I have found myself in a slight panic in the last day or so. But it wasn’t the “normal” things over which I might push the “panic” button. It was something weird. Weird enough to blog about anyway…
My panic moments have involved information. Content. And here’s the weird part. I was freaking out about the fact that I had not heard about some particular information. The content actually wasn’t that important or life-changing in the least. But I was behind. Others had received the information before I did and it caused me to freak.
We live in an unusual time. A time where the immediacy of content, not the content itself determines validity. What we know isn’t as important as how quickly we know…or if we are to be honest…who knew it before us. If we don’t know it first, then we can’t capitalize on it first. This used to be the linchpin of gossip. Now, it’s the linchpin of going “viral.” And someone else will beat us to the next great idea. It’s become apparent that the next great idea is also the next great fleeting idea. So there’s little chance that even though we may be first, we will only be first for a short time. It’s not whether you are watching the same video – it’s whether you can download it in 3G or 4G.
This creates two different types of responses in people. The first is mild panic and clamoring to be first. That is what I have felt lately. The second response is the more mature one I think. And that response is “What’s the rush?” Eventually, the immediacy of content thrills us little and the quality of content surfaces again. And we stop clamoring to gain information because we realize that the information is useless anyway. It has no staying power. It’s not quality. It doesn’t speak to anything beyond self-gratification.
Eventually we have to stop clamoring to purchase the new Lady Gaga album from Amazon because it’s only 99¢. The question has nothing to do with Lady Gaga’s availability. It has to do with whether or not her music is worth 99¢ or $99. Does it have staying power? Do any of the items we drool over have staying power? Are we chasing products or merely newer versions of the same products?
I have a theory. If it is quality content, it will still be here once the immediacy of that content is gone. Good things stick around. If that’s true, then what’s the rush?
I’ll post something more “theological” in a little while. I’ve been pondering some very different ideas the last week or so.
I live in a small town. It’s nice and easy-going. I know a lot of people – if I walk down Broad Street or go to Publix, I can count on having to wave at half a dozen friends and acquaintances. Sometimes I feel like I know everybody. But other times I get overwhelmed with the inner complexity of people. Everything I don’t know about those same friends and acquaintances. Humans are more than just their greetings and clothes. More than niceties and laughter. They are very, very complex. And that overwhelms me. There are millions of fragile cognitive interactions and emotional reactions that play into the behavior of any given individual. I get the privilege of helping people sort through those intricacies when they rise to the surface. It’s the most daunting thing a person can do: attempt to understand another person.
I like to describe the composition of the human psyche in a way that we can all understand: chocolate and vanilla swirled pudding snacks. Yep. That’s how I look at the human race. Intrigued? Read on, friend. People are born hard-wired with a natural disposition toward certain behaviors and attitudes. But then life happens…and with it, a myriad of relationships, habits, lifestyle choices, and information. Some has more staying power than others. Most people start out complex to begin with – like the image to the left. But when all these other heartaches, triumphs, fears, and celebrations are added in, it’s the equivalent of someone taking a spoon and swirling up all the “flavors” of life to the point they become indistinguishable from another. Puréed people. It’s no longer chocolate and vanilla. It becomes…”choc-nilla”…or something. And that’s what scares me.
I was in a room full of people this morning. Not a huge amount – enough to fit in a medium-sized room. But when you imagine the depth of their psychological and spiritual makeup, the abyss of who they truly are runs so deep that I imagine it would come out on the other side of the planet. I can’t sort everybody out. But I believe God can. The layers of identity that exist beneath what I encounter on a daily basis is far beyond anyone’s ability to investigate. That is still very much God’s territory. Only a fool would think otherwise. It does help me to be sensitive though. To understand that for every action that surfaces, there were thousands (maybe millions) that contributed to its arrival. And that’s something I can always keep in mind simply because it serves as a foundation for extending grace to others. The same grace I hope others will extend to me.
As a follow up to the Interview with a Wiccan post, I thought I’d explain a little about cults, the occult, and alternative religions. I find these to be some of the most confusing topics about religion. Hopefully, I can clear up some misconceptions with this post.
Sects/cults become credible over time as new members are added and others begin to accept their existence. As sects turn into more accepted denominations, they often breed spiritual complacency among their members who begin to desire to return to the “good old days” when the movement was smaller and more radical. In turn, this produces more sect formation by dissatisfied members. These “renewal movements” only become independent sects when the existing church rejects their overtures for spiritual renewal. They merely want to renew the spiritual life of the church. If they are accepted, we call them “revivals” and talk about how great they are. Pejorative labels such as “cult” are given by the mainstream body after rejecting the movement’s overtures for change. Often times, sects require strict adherence to beliefs and high levels of commitment – essentially an ”all or nothing” approach. Conversely, sectarians believe that the stress of asceticism is rewarded with spiritual power – something the group that rejected them did not possess.
And that’s when all the heresy talk starts. Our understanding of heresy now (which is applied to all types of religious “infractions”) is not the same as the early church. Initially, it only dealt with foundational truths of the Christian faith – namely the divinity of Jesus. In the fifth and sixth centuries, it became associated with other aspects of Christianity - for example Origen’s musings about universalism. But honestly the modern term most commonly derives its nastiness from the writers of church history. Hopefully everyone knows by now that only the “winners” in history write the books. And the same is true of church history. Cult critics initially only disapproved of a group’s method of worship, not the doctrines themselves. But over time, as accusations are repeated in church histories, the doctrine was often deemed heretical as well. For example, the Montanists (initially part of the church) were a rigorous and devout group of Christians – orthodox in their foundational beliefs. However, by choosing to self-appoint church leaders and hold a place for women in leadership, they came under ecclesiastical fire. Along with that came the critic’s rejection of the Montanist’s use of spiritual gifts. It’s not that the gifts were wrong – but that women were practicing them. Eusebius quotes Apollonius: “Does a prophet paint his eyelids?” The issue was not with prophecy but rather who was prophesying: someone the church had not sanctioned. Throughout church history, heresy had little to do with doctrine and much to do with issues of recognized authority.
As such, cults aren’t usually heretics in the authentic sense of the word. What cults oftentimes are is heterodox. Now that doesn’t mean “wrong.” It means outside of mainstream acceptance. Any evangelical historian worth their salt will tell you that “orthodox” simply means the “majority opinion” – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority opinion is “correct,” though many times it does. So, many of the “orthodox” opinions we hold today were at one time heterodox, until enough people accepted them. To step away from religion for a minute, we all hold gravity to be an “orthodox” part of science. But Newton developed the “heterodox” idea of gravity from his occult beliefs in Neoplatonism, and alchemy. That may surprise you. But that’s a perfect example of something “heterodox” evolving into an accepted mainstream and orthodox belief. If the origins of gravity embarrass you, then you’re missing the point. All things are heterodox at their inception - including religious belief systems.
So, what should you glean from all of this? First, stop throwing around the term “heresy” for every little religious belief that doesn’t match your preconceived ideas. Secondly, no matter what mainstream religious group you belong to, you can thank your original “cult” leaders for being persistent in the face of opposition from the mainstrean religion of the time. What people called “crazy” then, we call “normal” now. And, third, be kind to the people “beneath” you on the religious food chain – they will be where you are within a couple of centuries…
Filed under Christianity, church history, God, New Age, occultism, religion, sociology, spirituality, theology, Uncategorized, wicca
That title sounds like one of those reality shows about car chases or wild animals – “When Animals Attack!, Part 17″ or something…
I’m an eco-friendly guy to a degree. I don’t recycle everything possible or buy those cool looking light bulbs for every light in the house. But I try to recycle when the opportunity affords and practice energy and water conservation. We don’t make a huge deal of it at our house. We have recycling bins at our church office and I use those. But something happened the other day that really angered me. Claire Grace came home after preschool and began to lecture me about the plastic bottle in the trash can. She then proceeded to tell me about the inevitable destruction of all rain forests and how we needed to do something about that as a family right now! Let me remind you that CG is still 4 years of age (at least for a few more days). Four! That’s a little early to be looking for numbers on the bottom of plastics, isn’t it? So, I told her not to worry about the rain forests and recycling so much. Right now, her main job in life is to “have fun with reckless abandon.” Before you taunt me with accusations of morose parenting, let me explain my logic. You may find it commendable in the end.
Claire Grace got her urgent messages about the environment from two places: public television and preschool. Part of my response to her was to relay the often missed fact that people take various stances on the issue of the environment. Last time I checked, people have a choice to be eco-friendly. Yet, that’s not the message she was receiving. She was being indoctrinated. Come on, Sam – that’s a little harsh isn’t it? Well, look at it this way. Along with the basics of what it takes to care for the environment (something certainly worth knowing), CG was also getting a healthy dose of valuation without really asking for it. Morality was attached to the message of environmental conservation. So, she assumed that my decision to throw a plastic bottle in a standard trash can was an immoral or unethical decision. The inherently right decision would’ve been to find a recycling bin. We use this lingo all the time with secular/social/philosophical themes. After all, we need to “save” the earth, right? Yet, no one likes to point this out…mostly because we get enough righteous indignation from folks without asking for it.
Sadly, those who attach moral significance to the “right to choose ” in one agenda will completely disregard it in other scenrios. The same “choice” of individuality that was denied me by my daughter where going “green” was concerned is forced down my throat when it comes to abortion, for example. Women have a choice. And when the issue of gay marriage comes up, I’m denied that same right to choice used to support abortion when I disagree with same-sex unions. Funny, huh? I’ve never really met the “freedom of choice” police, but evidently that freedom only applies in pre-approved situations. I’m waiting for my manual to arrive in the mail so I can be up to date on which decisions have already been made for me.
I’m a minister. I believe in Jesus Christ. I also believe Christians have a responsibility to the environment. Though I would like for you to believe in Jesus, I cannot make you. It’s your choice. It may surprise you to know that I am totally okay with that. I am constantly amazed at those who malign religion and those who want to “legislate” morality. Yet they have no qualms about applying a similar level of religious “fervor” to their own fashionable cause. All I’m asking for is the same professional courtesy I give you. Please don’t indoctrinate my daughter. She can make the choice to be “green” for herself one day.
I guess it just goes to show that we are all religious about something…
Filed under Christianity, culture, family, gay, homosexual, lesbian, life, marriage, parenting, religion, sociology, spirituality, Uncategorized
I was up early this morning and was looking out the bay window of our kitchen. This was the view: sunrise over the lake. I went outside barefoot in the 40° weather and took this picture. I used to look at the sunrise and sunset all the time…
I’ve been think about something lately. Unfortunately, time determines my disposition much more than I would like for it to. When I was home for two years finishing my doctoral dissertation, I had plenty of time. Lots of time to reflect. Lots of time to take an extra ten minutes to accommodate my kids’ whims and join in on the folly. Lots of time to read. Lots of time to look at all the cotton fields around our neighborhood grow to harvest.
Now, I don’t feel I have that same amount of time. Things that my children did previously irritate me now because they make us late. I just don’t feel like I have as much time to watch the seasons change. I still read heavily by most people’s standards, but not nearly at the rate I would like to. I find myself “pushing back” against the things that take my time, whether it be a longer-than-normal red light or a child who believes being “high maintenance” is a worthy goal. I’m the same guy, believe the same things, love my children the same way. But now there’s a difference: time. In this way I’m still adjusting speeds of life. And at the moment, I see the biggest enemy in my life as the tyranny of the urgent. One of the things that angers me the most is realizing I had free time and that I squandered it on things that have no real value or permanence.
There’s a pretty good book out there – Stephen Bertman’s Hyperculture: The Cost of Human Speed. This should be required reading for all those who believe life should be driven in the “fast lane.” The problem is that we’re not created to live at our present cultural speed. Bertman dissects this very problem and the relational, physical, and emotional problems it creates.
I don’t need to fight a whiny kid or a task list or a reminder chime on an Outlook calendar. I just need to fight the feeling that I have to rush everywhere I go. My relationships suffer for it. And though I have heard the phrase I used for my title used in a different way, it’s in this present sense that I struggle with it. Time can change and man or woman when they respond to the threat of time loss at the expense of healthy life choices.