Let’s Play Pretend

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In my previous post I encouraged my readers to take part in a meditation practice. The practice allowed us to create a vivid image of a perfected world. To imagine and visualize as concretely as possible a newly painted canvas of the world. To recall this image and continuously reform, reshape, and renew it.To begin to hope that the existence of such a world is truly possible. However for this practice to begin to take form beyond our imaginations and out into the world, unity is required. For humanities hope to slowly begin to transform all that we see around us there must be agreement about the object and aim of our future. Our hope must be directed towards and centered around a universal objective to become realized on earth today.

I want to suggest that our vehicle and object of hope is love. Love is the thing we must be directed towards and centered upon. The kind of love we see perfectly displayed in Christ. In Christ we find a concrete, vivid image of true love. Jesus is the exact representation and image of God. And God is love. The person, teachings, actions, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that displays for us a love capable of transforming our world. The cross becomes the center of all our hope. It was on the cross that an entire new reality was inaugurated upon the earth. Through the cross humanity was given the potential to become the hope of the better world we envisioned. The resurrection made way for the Kingdom of God to be made manifest today–on the very soil in which you are standing. On the cross, all those things we removed in our imaginations from the dark and broken world have already been overcome. Our job is to see such a world. Our job is to live it out as if it was real right now.

Problems arise because this new and perfected Kingdom isn’t always obvious. In fact, more often than not it is completely hidden. (This topic is discussed in a sermon by Greg Boyd that I would recommend). Our image of a world centered around perfect love must be the hope we hold on with all our might. Without hope–without possessing a faith aimed towards perfect love–transformation will be impossible. If we lose hope, if we give up on the possibility of perfect love, and rather become convinced that the ugliness we see in the world today is the best we can do this side of death, we are screwed. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich talks about such hopelessness; “Despair is an ultimate or “boundary-line” situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears.” If we do not imagine ourselves becoming something better, by uniting in a common hope, we are essentially condemning humanity to an end defined by fear. Lucky for us, our hope, our direction, our objective is perfect love–the only thing capable of eradicating fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

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Everyone is an Evolutionist!

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There is a large number of the human race, myself included, who believe that the earth was not created in a literal seven days as depicted in the Bible. Instead, there are those who have chosen to adhere to a worldview that regards the creation of the universe as being part of a very long [and ongoing] process. This creation began long before human life came into existence and the process to get there is incomprehensibly long. Then there are other people who believe the world was created in a way that more closely reflects the creation narrative in Genesis 1-3. This group does not agree upon all the specifics of the way or nature this creation account took place, which also applies to those whose own scientific understanding of how the universe has evolved to this point. In my opinion, no matter which camp each of us finds ourselves should not be of importance. At their core, both those who call themselves evolutionists and those who call themselves creationists rely on the same means by which to understand the reality in which we exist. This concept is rooted in the notion of becoming. Both individually and corporately, we are aware of the truth that we have been something other than what we find ourselves to be in the present moment and recognize we are becoming something that will differ in the future.

From a scientific point of view this process of becoming is rooted in the physical universe. Those from the religious background regard the process of becoming within a spiritual nature. Evolutionists rely on facts, those things capable of being studied, and proven though experimentation. Those who believe in God (I would contend regardless of their understanding of creation) rely on their faith in the unseen conscious (or spiritual) self as becoming transformed. What if we focused on the areas we agree upon—if even for a moment? What if we agreed to temporarily let go of what we have been and together attempt to agree on where we are going? There is no one that can disagree that yesterday cannot be changed and likewise no one who can assert that tomorrow is decided. The past is gone. The future is yet to be.

“Forget the former things; 
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness 
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

I believe besides agreeing in a future that looks different than today, there is another point of unity we can find between the religious and scientific communities. A place where all of humanity can find a general, although possibly somewhat ambiguous, coherence. I want to believe most of us could imagine or hope that there is a better way to live that humanity has not yet achieved. I will admit there are exceptions to this, but I think they are the minority. It is in regards to this idea that I want to request some of your time…Give yourself some time and space to imagine the world in its present state. Then begin to remove any and everything that you would if you could. Each time you restore something that is broken or rebuild the ruined or remember the forgotten—as you renew the earth begin to see it in your imagination in this new way. Begin to let that deep resonating longing of your heart to be set free. Don’t allow fear of any kind hold you back from dreaming up even those things that seem impossible. Stay conscious of the tendency to fall into negativity, and any time you sense it happening, gently but slowly bring your mind back. Think globally to divert selfish inclinations (something we all are naturally inclined to).

No hunger. No illness. No evil. No bullies. No suicide. No pollution. No depression. No hatred. No greed. No wars. No murder. No insecurities. No divisions. No violence. No sexual abuse. No disabilities. No exploitation. No anxiety. No fear. Then add more of the things that make life beautiful. More joy. More kindness. More grace. More scientific advancements. More intimacy. More creativity. More generosity. More beneficial communication. More growth. More freedom. More vitality. More trust. More healing. More energy. More forgiveness. More laughter. More love.

Try it. Imagine it. Visualize it. Hold onto it for dear life. Fall crazy in love with it. And when that crazy love roots itself inside you, I dare you to begin to hope for it. In fact, I am pleading with you—have hope.

In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

A Response to Jim Inhofe: Does God give us power to create change?

Pin_InhofeI have this terrible habit of becoming too accustomed to my own beliefs—I suppose we all do. We too often surround ourselves with like minded people, watch the news channel we deem as the most fair and balanced, and its rare that we willingly challenge our worldviews. The reason we do this is because having your worldview challenged isn’t easy. Changing our worldview is to change our whole of reality. It is scary, emotional, time-consuming, and requires intentionality. And why would anyone want to intentionally seek out new information so they can find out that which they thought was truth wasn’t such a black and white issue after all? I have found that most often people undergo a worldview shift during a traumatic life event (this was me after my late husband’s death), an environmental change (attending college or traveling the world), or by experiencing a revelation (be it religious or not). As difficult a task as it may seem, challenging what we have always believed to be true is what causes us to grow as people. To open our minds and hearts to the ideas and beliefs of those around us, we are in essence creating for ourselves a bigger world to take part in. Too many times in my life, I have been guilty of the same thing. We seek comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

As I have begun to write over the last couple weeks about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with my hopes set on challenging some views about our world to those reading, at times I begin to panic. I am so immersed in my own worldview—in what I believe, how I regard the world, and where I think that is taking humanity—I begin to think everyone is on the same wavelength as me. Things that have become natural to me start to transform into the things I believe are obvious to everyone. This is a dangerous place to put yourself. Not only will you inevitably end up hurting someone at some point with your assumptions, but you will also hold back from helping others to expand their worldviews and potentially see a new possibility (or vice versa). So it is a fine line … don’t assume others believe what you believe, but don’t hold back from engaging others because you think they already see the world the same way you do.

I have feared this is what I’ve been doing in this series. That those things I am desiring to write about are obsolete or obvious. There is no question in my heart that God is leading and directing me in this work, but my fears of stating the obvious are trying to silence me. Then I read about Senator James Inhofe. So much could be said. The environmental issues the world is facing will be a topic I intend to cover in this series, so I want to avoid it until I am able to lay some groundwork for my opinions. Even though I won’t be discussing Inhofe and the environment in particular, I do want to examine the most publicized of his noteworthy quotes from over the last few years that has recently resurfaced as he prepares for his new role in office. It was this quote that reminded me God does have a bigger world for all of us to open our eyes to and my fears of bringing forth a wealth of obsolete ideas couldn’t be further from the truth (and I feel assured that regardless, it is not my concern if I am following a call to do so).

While we all know Inhofe is clearly an extremist when it comes to his views on climate change, I’m afraid his biblical conclusions regarding God and humanities role in creation aren’t quite as uncommon among Christians. The following was taken from an interview Inhofe did in March 2012, he said;

My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

The underlying message Inhofe is conveying is sadly one I believe many Christians would agree with if they were to lay all their cards on the table. As Christians, we do that which we feel called or conditioned to do … for some this means to live as righteously as possible, follow laws, go to church, tithe; for others it means loving your neighbor, ushering in the Kingdom, feeding the poor; for others it means both …. BUT … regardless of what we are called to do, the message we give to the world is Christians do not—in fact, cannot—truly bring change to the kingdom of darkness now enveloping this earth. In my opinion this viewpoint opposes the message Jesus came to bring. The good news is better than do good, love lots, give generously … but don’t expect heaven to come crashing down when you do.

Believing this leads to the way you lead your life, convey the gospel to others, and worse puts the Incarnate Christ in a box! I think we have forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit left behind to help us. I think we have failed to recognize free will is more than just choosing to do one thing or another, it is choosing to create with God, bring about the Kingdom of God, and participate in His gift of giving us the opportunity to cause change! Pray for this, set your hope on it, and ask God to reveal the ways you see the world and your faith in too small of a way.

(Quote taken from: Tashman, Brian (8 March 2012), “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change“, Right Wing Watch, retrieved on 2012-03-13)

Hope Matters

Pin_HopeMattersThe word “but” is one of those words no one wants to hear right after someone says to you … I love you, I’m sorry, or I think you are a really great person. It is something I like to refer to as a “yes, but” statement. I’m sure you can think of people who have dropped the “yes, but” on you. I’m also sure you can think of a time or two you’ve dropped one on another–I know I can. It is easy to do. It is the having your cake and eating it too of interpersonal communication. We want to make the other person feel better, make ourselves feel better, or ease the tension of a conversation….but we also want to make sure our point is understood, our agenda is being met, or our conscious is left guilt free. The problem is a “yes, but” statement always creates a contradiction regarding the true emotions, feelings, or intentions of the speaker. It devalues the speaker’s credibility and confuses the hearer—who will likely end up unconvinced.

In my experience, I have found there to be a bit of a “yes, but” attitude among Christians today. It is an attitude that we all can be sympathetic towards. The world we live in is broken. We’ve all endured suffering. We’ve all experienced loss. It is tough to look at the evils that take place on this planet and not wish at times to just sink down to the ground and give up on it all. It is an attitude that is bound to wash over everyone once and a while. However, trouble arises when this attitude begins to cling to us, becomes natural to us, or is left unchecked and unconfessed for a long period of time. As our lives pass the fear of suffering, loss, death, evil, and ugliness in humanity slowly becomes the thing we expect. And if even more time passes, in which the incarnational truth and hope found in the New Testament washes away such pessimism, fear becomes the only outcome we will see as possible. Once a person comes to expect that for now fear/death will always prevail on earth, the gospel becomes a story about hoping in heaven, rather than placing our hope in our promised new earth and our coming resurrection.

Pierre Teilhard’s hope is that which continues to amaze me when read his works. This isn’t solely because of what he says or teaches regarding our future hope, it is because of the way he embodies such a hope. He is audacious enough to imagine a future in which humanity unites, loves, and manifests Christ on earth. Sadly, even as I’m writing about his hopeful ideals, I can feel a “yes, but” trying to creep into my preconditioned thoughts.

It sounds something like this: “While, of course I believe that Christians will someday unite, love, and fully manifest Christ on earth …. but it won’t ever fully be realized through us…well, at least not until Jesus comes back and finishes everything he didn’t finish on the cross” That last bit should feel like fingernails on a chalkboard and although you may never have heard a Christian confess such an appalling statement, it is what we are insinuating when we tag on a ‘but’ after speaking about Christ’s message of the Kingdom come, isn’t it? How is this acceptable to us? Christ on the cross is the center, the fulfillment, the reconciliation, the salvation, and the most beautiful act self-sacrificial love that will ever be known. Hope is found when we look at the cross, hear our Lord utter ‘It is finished,’ and then love one another so outlandishly that fear must flee from our presence. The hope Christ came to incarnate, teach, and die for simply cannot exist within a “yes, but” statement. To follow up the hope of the gospel with a “but” is to surrender our faith as hopeless.

I am a far cry from embodying hope the way Teilhard does. I also know that he struggled with this vision of hope after serving in WW1 (a topic I will discuss at a later time). I still struggle everyday to affirm the truth that on the cross it truly was ‘finished.’ I look around my life, the church, the world and find it hard to not to find it an impossible notion that God’s Kingdom could ever fully be realized on this very planet. There are times though, moments of fleeting wonder, in which even just for a few mere seconds I allow hope to overwhelm me. A true sense of hope, a pure and child-like hope, and such beauty has the power to take the breath right out of my lungs. It is akin to trying to imagine the end of the universe, eternity, or infinity. These times or moments most often come to me when reading Teilhard, in fact I’m not certain I had felt such hope ever before discovering him. His hope is contagious and intoxicating. Jesus came, lived, and died for a hope—the hope to see God’s Kingdom come to earth (not the other way around). Teilhard shamelessly mirrors this hope. I would give anything to live in such a state.

As I said earlier, Teilhard’s teaching doesn’t center on the idea of hope—it is more embedded in all his other thoughts. I continue to emphasize it however—especially early on in the series—because without a willingness on our part to try to imagine the incarnational hope of the kingdom come, we will never truly be able to open our minds and learn from what his message to us is. I want Christ-followers to become desperately hungry for such a Christ-like hope. If we say we have hope, but then claim our hope is in a ‘there’ rather than the ‘here’ it seems to me we are failing to preach the gospel.

“I believe that the world will never be converted to Christianity’s hopes of heavens, unless first Christianity is converted to the hopes of the earth.” Teilhard

Teilhard, . C. P. (1968). Science and Christ. New York: Harper & Row.p.127