06 December 2005


My StaplerFriend has been doing a lot of thinking lately about faith and the spectrum of belief. He has raised some interesting issues about those who believe that they have found the absolute answer to life, the universe and everything (42, if you've read certain books, although it's much more complicated and they have great long credos and articles of faith they'd like you sign up for and you can read one here, seriously) versus those who think that everything that anyone has ever thought has merit of some sort. Thinking of the first sort feels as tho one's feet are bound in concrete, thinking of the second as tho one were standing on jello. Both foundations leave something to be desired.

Of course, reading the posts done by my StaplerFriend caused many conversations between LightHusband and I. And then I got to thinking.

Too many authors and thinkers (beginning with the Enlightenment) present issues in a straight line, with pros on one end and cons on the other. More usually, conservative thinking is presented on the "right" and liberal thinking is presented on the "left." Centrists are, not surprisingly, in the center. So with this dichotomy, authoritarian thinkers are on the right, and mystics are on the left and the further one is in either direction, the further out one might place oneself on the spectrum.

But here's the thing, there's only one "person" who might rightfully be placed at the center of this spectrum; who might be at the perfect middle. That would be Jesus. He embodies the perfect combination of both authoritarian and mystic and every other ism besides. So then the question becomes how to decide for oneself where one stands on the spectrum.

This is where it gets messy. Because I started to think about the whole spectrum idea and decided it's somewhat lacking. The whole straight line idea is sooo ... I don't know ... two dimensional. On some issues, I'm definitely to the left of center; some far left, some just a little, some just to the right and I move as I learn and take in new information. So I thought about concentric circles. Jesus is still at the dead center and people are closer or further away from Him depending on their "orbit." We use this paradigm to loosely describe membership at our church. Some people have a close orbit, others further out. Some come every week, some rarely, some we only see once or twice a year, some we never see and only hear from via e-mail. Some just listen in from the outer edges at the coffee shop we meet in (they think we don't notice them, but we do; we just respect their privacy). But I didn't like this paradigm for belief, because once again it doesn't do an adequate job of describing me on any given day because I move so much on so many different issues.

I thought about a spiral. This is kind of a both/and; it uses the line AND the concentric circle. I think it allows for more movement. But still, really, it's too clean. What it doesn't allow for is any human-ness. It doesn't allow for any mistakes or any grace to work it's way through our lives.

What I think works best is a colander of spaghetti. Unfortunately, I will not be able to sell this to any book publishers because it will not sell well. This does not make for any lovely graphics and neat side bars. But I think it does adequately describe the line our faith/belief takes as it winds around center point of the person of Jesus. Maybe church is a whole colander of people thrown together, with their lives winding around Jesus and each other and sticking together. Maybe the best churches are the ones where the cook rinsed the pasta, so the noodles can easily move. Maybe grace is a really good sauce that permeates each strand.

Maybe I need another cup of coffee this morning.


Blogger kate said...

Maybe you're making me hungry.
Then again, I'm still feeling hungry from those photos of your tremendous-sized apple pie.

12/06/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Oh, good Lord, say it ain't so. Our sister Sonja has clearly been tainted by the Satanic heresy of Pastafarianism. You say Jesus is at the center of your pasta bowl, but it sure sounds like the Flying Spaghetti Monster to me. Everyone, join me in praying for poor, noodle-straying Sonja, and ask the true Lord (who stands at the rightmost end of a ramrod straight line, end of story, as any true Christan knows) to bring her back to the Straight and Narrow, where linguini and ziti may not go (but angel hair might be OK).


12/06/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Israel said...

I think I like the 3-dimensional expansion of the 2-dimensional... and honestly, not to just to try to make Jesus more approachable to everyone, but honestly, I think Jesus really isn't about to be categorized with the mystic or the reformer. He both calls individuals to account over and over in scripture and upends what seems like his "holiness criteria" by telling the story of the story of the good samaritan -- upending the "good guys" and exhaulting what is seen as a "false religion." No wonder Sadhu Sindar Singh calls him "the Master" in reverence and wonder. He can't be categorized... he is that spaghetti mix and the sauce and his word is "sharper than any two edged sword. Dividing joint from marrow, soul from spirit." It's funny, I have to see the words of the apostles through the eyes of an eastern Christian for them to reaquire their mystery and worth. But God bring us what we need, I believe.

12/06/2005 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Aj Schwanz said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments and offerings of prayer: they mean a great deal.

We started sharing spiritual journeys yesterday in a small group I facilitate. One very creative person had taken a picture of a mountain, full of paths and caves and hidden places and exposed places, and marked periods of her journey on there. She said she came across themes repeatedly in her life, but she hoped that as they came up that she was at a higher perspective (and one that's closer to Jesus). I thought is was a beautiful picture, not only of our own journey, but also of belief "systems" and how they don't really matter if they aren't getting us closer to God.

12/07/2005 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Hey, thanks for your kind comments everyone ...

Israel, I guess I was putting Jesus in the center, to point out that He must be at the center of our lives and that no one else can be the center point of a line. But I did it rather badly. Not that He is either one or the other, or even a mix of mystic or reformer. You're right, He does rise above it all and then upends it all too.

Aj, I love that picture of a mountain with paths and caves and hidden and exposed places. Very cool ... But you're right. Ultimately, if it doesn't draw us closer at some point, to God, it doesn't really matter. Here's hoping it does draw us closer to Him.

12/07/2005 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

I love the mountain image too, and note that it's not altogether different from the bowl of spaghetti suggested by Sonja. (Which I like too, despite my FSM tomfoolery.) Both of them are somewhat organic and convey the sort-of-wildness that characterizes life in this world and the spiritual journey. God and faith don't smooth out the twisty turnyness and sheer overgrown variety of life for us, and on the whole I'm glad of that.

12/08/2005 12:12:00 AM  

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