Wednesday, January 2, 2008

But What In The Heck Do I Know?

But what the heck does this jerk know, you’re thinking. Who the heck does he think he is spouting off about all this stuff that guys a lot smarter than he is have delved into over years. Decades. Centuries. Millennia. Saintly guys some of them. Guys that have actual divinity degrees and were ordained and everything, some of them. Many of them.

Some Yahoo out of a Jonathon Swift satire who doesn’t even do religion for a living. An amateur, for Pete’s sake! A rank amateur! Some yokel from who knows where and has who knows what for a personal agenda.

Some defective semi-human with half a brain. A lobotomized creature from the corn belt or the rust belt or somewhere nobody’s hardly ever heard of where the mutants and defectives have taken over.

And you’d be mostly right to think this way. You’d be right to have your bull-crap-ometer (BCO) turned on and dialed into high-sensitivity mode (HSM). Because who knows who I am? Who knows what diabolical or demented or cockamamie schemes I might have?

Test what I say. See what sense it makes. Read the Bible. Get out your Bible commentaries and dictionaries and what-not. Pull out your Wesley. Your Augustine. A variety of others. Read all that stuff or reread it.

Pray. I don’t mean goody-two-shoes praying. I mean shout-at-God praying. Complain-to-God praying. Ask him why in the world he gave us the pastors, and priests, and ministers we’ve got right now and have had for. Oh. I don’t know. Millennia. Millennia! I mean kick-out-the-jams type of praying! I mean get-angry-at-God-praying for letting things get so out of hand. So out of hand that you find yourself reading drivel from some no-name cretin in the blogosphere like me.

Please don’t rely on me for Truth with a capital T, because I don’t have that. I’ve got my own understanding and it’s going to be. How shall I say this. It’s going to be half-baked because I’m half-baked. I’m a pissed off guy in the pews. I’m one of the unwashed. One of the irritated guys who is fed up with piety and piety playing and Christian peek-a-boo.

And so I’m not feeling all that Christian myself, with all this hostility. All this irritation. All this bellicosity. All this belligerence. I’m a pretty lousy Christian myself, for letting my anger get the better of me.

I’m a pissed off epistemologist with the emphasis on the second syllable who is not a reliably good Christian. In fact on some days—like today—I’m a terrible, no good, rotten Christian.

Furthermore, I’m telling you right now that God has not revealed anything in particular to me. In fact, I am not chosen. I am not anointed. I have not been told I have a divine vocation of any kind. I have no credentials. I have no particular insight into God, ideas about God, or what being Christian is all about.

I’m not particularly smart about this God stuff. I’m not particularly well read. You’re probably better read than I am. And welcome to it. Have a nice day with all the books you’ve read about this stuff. I’ve read a few, and I’ll tell you, I don’t know if there’s a better way to scramble your brains than to read books by a passel of pastors and theologians and Biblical scholars. So good luck with all that.

For example, John Wesley. A guy who defines perfection to mean imperfection. But who wants us to be thinking perfection all the time. He answers his critics by saying he doesn’t mean absolute perfection. (As though perfection and absolute perfection are two different things.) He really means a perfection of degrees, he says. Degrees of perfection? Can there be degrees of. Oh. Pregnancy, for example? Or God. Degrees of God? He insists on the idea of progressive perfection. Perfection in the sense that we through our own wills can have control over this. Over what? Over perfect love. Perfect what? Perfect love, when it comes to definitions. When it comes to defining perfection. What?

But then he claims that this tour de force, this effort of will, is really the Holy Spirit. Is really God’s work, not ours. And so where does perfectibility under our control come in? Who knows? He’s got us running around in so many circles that we need someone (and there is no shortage of writers who volunteer to play this role) to simplify him and explain him to numbskulls like me. And maybe you.

You can go crazy reading this guy. Reading this logically loopy guy. This linguistically fishy guy. And there are a lot of other guys like him. I just bring him up because of what I’ve run into here recently. This Christlikeness business that I’ve run into and that isn’t adding up. It isn’t. How shall I say. It isn’t squaring with what I read in the Bible and what I’ve experienced so far of God. It almost seems the upside down version of what I think I know.

This Christlikeness mumbo jumbo that won’t go away. (I mean I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve tried to pretend. Oh. That what everybody means is innocuous. That what they mean is that we should just want to be good little Christians. We should just want to be good people after all. And leave it like that. But this would be a lie. This isn’t what people mean by Christlikeness, and Holiness, and Perfection, and Sanctification. They really do mean that we should be like God. They really do mean that we should be perfect and sinless like God on this earth in our lifetimes.)

It almost seems like someone is intentionally turning God upside down. Or us. Or maybe it’s both.

So this is what I’m talking about. We ought to speak up, for Christ’s sake. We ought to say, Hey wait a minute, Buddy. That doesn’t make any sense. We ought to stand up for ourselves and who we understand God to be. Who we understand ourselves to be. We should find our true shepherd. Because I think maybe the shepherds we’ve chosen for ourselves are leading us off the edge of a cliff.

Maybe they don’t mean to. Maybe some of them do. I really don’t know. Maybe there’s been an earthquake recently and that pleasant pasture they were leading us to has suddenly disappeared. I don’t know.

But let me tell you something. Just between you and me. I think in addition to some of us regular unwashed Christians there are also some pastors who are beginning to feel some fire ants crawling around in their pants.

I think some of the pastors are waking up and saying, How did I get cast in this movie? I don’t remember even trying out for this particular movie. I don’t even recognize the script. Would somebody please kick me in the head and wake me up? Who am I in this movie? What is my name in this movie? What’s my backstory? What’s my motivation? Would you please stop filming so I can get off this stinking set and figure some of this stuff out?

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