m not sure. That poem was impressive. Now, it’s late, and I’ve watched the clip 3 times, but I’m definitely confused by how much time she spent clarifying who Jesus is *not* rather than, as she said, re-introducing the real Jesus. I think we all sort of end up following the Jesus of our choosing. Maybe one would follow the Jesus who performed miracles of healing and seek to do the same in his name. Maybe another would be drawn to the authority Jesus had through the Father and exert authority in the name of God. Maybe another would see Jesus’ gentleness toward children and mercy toward sinners and would act in a similar fashion, showing grace and mercy to all. And yet another would see Jesus the teacher and would seek either to be studious or to lead and teach others. Another would see the Jesus who resisted temptation in the wilderness and seek to fast all worldly pleasures. I wonder if we all follow Jesus differently because we are all different; perhaps this is a personality issue, which could seem to be following “a Jesus of our own choosing.”

      I feel a bit like Bill Clinton on trial here…I’m looking for definitions for “following” and “Jesus of the Bible” and “what He commands us to do.” But, frankly (and forgive the late-night answer here), I don’t think any of those things can actually be simply defined.

  5. rick said:

    Probably one of the best books I’ve read on what it means to follow Jesus is Dallas Willard’s “The Divine Conspiracy.” It cuts through a lot of crap from all sides and focuses on the Jesus of the gospels. It’s an easy read, but you won’t rush through it because there is so much to think about and ponder. This book resonates more with me than any other I’ve read on the topic. Alternatively, he has a lot of YouTube videos. Just do a YouTube search on Dallas Willard and spiritual transformation. He’s a real low key speaker, but will make you think.

    • alltheseblessedthings said:

      One of my good friends has recommended reading Willard, so I’ll definitely have to check him out. Thanks! I also thought of McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy; chapter 1 is “The Seven Jesuses I Have Known.” I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and what it means to know him. Maybe I’ll end up writing through some of those thoughts.

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