newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: April, 2014

Exciting news!

When I was 18, I thought I knew everything when it came to God, faith, and Christianity.  Now at 28, it’s taken me a process of 10 years (and counting) to continue to realize how much I really don’t know.  A current student of mine has been starting to ask questions about my views on faith so she can see how others believe regarding the same topics as her.  This poses a problem since my 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. job as a public educator prohibits me from having these in-depth conversations.  However, part of developing one’s beliefs should be having the ability to find these spaces where one can ask these sorts of questions and have a place to work them out.

Starting in the next week or two, Newthingsold will be taking a different feel for a month or two.  A budding writer and thinker out of Northeast Indiana and I have begun collaborating to co-write a series of blog posts on issues related to faith.  We are working to finalize a list of topics which we will each discuss via blog post in a series we’ll be calling ______________ (we’re still working on a clever title).

As this series progresses, I ask for the following:

1.  Share these blog posts with friends and other readers in the electronic community.

2.  Leave comments and feedback (because this is as much an exercise in developing her writing as her chance to explore belief).

3.  Leave questions you think might be beneficial for us to work through together.

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The death of our mythologies.

The word mythology has the specific connotation of “Greek/Roman fictitious religious stories”; however, a mythology is simply a “popular belief that has grown up around someone or something” (Merriam-Webster, “mythology”).  These are stories we tell that eventually become more false than true.  These are also stories we tell ourselves to cope and make sense of life.  Some(many)times, mythologies stick around for so long that they become “truths”.  What was born in entire truth loses its true nature.  Life gets trickier when our mythologies and truths mix together and we have to try and make sense of them.

 

I think I knew more when I was 13.  -Bayside, “Moceanu”

Eat. Pray. Silence.

There was once a wise teacher who would go to the temple every evening to pray with his disciples. By the temple there was a stray cat who would wander in every evening during these prayers and disturb the peace. So, each evening before prayers the teacher would tie the cat to a tree outside before entering. The teacher was old and passed away a few years later. His disciples continued to tie the cat to the tree each evening before prayers.

Eventually the cat died and so some of the disciples purchased a new cat so that they could continue the ritual. After a hundred years the tree died and a new one was quickly planted so that the cat (by now the eighth-generation cat) could be tied to it. Over the centuries learned scholars began to write books on the symbolic meaning of the act.

-Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God

I have been frustrated lately.  I blame God (perhaps).

Bible reading used to be such an engaging time for me.  I would wake up in the morning before Sarah was up so that I had complete quiet.  I would pour a cup of coffee, sit in my chair, open my Bible, and read.  Each morning there would seem to be a passage of Scripture that would jump out of the page and I would spend the rest of the morning meditating over (this is a fancy name for silently reflecting on the meaning for you non-religious types) the passage.  In the middle of it, an association or meaning to the passage would come to mind that I would not have thought of, so I would write it down.  In those moments, it was as if God spoke (and many times He did).

But now…silence.

Have I gained everything I will need for a lifetime from reading the Bible?  Have I offended God somehow and now He won’t talk?  Am I not reading the right passages anymore?  Is God still trying to communicate with me this way, but for me it’s now like living next to a waterfall?

These are examples of some of the questions to cross my mind over the past couple months.

But lately I’ve been thinking something else.  This frustration/mild anger and annoyance reflects two truths.  The first truth is that I have turned morning Bible reading into an idol.  The act of dynamic Bible reading has become more important than encountering God; a torn temple curtain reflects a God found in the world and not just in the pages of His Word.

The second thing I have been considering lately is that I have come to a place where I think I have figured out God’s communication habits and now He’s using a different approach because I need to be pushed out of comfort and into growth as a Christian.  I could continue to follow the same process day in and out, but eventually the routine would become meaningless like the priest who tied the cat to the tree.  So as I continue to seek God wherever he may (not) be found, here is a point to ponder from one of the spiritual greats of early 20th Century:

“Do not be surprised or alarmed when your will no longer finds sweetness or consolation in the things of God when your imagination is darkened and thrown into disorder…. This is precisely as God wants it to be, for He Himself is that reality and He is now beginning to infuse into the soul His own Light and His own Love in one general confused experience of mute attraction and peaceful desire.”  -Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience

The necessity of Noah.

In celebrating a proper Sunday, my wife and I did three predictable things:

1.  We took Sunday afternoon naps.

2.  We went out for ice cream at one of the local places which opened for the season recently.

3.  We went to see the movie Noah.

We did go to church in the morning, but I figured that would be assumed.

 

Before going to the movie, we stopped by the local Wal-Mart to kill a little time since we had arrived in town early.  While I was mindlessly walking around the store, I ran into a student from my homeroom at the high school; I began asking her about her plans for spring break, etc.  When she turned the question to me to ask about what I was doing in town, I told her that Sarah and I were headed over to the theater to see Noah.

“I heard it didn’t get very positive reviews.”

“What did the reviewers not like about it?”

“They added extra stuff not from the Bible.”

“Well, if they made the Bible’s account of the Flood into a movie, it would be pretty boring and long.  It would literally be a man talking to a voice from the sky, which would be followed by days upon days upon days of film of nothing more than a man building a giant, honking boat, followed by 40 days worth of video of a family with animals inside a boat while it rained…” (it was at this point that my student cut me off because she understood where I was going with my tangent).

On the drive home from the theater, I kept mulling around the conversation with my student.  Yes, there is plenty of additional material in the movie that is not in the Biblical text.  Yes, one of the central themes of the Flood from the Bible is that there is a personal God who ultimately loves all His creation (man included) and that this is different from the other pre-historic texts (see Rob Bell’s writing on the topic for a great explanation), and it is absent from the film.

Without the important thematic elements, Noah is a film necessary for the Church, and probably more so than The Passion of the Christ.  The added drama, the reality of the suffering en mass for the rest of the world, the psychological breakdown of Noah, are aspects of the Flood story which are glossed over in its presentation.  In Sunday School, any materials I was given about the Flood depicted Noah’s family and animals on the sun deck of a boat, and they were all smiling.  The typical adult lens presents the importance of the Noah story being that he had faith in bleak circumstances.  When considering all of the immediate ramifications of the events pertaining to the Flood, smiling animals and extraordinary faith seem like weak takeaways.

The (Western) Church has reached a level of pascification and certainty where the messiness and complication of life is glossed over.  Noah takes a small step toward confronting the Church with the realities that a story like this has.

Next:  How about a detailed Nativity narrative with wide-scale abortions of infant male children?

If the viewer wants the Genesis narrative, he or she should read the Book of Genesis or watch The Bible miniseries.