Let’s Start a Renaissance

by jeff on August 27, 2014

I’ve been a Christian a long time. Long enough to see things in my tradition that don’t make sense. As time has passed, I’ve began to wonder. What if we’ve accepted beliefs as sacrosanct that aren’t, in fact, fully true? What if our understanding of the Mystery of God is obsolete because it hasn’t evolved as we as a species have evolved?

Long ago humans believed the earth was flat. Not so long ago humans believed the earth was the stationary center of the universe. More recently, Europeans believed neither the Americas nor much of the southern hemisphere existed. All of these beliefs eventually fell, some after significant struggle and turmoil.

In his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin Friedman argues the Renaissance started as a result of Columbus discovering the New World. After that discovery, everything that was known in fullness wasn’t fully known anymore. Maps were obsolete. Answers were incomplete. What exactly was out there?

Columbus’ discovery catalyzed Europe by making the world bigger and enabling dreamers to dream again, adventurers to adventure again, and questioners to quest again. The Dark Ages were over and humanity catapulted forward in a blaze.

Fast-forward to now.  I suspect that Christianity is in a Dark Age.  Despite having all the answers, catechisms, orthodoxy, certitudes, creeds, dogma and truth, our churches are dying rather than thriving. Our kids are abandoning the faith. Many feel under siege.

A frequent solution is to double-down and try harder. This solution isn’t Good News. Returning to fundamentals reduces the genuine ambiguity and paradox of the faith, stripping our ability to question deeply like the prophets of old or even Jesus himself.  Fundamentalism says we must simply believe harder, pray harder, work harder.  Then maybe God will show up.

What if the issue, instead, is that we simply need to rediscover God? What if we, by daring to consider dangerous questions, discover that God is bigger than we thought, more generous than we thought, more allowing than we thought? What if our Hebrew brothers and sisters were onto something when they refused to name God, refused to claim a familiarity that limited their understanding of the Infinite?

So let me ask you.  What are some things about Christianity that don’t make sense?  Comment please and maybe even offer an alternative (particularly if you’re outside the tradition). Perhaps we can slowly, slowly help start a Renaissance.

P.S. I’ll offer a few of mine:

  • The world isn’t fallen. It’s rising.
  • Jesus didn’t die to appease God. He died to show us the way and how scary it is.
  • Just like there’s gravity outside, there’s gravity inside.
  • God isn’t angry at us. Ever. Ever. Ever.

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Was Jesus Born Knowing Who He Was?

by jeff on December 11, 2013

Back in 2008, a visiting pastor threw out the following rhetorical question as an aside: “Did Jesus know who he was (since birth)?”  I was stunned.  40 years of church and I never heard anyone say that before.  I thought of little else that night.

This was so juicy that I chewed on it the next four years until I came to a (personal) conclusion.  Jesus wasn’t born knowing who he was.  He chose to believe.  Just like I can.

Here is some of my thinking (just in time for Christmas ;)).

If Jesus knew who he was, the desert temptations (Matt 4:1-11) were a fraud.  Two of the three temptations started with “If you are the Son of God, …”.  If he was born knowing, that’s no temptation.  That’s playacting.

If he knew who he was, he would not have grown in wisdom (Luke 2:52).  He would have been born with it in fullness.

If he knew who was, he wouldn’t be the author and perfecter of the path before us (Heb 12:1-3).  He would have already known it as a non-human, which isn’t like us (Heb 2:17, Heb 4:15).

I’ll continue.

He chose to believe that despite being born in a dusty pittance of a town (that Fr. Richard described as caves with lean-to’s), he was special.  That despite growing up in the “back forty” known as Nazareth (John 1:46), he was special.  That despite looking every bit ordinary (Isaiah 53:2), he was special.  He chose to believe.

His Mom undoubtedly talked about angels and shepherds and wise men following a star and Zachariah and John the Baptist jumping in Elizabeth’s womb.  Yet she also mentioned her “unprecedented” unwed pregnancy, his birth in a skanky manger, and fleeing to Egypt for their lives.  He chose to believe.

His neighbors suggested coyly that he was a bastard (Matt 13:55), the ‘carpenter’s son’ <wink wink, nod nod>.  He chose to believe.

Bottom line: He chose to believe that he was more than he appeared despite all the contrary evidence.  Just…like…I…can.

I can identify with this!  I can follow this!  I am empowered by this!  Anything else isn’t something I relate to.

Merry Christmas.

Yosemite

There is a light in the darkness! May this be a sacred time for you.

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Once Mo’ Time Again

November 8, 2013

Hi there.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted.  So much has happened over these last two years that I haven’t known where to start.  I’ll restart by summing up. I’m unlearning at an astounding pace.  It’s disorienting as hell.  It frequently feels that way, too. A primary cause is suffering and powerlessness.  […]

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Letter to Grief and Loss

March 8, 2013

I recently attended a 4-day grief and loss workshop at Dancing Deer Farm in beautiful Paso Robles, California.  It was a small experiential workshop with only seven participants and four staff.  The size, plus the skill of the staff, fostered a safe and intimate environment that  allowed us to go deep. Near the end of of the workshop, […]

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“You will never change, will you?”

October 27, 2012

You will never change, will you? It’s not an audible voice, but a thought stirring in my mind. Where did it come from and why am I thinking it? It feels true, like a factual assessment of my character. My thoughts have the power to become my reality. The “you” quickly becomes an “I.” Once […]

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Remember

May 18, 2012

I saw a breathtaking video by a man named Louie Schwartzberg today.  I was weeping by the end.  It’s called The Beauty of Pollination and can be seen in fullscreen HD by clicking here, or by viewing the video below. Stuff like this video can help us remember and reawaken.  We need this, I think, because life is hard […]

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“Can I Pray for you?”

April 10, 2012

“Dad can I pray for you?,” my nine year old son asked.   You see I was contemplating cancelling our spring vacation trip to Arizona at the last minute.  I was beside myself.  I felt so sick and I didn’t want to travel.  I couldn’t imagine enjoying my vacation feeling the way I felt in that […]

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Catch The Song

February 23, 2012

{Ed. Note: I am delighted to introduce Steve Masted as a writer at RT.  Steve has an M.Div from APU, runs a successful business, and is a man with something to say.} There are two songs sung over us that have the power to shape our perception of ourselves and our life.  Every day we have […]

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Psalm 27 Remix

February 7, 2012

My dear friend, Steve Masted, rewrote Psalm 27 using his own language.  He gave me permission to share it; hopefully you’ll find it encouraging. Yes Sir you shine your light and you save me, I am not afraid you are so strong, you support my life, I have full confidence.  When the enemy comes after me to […]

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Acting Right

December 20, 2011

Have you ever called a company for help and got someone who read a script or followed a guide?  If so, you probably experienced someone who wasn’t really listening to what you were saying.  They were forcing you into a script.  Now, have you ever heard of ACTS?  ACTS is the Christian version of a […]

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