First Reaction?

Today in the news was a sad story… Earlier in January a couple gave birth to sextuplets. Unfortunately two of them died, and three of the remaining four needed intense medical care in order to survive. The reason this story headlined the news, however, was not to highlight the tragedy of this story. What was at the forefront is a legal case of religious freedom conflicting with human rights as it relates to the parents’ refusal to accept medical care for their children. Thankfully the government intervened to provide the lifesaving treatment the surviving infants needed.

Much be could said regarding this story, and my first reaction was to write a post on “the limits of tolerance in a free society.” While there is a place to discuss this, an immediate leap into what I see as an “important” issue seems somewhat vain and insensitive to the fact that we live in a hurting world where each story we hear involves real people, not just issues to discuss.

Perhaps there is a more appropriate first reaction. So in my feeling of helplessness in the face of tragedy I invite you in join me in slowing down…

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgement comes forth perverted.
(Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Dave-ism

I am realizing that the tension I raised in my last post reflects the common tendency in North America to choose faith or truth on the basis of personal preference. One of my professors, John Stackhouse, recently posted on his blog (highly recommended!) under the heading "Spirituality: Informal, implicit, invisible..." His main point surrounds what he refers to as “do-it-yourself religion.” In the smorgasbord of religion, choice is left up to the individual where any sort of faith experience is completely separate from organized religion. Hence the motto “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” Professor Stackhouse is simply describing the modern context in which faith is practiced. This situation of personal faith leads to what he calls “Sheila-ism.” Basically, religion has become a mere reflection of personal choice and experience. All you have to do is take your name and insert it in front of “ism.” While I understand this is likely a reaction against traditional religion where choice was often left to an elite few and then imposed upon society, I just wonder if we perhaps have swung too far in the other direction…

Referring, then, to my question of personality and truth, I wonder if a sole understanding of reality and faith that is completely personal (Dave-ism) will bring sustained meaning and understanding to my life? Somehow, I think there is more, not at the expense of my personality, but at the same time not based on it. What this is, well, that I am still exploring…

So, once again I have not concluded the issue, but I think the question of whether or not my life is simply a “Dave-ism” is a helpful challenge to myself, and perhaps you as well…

Personality and Truth???

Most of you know that I am currently studying at Regent College in Vancouver. Anyway, as I am confronted by many different views in the topics I am studying, and find myself challenged to ask this question: To what degree does my personality affect my understanding of what is true?

Now, many of you know that I am fairly well-tempered person. I am quite optimistic about life and tend to see the goodness in humanity rather than becoming overwhelmed by the obvious reality of our shortcomings. What I am finding is that as I explore large questions of faith and reality my personality influences my conclusions. In the context of Christian theology, for example, my personality leads me towards adopting a high view for the potential of people, especially considering we are created by God. However, how do I then acknowledge the influence of sin and the role of evil in this world as people definitely don’t always live up to my optimistic understanding? Is this ok that my personality motivates my conclusions, even when the evidence seems to challenge it?

I know this is a big question, and I need to tread carefully when coming to conclusions about reality, especially considering the influence of emotions and what not… However, I don’t feel comfortable ignoring my own personality to suit some sort of truth reality that doesn’t jive with who I am?

This discussion is definitely not over and one solution is realizing that the process of understanding truth needs to include dialogue with other people. For now I just wanted to share my tension…

A Relational Reflection

I try to recall what life was like prior to our encounter on that fateful Christmas of 2004? In these two years we’ve known one another the wholeness in my life leaves me feeling so complete that the desolate experience of life I once had prior to our immediate unity is but mere obscurity in the recesses of my mind. Do other relationships really matter? Our time is so valuable. We commune when I am in transit. My study time is invigorating with continual inspiration of our dialogue. Comfort when comfort is needed. Energy in the face of sloth. Intrigue in light of boredom. Just reflecting like this leaves me in state euphoria I only feel with those most dear to me. What a friend I have!

Yet, all good things must come to an end. With the passing time my feelings are slowly beginning to disintegrate into a hidden dissatisfaction. The novelty of our interaction is wearing out. I realize that there are certain limits to our relationship. Others offer newer and more colorful ways of relating to me. I am bombarded with the proposals of newer and more novel experiences. The strain on my commitment is exhausting. Well, perhaps this is simply the natural course relationships take? With each day that passes my investment into you, once so dear, is slowly fading into an outdated and old fashioned friendship. What am I to do?

As I reflect on this potentially damaging question, perhaps I need a new perspective on our relationship. It is only temporal, is it not? One day I will wake up and realize that my infatuation with your allurement, while at times needed and necessary, possibly robbed me from an authentic interaction beyond "us." With that, I resolve not to leave you completely, but to no longer allow you to rule my thoughts and actions. Even as I say this I can hear your whisper in my ear, wooing me back. To this, I can only say that I take back the control. My devotion to you has blinded me to true interaction with others. Don't worry, this is not the end. I will stay committed, even in the face of the more alluring offers of friendship. What we need is a new perspective. On the journey of my life you will hold a special place in my heart, but never again the whole thing.

Thanks for listening! You truly are unique and I look forward to experiencing this new perspective on our friendship.

You will always be my first IPOD!

The church or not the church?

It’s easy to examine institutional Christianity and become frustrated at the apparent shallowness prevalent in the faith of many Christians, particularly in North America. Christianity seems to simply be another social attachment no more significant than a gym membership or social club. Individuality is expressed to the point where the Christian faith has become relegated to be true only as private preference, with no relevant meaning for the world beyond therapeutic benefit in face of difficulty (which in North America usually pales in comparison to the massive suffering in the rest of the world).

Ok, enough complaining, because if there is one thing that frustrates me, it’s ripping apart institutional Christianity without offering some sort of way forward. I think that the alternative required is a redeemed vision for what it means to be the church. Rather than accepting that Christianity has become a matter of personal preference (which leads many to drop it all together), I wonder if it is possible to reclaim its relevance within the context of the church and society… Is it really possible that institutional Christianity can still serve a purpose in our world? While many will say no, my understanding of church as true community that encompasses all areas of life forces me, no matter how depressing the track record, to emphatically say yes!

The church or not the church? I am willing to explore the church…

2007

Well, I am not sure what this coming year will be like. I am continuing to study at Regent College in Vancouver, as I am half way through my Master of Christian Studies degree. Julie has a begun a new job this week, which is exciting for us as she will be facing new challenges in the marketing world. I continue to be involved with young adults and music at our church, as well as a care group that we are in. I hope to play some more touch football in the spring and fall, and am looking forward to our trip to Winnipeg in May for Carolyn’s wedding. The summer will be a chance to ease the mind from my studies with a few months of roofing construction (believe me, I actually look forward to this!). Examining this list I realize that like 2006, 2007 will be a busy year…

And in this busyness I find myself once again challenged to connect with my surroundings, and not just get caught up in the act of “doing” things. I am usually not one for New Years resolutions, but this year I resolve to “be,” not just “do.” I am tired of the constant disconnectedness as we all run around doing more things, always seeking better and faster, all the while forgetting that we are leaving people out of our adventures. I hope 2007 will be a year of connection, not just for me, but for all who feel the weight of this busy world we live in.