Grace Emerges

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chap. 7, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 7

Our World View

What is the role of theology in determining our view of ourselves and the world? How are we using our basic views of God and the world we live in to construct doctrines, interpret the Bible, and define our identity? Theology is extremely important because it sets the stage with basic assumptions and beliefs that we then build our world upon. Our churches are built on theology in such an integral way, that if our theology were to change, our churches would change. In practical terms, we often treat others the way that we think God treats us. So emulate the character of God. So our theology determines our attitudes and behavior.

Consider how these subjects that are addressed by theology:
  • our view of God, and of how God views us
  • how that leads us to view one another
  • our view of the Bible and its role in revealing God
  • our view of Jesus and his role in revealing God
  • our view of redemption
  • our view of spiritual reality, our concepts of Earth, universe, Heaven and Hell

These are the subjects form our view of our existence. Our human world view, and our spiritual world view. Once we have established this world view, we can only see God through it, and not ever around or above it. If we have some unjustified ideas in this world view, but defend them as being necessary and solid, then we can easily construct a world that is nicely put-together but just too simple, too methodical, too modern, too rigid. It explains everything nicely, but it has no room for research, for expansion, for listening. Do we really know everything there is to know? Can we really pin God down and say “that settles it”? Do we really know what we know? I’m not claiming that all truth is unknowable and out of reach, but what I am claiming is that if truth depends on a living, passionate being far more creative and intelligent than us, then we do not know everything. Truth comes from God. Truth is within God. God’s will is just that - the choices of a dynamic personality. We cannot properly construct a map of God’s identity, God’s plans and God’s view of us and sin, unless we leave giant flexible gaps that allow God to, well, be God, and make his or her own decisions! We just can’t nail God down. The single biggest mistake we make when constructing our world view is settling out inflexible truths and building walls with them. We don’t leave any room for the possibility that these truths may be wrong. Then we don’t see that what we've built is a flawed assembly of God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom. It stands for both good things, like God’s love, and corrupt things like man’s power and control over his enemies.

The Main Questions

Of course just by stating these things so strongly, I am declaring my own view of truth, and I am aware of the potential irony. While I do believe in deconstruction, the removal of assumptions behind widely held truths, I also believe in reconstruction, building a way of understanding that can stand up honestly with its assumptions exposed. In my view, we can construct a useful and honest theology about God, based on what God has revealed. Like the people of Kog, we can build a Bridge of Peace over the rubble left from our assumptions. This type of honest theology can successfully face these tough questions about the nature of God and man:
  • God’s view of man: How does God view mankind, and what does that imply about our relationship with God?
  • Man’s view of God: How should man view God and relate to God? What is man’s response to knowledge of God?
  • Man’s view of evil, sin, and redemption from corruption: How should man view the evil that so evidently is present in the world? How does man view God’s role in the struggle of good vs. evil? And how does man change, being redeemed from corruption within himself?
  • Man’s view of good: How should man do good? What good things should he do? What is good? What are right spiritual practices? In theology this is often called orthopraxy - and means the practical things that we do because of our beliefs in and about God.
  • Man’s view of truth and wisdom: What is right and true? What is God’s wisdom and how is it understood? What do we believe? What is the role of wisdom vs. knowledge, and faith vs. belief, having truth vs. being right? In theology this is often called orthodoxy - and means the set of beliefs that we hold true in and about God.
  • Man’s view of man: In light of our view of God, how should we act toward our fellow man? What are the principles of right treatment and right behavior? What is our vision, mission, and purpose in the world around us, given what we believe about God?
  • Man’s view of eternity and spirituality: What do we believe about our place in the universe? What is Earth, Heaven and Hell in God’s view of all things? What is our eternal relationship with God, and how do we participate in the spiritual reality while living as humans?

The Role of Love

It is interesting to note that the word “love” was not mentioned above in these tough questions of perspective of man and God. And yet the concepts of love are everywhere in these questions, as shown below:

  • God’s view of man: God loves humans
  • Man’s view of God: Humans love God
  • Man’s view of evil, sin, and redemption from corruption: Humans stop doing bad things out of love for God
  • Man’s view of good: Humans change and do good things out of love for God
  • Man’s view of truth and wisdom: Humans understand truth only by seeing through God’s eyes of love
  • Man’s view of man: Humans loves others, “Love one another” is the singular command
  • Man’s view of eternity and spirituality: God and mankind in an eternal loving relationship

One way to attempt to shed old assumptions and reconstruct our beliefs on firm ground is to base our understanding of God more prominently on the life of Christ, and view the role of Jesus as a guide to God’s character, God’s will, and God’s relationship with mankind. Since Jesus is God, when we follow Jesus we are emulating the character of God! We are doing good, we are doing right. We are building what God is building. We are fighting what God is fighting. We can simplify the role of theology as being the guidance on how we should believe and act, to be like God ourselves, by following Christ in the way of love. Certainly building on love will create a solid foundation that will stand the test of time. And whatever we build on love will lead only to peace with others.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chap. 6, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 6

The Berlin Wall

What could the future hold for a global Christian church after the dividing wall crumbles like the Berlin wall?  What new structure could emerge, that is still fully Christian in its identity and yet not poised in opposition to the world outside, not trying to either defend against it or to rise up to dominate it?  For this thought exercise, can you think of other structures in our society that prosper by embracing diversity rather than isolation?  Could the church appear more like a diversity-welcoming contributor to the world around it, a productive member of its global community?  Like a flourishing city, could the church be at its best when it engages with surrounding communities for mutual benefit? Could the church actively campaign to attract people with vastly different backgrounds who are willing to join for a common cause?  Could it garner support for making the world a better place and weeding out injustice wherever it may be found, all in the name of Christ?  Could it partner with the world around it to alleviate suffering and to extend the hand of love and compassion, to glorify God by following Christ in word and deed?

This dream is a possible future of the church, if it will give up wall-building, and instead seek peace with the outside world, replacing hostility with hospitality, replacing protection with active welcome.  However, this dream requires cost and is not without risk.  We must give up certain comforts to live with greater diversity.  We must give up being right all the time, for one thing, and approach the search for truth with a greater degree of humility, allowing disparate views of the same scriptures, principles and human values.  Unity will not come from a common creed.  It will come from common circumstances.  We are all together in this struggle of life as God's children, and we must make the most of it.  Religion, traditions, and identity are all just tools to help us find God and to find our true potential as humans.  We must rise above differences, and embrace commonality.  For those of us that are already members of the religious elite, it means that we must give up our preferred status.  In analogy to the times of Christ, we must be equals with prostitutes and tax-collectors.  In our times, maybe that means being equals with people of other religions, people of various sexual identifications, people of other countries, classes, and cultures.  Who in our world could truly claim superiority over others?  Those that have tried it have been proven woefully wrong (I don't need to name examples here).  Who in today's world is the most worthy of God's love and love from their fellow humans?  Who can honestly believe themselves to be the elite at the expense of all others?  Surely our world view and human intelligence no longer supports such outrageous fantasy, such beliefs that all people are not created equal with all others.

A Bridge of Peace

It is time for the church to pave the way, to lead by following the example of Christ, and to point others toward the way of PEACE with all others.  Like the kingdom of Kog, we must use our gifts from God to build bridges and roads, rather than walls.  We should never use truth to dominate others.  We should use truth to guide us in building God's true kingdom in this world by following Christ in the way of peace.  To do so, we must give up our elitism and embrace the common man.

Organized as an institution of peace, the local church could achieve much more in the kingdom of God.  Consider how this type of church could function in areas of community, compassion, acceptance, and seeking God:

Ironically, when we spend all of our energy protecting our community from outside intrusion and maintaining the status quo, we actually spend too little of our energy investing in one another.  Imagine how the church could function if its primary focus was on people.  Following Christ and worshiping God, by caring for one another.  What do people need?  They need authentic friends, who will listen, who will share their lives together, and who will step up to help them when challenges in life arise.  People do not need so much to be shepherded and policed by a hierarchical leadership structure or a rigid institution.  The institution does not love people.  People love people.  We cannot just appoint some staff positions and pay those people to do the loving for us.  Community is about living out the kingdom of God on Earth. 

Furthermore, people do not need to be told what and how to believe, they need to be encouraged to believe, and to think for themselves.  Faith is grown in the fertile soil of questions and needs.  Give people freedom to seek God and to share their journeys with one another, and they will find God in a more authentic way than if they are given doctrines and prohibitions.  The way of peace is a way of freedom.  In my opinion, to function as a community, a church does not even need a creed, a statement of faith.  It does not need lists of doctrines and prohibitions.  It needs to unite people behind a common cause, not enforce standards of membership.  Uniformity is not a goal to be sought after, but is a sign of failed community.

In the way of peace, the focus on people loving people extends equally to those outside the church.  We should invest in people.  The church should stand up against injustice, where ever it is found, and bring compassion to those that need it.  By stopping the investment in building walls, the church will have more resources available to establish community programs, care for children, help the hungry, advocate for those lacking basic health care and education, work to liberate those in bondage, and be a safe haven for the hurting and oppressed.  This type of mission is not a pipe dream.  There are many organizations in our world who are already successfully doing these missions.  Some of them affiliated with religious organizations, and many of them not.  The global Christian church is a massive and powerful force.  If it united around the cause of compassion, it would change the face of the world for good.  

Why doesn't it do that now?  What is worth investing in so much more than Community and Compassion?  Maybe our preoccupation with building walls takes too much of our energy, leaving only a small fraction available for caring for others.

Without the wall to divide people, the way of peace is able to accept people with differences.  Churches should have an active welcome policy.  People that may not think they fit in should be readily reassured that they are always welcome, with no strings attached, and loved unconditionally.  What better way is there to show people God's love?  When we ditch the prohibitions and statements of faith, and instead declare active welcome to all, then we also benefit.  We learn from those differences.  We grow and prosper.  We tackle the real challenges that come with diversity, like disparate classes and cultures and ways of seeing things.  We teach our children to be tolerant, understanding, even open-minded.  Like when we go off to college, we benefit from meeting all kinds of people that we don't agree with or don't readily understand!  The church can be a mixed up collage of people, rather than a place of homogeneity.  The church should teach that judgment is a sin that leads only to treating people poorly.  Instead it should teach that acceptance benefits everyone, and is the way of God.  God accepts us the way we are, not waiting for perfection or conformity.  God's love does not have strings attached.  It is unconditional  Otherwise, how could God ever love us, much less like us!  If God can love humans, so can we.

Seeking God
Finally, the way of peace leads others to relationship with God.  By removing our obligation to protect God from sinners and outside intrusion, we can focus on our need for God.  We can seek God in the lives and eyes of hurting people, in our compassion for them. We can seek God in listening to others that struggle spiritually and who seek truth and answers.  We can worship God by building a kingdom of goodness and kindness.  We can seek God authentically and without reservation, when we abandon the religious red tape, the fights over doctrines, and the need for institutionalized worship.  When it comes to spirituality, we should focus on one thing, just one thing: God and humans, loving each other.  

The way of peace allows this kind of focus on people and seeking God by abandoning the walls that divide people, by tearing them down and building bridges to connect people to one another.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chap. 5, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 5

The Kingdom vs. The World

To further understand the metaphor of the wall, we need to look at the division that it creates and perpetuates. What is outside this wall? What is the surrounding environment that the church exists within? What is the outside world, and who populates it? Our definition of the “outsider” must be as strong as our definition of “insider”. Our beliefs about separateness are what keep the wall in place. So, separate from whom, separate from what? What is the benefit and distinction of being inside the wall vs. outside of it? Clearly this is a matter of doctrines and prohibitions. Those outside the wall are addressed by our doctrine as those lacking God’s acceptance, and as those that do not uphold our prohibitions. So outside the wall, the world is teeming with God-rejected evil-doers, in contrast to those inside the wall, who are God-accepted good-doers. Since nobody is perfect, and there is some good in everyone, these lines are somewhat gray, but are firmly held nevertheless to create a dichotomy of “Us” vs. “Them” in our universe. Those inside the wall and those without. The Kingdom vs. the World.

Is this really our intention, though? Is our mission and purpose as followers of Christ to be the lone bastion of goodness in the dark world? To shine our light brightly within our own walls, so the world outside will see God’s glory and come to us to be transformed? This does not seem to be the way of Christ. The Greatest Commandment of Jesus was to “Love God. Love Others,”, and certainly his life showed how to live this out. Jesus showed by example that we must embrace the “Other” and love the “Other”. He taught lengthy lessons on how to do this, like the parable of the prodigal son, and the parable of the good Samaritan. He showed it by dining with the socially-rejected evil-doers of his day, and by trying his best to save people like the woman caught in adultery from the self-righteous wrath of the religious elite. Isn’t there a way to follow Christ by accepting outsiders, and yet still keep our primary identity as Christians? I believe there is -- by simply following Christ. If we act like he did, we must abandon our walls that separate people into categories. We must let people into our hearts. We must learn to see people the way that God does. He does not have “good children” and “bad children.” He only has “children,” with their good and bad traits on full display. Can you even imagine an earthly parent being content to allow only their “good children” inside the house to be loved and protected, while the “bad children” sleep outside? Maybe the bad children would see how good their siblings are inside the house, and repent and shape up? Certainly not! I don’t see it working that way. In fact, I’m sure we as a society would punish parents that acted like that and take away all their children to be raised in foster care! A parent loves his/her children. And God commands us to love each other, because we are all God’s children.

They are Us

Once again, who are these people of the world? What does our doctrine say about them? How does God see them? I will delve into the doctrines that hold up the Moderate Wall and split the world into “Us” and “Them” categories in further chapters. But for now, consider who these people are. In many cases, they are our (literal) brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, children and other relatives. They are our co-workers and friends. They are the people of our towns, cities, countries. In other words, they are “Us”! Any distinction that you can make in people is blurry and filled with exceptions and doubts. Spiritually speaking, the only distinctions between people are the ones that people choose for themselves. People can identify as Christians and can attend a church, so they self-identify as part of the inside group. Or people can identify as atheists and self-identify as part of the outside group. Then there is the ambiguously-identified group of people in the middle that do not make it easy for us to decide where they stand. But can an outsider follow Christ? Can an insider refuse to follow Christ? Can an honest man who doesn’t like church be good, kind, and seek God with all his heart? Can those that question the existence of God (both inside and outside the church) at the same time be pleasing to God? Does God enjoy the presence of people, whether they question or accept? The point is this: when we can no longer create clear definitions of “Us” and “Them”, then the wall separating us crumbles. 

When the people on the outside are indistinguishable from those on the inside, then the wall is simply a mechanism for self-identification. It is a construct. It is a club membership card, and nothing more! If we are not different, then we are separate only by choice. We choose this life of isolation, to protect ourselves and our own comfort from the inconveniences of embracing people that are different than us. In other words, we are benefiting from disobeying the law of Christ! We refuse to follow him into the world outside, and we sanction it with our worship of Christ. This is contradictory behavior, founded in wrong beliefs about how we are so special that we are better than someone else. If we are to follow Christ we must abandon the wall that divides us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chap. 4, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 4

Why a Moderate Wall? 

In the last chapter I tried to answer the question “Why a wall?”. Why does an isolating but protecting wall describe the position of modern Christianity? In this chapter I want to delve into the modifier -- “Why a moderate wall?”. I don’t if most modern Christians even consider themselves as moderates, or if Christianity would be happy to proclaim itself as upholding the moderate position, but let me explain. To explain I’ll show that many in modern Christianity are indeed upholding a moderate, mainstream, centrist, rational position that is a delicate balance between the liberal left and the fundamentalist right. It is not a criticism. It is a realistic assessment of where many of us stand, those of us anyway that are not taking more radical positions on the left or the right. In any case, where ever you may stand in particular, you will probably agree that the moderate position is a very popular one. It is a position I would like to explore in much more depth.


Fundamentalism is a very real problem in Christianity. As usually tends to occur, progress is usually met with reactionary resistance. The modern trend for Christianity to allow more flexibility and to get along nicely with culture and society has of course been challenged by a strengthening of the far right who seeks to maintain the stricter, more dogmatic, version of Christianity from previous ages. Fundamentalism is often accompanied by dominionism, in which the far right seeks to forcibly spread its dogmatic ideals. Fundamentalism in Christianity takes the wisdom of God provided in the Bible and turns it into a Tower of Control, an ax to chop away the unwanted limbs, and a spear to dominate its surrounding environment. Fundamentalism is the same evil today that Jesus fought tooth and nail during his ministry. If there was anything that Jesus was the most clearly against, it was the religion-based domination and exploitation that he saw in the Jewish teachers of his day. To Jesus, this kind of religion was the worst kind of sin.

I was taught not to act or believe this way. When many of us Christians read the teachings of Jesus, we learn that he wanted transformation of the heart that made living by merciless laws unnecessary, and that enforcing laws on others is not kindness, but rather a kind of injustice. I was taught to enforce only the basics (doctrines, sins, etc.), because without these my relationship with God was in jeopardy, but to as great an extent as possible I was to tolerate other people’s opinions and actions, and not to ever force my (absolutely correct) beliefs on them.  Mainstream Christianity is not fundamentalist   On the other hand, there are far right factions that are clearly bent on domination, and as far as I am concerned they should just pack it up and go home.  Their way is based on trying to relive the past successes of domination of their fellow man.  They should get with the times and embrace their place in the world, which is along-side others instead of crushing others under their boots.  And this is all saying it nicely.  Fundamentalism is injustice when enforced on others.  Period.  

As I said many Christians, like 99% of the ones I know, would agree.  So, modern Christianity has largely abandoned the tower of control as a failed structure.  Like the people of Kog, this tower was toppled and lay in rubble until the new, more moderate structure of modern Christianity was built.  Meanwhile some smaller pockets of resistance keep their towers of control in tact.


So, the modern Christianity I am talking about is not on the fundamentalist right.  But is it on the liberal left?  Clearly not.  I speak from personal experience -- that same 99% of Christians that I know who are anti-fundamentalist, are also anti-liberal.  They uphold certain doctrines, beliefs, values, and views whether spiritual, political, or social, that are conservative and non-negotiable.  So, in regard to the those in the world that are more flexible on these ideals, modern Christians tend to uphold the more conservative position.  Obviously I am required to overgeneralize in order the make this statement, and there are some of us Christians who, like myself, are not conservative or moderate at all, and want to have our own category called "progressive" but are also fine being called liberals.

More specifically and more practically, why is modern Christianity anti-liberal?  Christians take a strongly conservative position when it comes to the Bible.  The essential tenets of belief are distilled from the Bible in such a way that doctrines and prohibitions can be listed along with their social implications in order to form the guiding documents (usually a constitution) of the local church or church governing body.  There is enough consensus across various churches that Christians can go easily from one church to another and feel at home.  In my case, I could find a non-denominational church (many of them) in any city that I visited or lived in that held to the same basic beliefs.  Of course, having firm beliefs does not necessarily make someone anti-liberal, unless they could be considered anti-liberal for their inflexibility for discussion and lack of tolerance of other views.  But beyond their inflexibility, the beliefs themselves of modern Christians tend to separate those Christians into a special category of favor with God where they are separate from the outside world, and protected from intrusion by those that commit sinful practices.  Christians believe themselves to be "Separate but equal" in society and in the eyes of God, and they believe that they should enforce norms of behavior in their churches in order to maintain this separateness from the outside world.  Without the dividing wall of separateness, they believe they will no longer be distinct from their fellow man, and will in a way cease to be Christian.  Without being "special" they cannot even be saved to spend eternity with God in heaven.  To get back to the question of anti-liberalism, most Christians believe that liberal views are blurry and flexible, if not fully opposed, to the views that hold up the separateness of Christians.  In other words, liberalism is opposed to the wall, and embraces the world outside, and an anti-liberal stance is needed to maintain the structure and institution of the modern church.

I will explore the specific doctrines that hold it up, but as you can see, this separateness is aptly described as a Moderate Wall.  A wall that stands for the doctrines and prohibitions of the modern Christian, that allow the modern Christian to be separate and different from the world outside, and at the same time making him or her in a special class in the eyes of God.  To give up this wall is to give up identity as well as salvation itself.  Thus the wall is firmly defended.  

But what if many of these doctrines are wrong?  What if in the face of scrutiny they are found to be opposed to the very message of Christ, and that following Christ would be better accomplished by believing something else?  What if, some of the tenets do not stand the test of time in the ages to come?  What will happen to this moderate wall?  Maybe, just maybe, the moderate wall of modern Christianity will give way, and something else will be built in its place.

Previous Chapters

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chap. 3, "A Moderate Wall" Blogbook

A Moderate Wall

a blogbook by Brad Duncan

Chapter 3

Three Metaphors

In the last chapter the three metaphors of community were described: The Tower of Control, The Isolating Wall, and the Bridge of Peace. The moderate position is the isolating wall. Compared to the tower of control, it does not seek control and domination of the outside world to as great a degree. But compared to the bridge of peace, the isolating wall protects the community inside and their ideals from outside intrusion. It does not embrace peace or hospitality to the people outside. Instead, it only welcomes people to come in and join them - if and only if they can conform to the standards and norms of the community that keep the wall in place. The hope of the community is that they will “stand for something” in the dark world around them, by representing all that is true and right. By standing for what they believe, others will see, come to their senses, and come and join them. In this way the community will keep vitality, growing and prospering. New ideas will enter the community slowly and after careful screening. The moderate position is a careful one.

Why a Wall?

If the Moderate Wall accurately describes the modern Christian community and culture, what sustains this moderate position? And why does the metaphor of an isolating wall fit so well to describe the moderate position? In my opinion, modern Christian culture builds walls by elevating certain concepts to the level that they can and must be enforced, while relaxing constraints on other concepts. The moderate wall is made of ideas. Ideas about human values and rights. Ideas about God and the redemption of mankind. Ideas about the specific role of the Bible in guiding modern Christians and Christian communities.

Like the people of Kog, modern Christianity firmly embraces the golden concepts revealed by God throughout history, and exemplified in the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, golden teachings that should lead only to love, kindness and hospitality. But modern Christianity also allows ideas to flourish that lead to power, control, domination, seclusion, anger, and even hatred of enemies. If you disagree with this assessment, watch CNN or read a book of history of the 20th century. Did the church and Christianity of the modern era exemplify the teachings and life of Christ? Will it be known primarily for its kindness? Or rather will it be known for its attempts at domination?

Many Christians try to have it both ways. We embrace both kindness and a kind of domination. We allow these two notions to remain juxtaposed, carefully positioned and balanced, to maintain order and control. In other words, to keep the church and Christians from going out of control. Flexibility about certain issues can be allowed, issues that don’t disrupt or threaten the community to as great a degree. In terms of Bible beliefs, this translates into “Articles of Faith” and “Creeds”, which are statements of faith about things that are non-negotiable. Additional items are usually enforced as well, as a list of prohibitions coming from the Old or New Testament. Topics not covered by these statements of faith and lists of prohibitions are generally flexible. Of course these lists are dependent on which church you enter, and which decade you enter it in. As a classic example, most modern Christians of my generation (I was born in 1970) were not allowed to swear or drink alcohol. Now, the current generation allows swearing and drinking to be more a matter of opinion. Certainly, opinions are offered, but if you swear or drink a beer, the deacons of the church will not appear at your house carrying stones. On the other hand, I have heard from many questioning Christians about the pain and rejection they have felt if they question the assumptions of faith and salvation, heaven and hell, literal and rigid doctrines, etc. These beliefs figure prominently in the constitutions (governing documents) of churches, and if you question them, you may literally get a visit from the deacons or elders, carrying stones in their every word.

As the post-modern era sweeps over us, the modern rigidity of ideas has started to fail. But to uphold the boundaries of truth and enforce the statements of faith, churches are still fighting back. Instead of chastising those that question, it is more likely in some communities that you will have to put up more subtle enforcement of cultural norms. Outside views are simply ignored. Inside views are regularly reinforced. Controversy is almost entirely avoided on any topic of importance. The church becomes a place of common ideas - “If you agree, come here. If you don’t agree, then leave or be quiet”. On the other hand, debates in the church tend to focus on topics not covered in the statement of faith or list of prohibitions, topics like how to worship, how to spend money, and what type of building to build. Personalities, clashes, power struggles, and shallow bickering are the focus of many conversations, whereas real topics of confusion and conflict about faith and God, are rare and rigid. If you are a modern Christian, where can you go to discuss your doubts and spiritual problems? Do you have a safe haven for that kind of constructive conversation? Hopefully you can find that with friends or smaller settings, like community groups, Bible study groups, or youth groups, but it is not likely to be found through the main functions of the institution, because the institution does not value that kind of interchange, except for the purpose of convincing people of what to believe, thereby enforcing the wall that holds it together.

Faith and Paradox

To take it a step further, I believe that the modern wall is a construct of our faith and theology. This construct is built through acceptance of paradox. In the modern era after the industrial revolution, the world is defined by laws and concepts, that together form the machine and fabric of the universe. Some things are not well understood, so they are simply accepted, but assumed that under further research, or “someday in heaven” everything will make sense and add up nicely. Modern faith is built on systematic analysis and faith that there is complete order in the universe. Faith is acceptance of paradoxes that we see today, in the hope that someday the contradictions will be mitigated through greater understanding or wisdom. In my view, this acceptance of paradox is what allows notions like love, grace, kindness and following Christ, to stand as equal peers alongside notions of judgement, protection, control and conquest. Both are deemed necessary to preserve our religious identity, and to complete our vision of God’s mission to us. Going back to the parable of the Kingdom of Kog, this paradox accepts both the nuggets of God’s wisdom, the golden bricks, and the human notions that are added to it to promote safe society, the earthen bricks. Continue with me on this journey as I uncover more about these bricks and what we’ve succeeded in building with them, so we can explore what could be built as an alternative to the Moderate Wall.

Previous Chapters

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Welcome to the Hunger Games!

by Brad Duncan

"...and may the odds be ever in your favor..." (positive inflection, sophisticated British accent required)

I just finished reading all 3 Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. 

Wow, good read with exciting plot twists, but also Wow that author really has a low view of humanity! The depths that humanity will descend to, just keep getting deeper book by book. (spoiler alert!) The Rebels who go back to take over the evil Capitol are just as evil ! On both sides are innocent good people, and on both sides are people hungry for power at any cost.  The innocent civilians are slaughtered left and right in the thirst for domination on both sides. The emotional trauma that everyone suffers is really the main point of the story of all the surviving characters, and everyone else is blown away :< ! I'm not exaggerating here.  If you care about any of the characters then you are upset at the end of the book.  I was sortof traumatized just reading it and I'm an action junky. Of course I know it's only a story...  And a good one at that.

But it made me think about the author's message.  The point is that what we humans tend to do and build can be SOOO shallow and SOOOO messed up.  It is a natural result of the human propensity to mess things up that structures built by society throughout history are so flawed.  It's a correct indictment on humanity that it is filled with both beauty and horrors built by our own hands. The answer is not to just write off humanity, but to PLAN on it messing everything up, and trying to build something wonderful anyway. A good marriage, a happy family, a community of believers, neighborhoods, towns, governments, non-profits, businesses, even entire religions! -- you get my point. 

Just laugh (or cry) at our propensity for destruction and forge ahead anyway. Don't take it seriously or believe it when people say that we've got it right and need to stand up for the institution or the way we've always done things! The way we've always done things is messed up! 

Instead of following the crowd, it is better to stand up for true humanity, to promote peace at almost any cost, the find good in people regardless of which structure of society they come from even if different from you, and please, please stop defending your own place in society so adamantly   That thing you built is just as flawed as anything else!

I hope my Hunger-Games-induced epiphany is not too ridiculous for all of you!  

And Welcome to the 2013th Hunger Games !  May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor!