Finding God In the Waves

There are these people who give me little snap shots of who they are, and I think, “Wow.  I want to know more.”

That is how I have always felt about “Science Mike” McHargue.  He is a thinker, writer, and blogger.  He is also  one of the two Mike’s behind the liturgist podcast, and does some solo work, here which is more focused on science.

I got what I had been wishing for.  I just finished his book, “Finding God in the Waves.

If you could spin the book really fast to force all the things that went into it to separate, or maybe boil the book, and reach the melting point of some of the constituents in order to isolate the things that make it up, I think you would come up with 3 different ingredients.

First, the book is a spiritual autobiography.  Science Mike spent the first half of his life in a fairly conservative/evangelical Christian Church.  When life circumstances lead him to question his faith, he began a transition to closeted atheist.  He eventual left the closet, and began a journey back to a reconstructed faith.

Secondly, the book is an attempt to balance the newest findings of science with the ongoing wisdom of following Christ.  Astronomy and brain chemistry get the most attention, but there’s lots of compelling psychology and sociology, too.  I can be a bit of a snob about these sort-of attempts.  In my experience, authors who try to bring together faith and science usually end up doing a mediocre job on one of these.  Or both.  McHargue is kind of intimidating, because he is way smarter than me in both these areas.  So near as my little brain can figure, he gets them both right.

Thirdly, “Finding God in the Waves” is a blue print of what a reconstructed, science-informed faith might look like.  There are times that this book reminded me of Descrarte’s Meditations.  The French Philosopher began with the question, “What if everything my senses bring me is wrong?”  The American thinker begins with the question “What if everything I used to believe is wrong?”  Both authors respond to this by creating a series of axioms that will prove to be the building blocks of a new set of beliefs, which hopefully end up being more defensible than the previously unquestioned assumptions.

My favorite thing about the writing here is how frequently it flips the script.  I will be cruising along, reading almost on autopilot.  A few key sentences will start me heading in a certain direction, and then, from nowhere: Blam!  Suddenly, things do exactly the opposite of where I expected to.  The effect is sometimes funny, or touching, or both.

My favorite thing about the author is that he is so courageously even-handed.  That’s a thing about hanging out in the middle: Sometimes it feels like you are pissing off everybody.  I wonder if the author sometimes feels tempted to play to one side, or the other, just to get somebody to sign-on, whole-heartedly with his ideas.

This even-handedness plays out in a couple ways.  Sometimes, it is around intellectual debates.  He takes an amazingly consistent approach with calling out the good and the bad in targets as diverse as New Atheism and Old-School Baptist Churches.

But this even-handedness plays out in another way that is a little more difficult to articulate.  One way to say it is to say that he has all these different intelligences.  He is compellingly analytical when the situation calls for it.  And then, a page later, he will say something that demonstrates an emotional intelligence, that isn’t about chopping things up so much as looking at the big picture.  His proficiency with using the right mental tool for the right mental job lead me to be so fascinated that I  read this book in like 3 days.

You should go buy it and read it.  It was really good.  It will be released on September 13

 

Beginings

All that is

And all that ever was

And all

That would ever

Be

 

Not even emptiness

No time to stretch out into

Yet

 

Oh you trinity

Of primal forces

Conjoined meeting of matter and

energy.

 

You

You gave up your body for

Me

 

When you burst forth and made space-

time

 

There was a serpent

And also

betrayal

Torrent

This torrent comes crashing down,

A wild thing from up so high.

Niagra would look with awe at this fall.

 

Here, below.

Mostly we gather on the shore.

And the holy men in their hip waders bring the little cups.

They grimace as they fill them and bring them back to us.

The spray and the run off have soaked them.

They walk slowly.  Slowly to us.  

Apostles and apprentices towel them off solemnly.

There are so many of us here now.

We wait.  And the water is so much of everything.

But the cup is emptied so soon.

 

I do not listen to them as I step into the water.

I discard my clothes and I do not care that they are watching.
I stand beneath the waterfall with my arms stretched out wide.

They make a wide space for me,

As they continue their conveyance to their followers,

Back and forth, back and forth.

New Cool Stuff

This little blog is home to whatever random things wander into my head: poetry, theology, politics, cultural criticism…  It’s been pretty awesome to throw my thoughts out into the world and have a sense that somebody is listening.  I think probably I will continue to post here.

But my journey has been leading me to feel like I have some relevant things to say in one pretty specific area.  Contemplation, meditation, and silence are becoming increasingly important to me.

I have put together a site focused on these things.  I think it’s some of the best work I have ever done.  It certainly has lots more useability and looks prettier than jeffsdeepthoughts.

Why don’t you click the link below and give it a look?

The Contemplace

Apophasis

Now comes the time of unsaying.

Unseeing.

 

I will thank you for this desert time

This darkness is different than the place of fear I once knew.

It is the same.

 

I went, maker,

As far as those roads would lead us.

I stood in the light and I sang of joy for such a long time.

 

Until this love,  more than love is no longer love.

Until this joy more than joy is no longer joy.

This wisdom more than wisdom leads me into this blessed new holy foolishness.

 

Leafless naked branches do not part like a sea for me.

Night insects eat of my flesh and drink of my blood.

I must and I must not turn back to that gathering I am walking away from.

 

I step foreward one foot after the other and remind myself that

It always was and will be a journey

Inward, and downward.

 

The world got so full or miracles.

They were suddenly everywhere and by definition nowhere.

 

I am so glad to find you here

In this place where I do not see your hand.

 

Burden

I am a straight, white, male, CIS,  Christian.  In a disgusting variety of circumstances, me, or somebody a lot like me, is likely to be the first to ask questions, answer questions, expound, pontificate, and attempt to take charge.  I am learning that this is a problem.

It was a bunch of years ago I started to wrap my head around this.  I first started to think about it when the film, “Cry Freedom” lead me to the book, “Biko.”  These are a portrait of a South African freedom fighter who wouldn’t allow European-descended allies to join his groups.  In college, I began to process the idea that racism, sexism, etc packs a 1-2 punch.  The obvious loss is the way that oppressed groups are made to feel as though they can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t have the answers.  The more subtle, but no less significant problem is that people in the majority like myself are socialized to think that we always have to provide the answers, that we have this burden and duty to work out these issues.

Steve-Biko-Quotes-5

Much more recently, my awesome church spent these months focusing on these issues.  I was introduced to the concept of whitespaining and mansplaining.  (If these terms are new to you, I rustled up this definition online: ” to explain or comment on something in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, from the perspective of the group one identifies with,”

I have been trying to listen more and talk less.  I am embarrassed by how difficult it is.

And yet…  here I am.  Pontificating away on my little blog.   I am hoping that this is ironic, and not hypocritical, that I am pondering these things here.

Here is the thing I was thinking about today:

In addition to all the problems and injustices that this system perpetuates on myself and others, I had this realization today about the ways that I think this fouls up my attempts at relating to God.

I have these delusions that I ought to be self sufficient.  I live on these happy lies that I am not dependent on others.  I can earn my keep and my worth is proportional to the value that I have created.  I think the world needs to hear my deep thoughts.

None of this is true in the material world.  But is also diminishes my relationship with my maker.  Because I require and fully depend on “him.”  The love “he” holds for me is not earned, and he has already thought and dismissed every silly little thought I will ever have.

Maybe this is why Jesus shows up among the starving, naked, and enslaved; maybe this is why the rich man will have such a battle in entering the kingdom of heaven.  It is such a primal lesson, how we hold ourselves in comparison to the other in our relationships.  If we can’t get past that, holding ourselves above the people around us, we aren’t likely to connect with God.

 

 

Kenosis

Hurt is the fastest emptying.

And I will open myself to this Godly purge.

I will scrape out my deepest places,

because now, they are mine at last.

 

I will hold and behold

this vast emptiness within me.

To that wilder and neverending emptiness within you.

 

There is a cry.

And it echoes.

In this space among us.