All aboard my train of thought

Sometimes, I have these realizations that are like strings of lined up dominoes.  You know the deal: one knocks down the next which knocks down the next which knocks down the next.

Sometimes, these trains of thought take me to interesting places.  Other times, one little link in the chain, one little domino in the trail, one little diversion in the track is wrong.  Sometimes it’s wrong in an obvious and glaring way.  Other times it’s wrong in some subtle way.  Which ever is the case, I get it wrong, and I’m too fascinated by my own little thoughts to even notice.

If you’re still with this post after two paragraphs of mostly nothing, I’d like to submit this morning’s train of thought.  If you’re interested in commenting, I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Perhaps  you can help me see if I’ve gone wrong somewhere along the way.

It all started with a post about cursing.  A rather intruiging comment to this post suggested that the obscene language adopted in the 60’s was a reaction to the idolatry of the previous generation.  I think the idea was that the 50’s were a time of rigidity and conformity and that these things took the place that God deserves in the center of our lives.  (If I’ve misunderstood the comments I hope that I’ll be corrected.)

My first thought upon reading this was that we’re all sinners responding to our historical circumstances.  It was clearly true in the 50’s and 60’s.  It’s clearly true today.  It’s clearly true in the bible.   The nation of Israel is the most prime example.

My second thought is that this makes the most sense if we consider both sense of the word “history”.  There is the obvious sense in which we mean “history” the sense in which we talk about our collective past.  History text books refer to this sense of the word.

But we can also talk about our personal histories.  Things that happened only to us.  Things that maybe nobody else knows about.

And so I came to this realization: We’re all sinners responding to our historical circumstances… but we have collective histories and we have personal histories, and all of us are just sinners responding to both of these.

And because we are sinners, our responses will be sinful.  Sometimes our responses will be sinful because we will swing to far in the opposite direction of what happened before… in other words, some times we will have over-reactions to what happened to us or before us; we will sometimes throw out the baby with the  bathwater.

Other times the wrongness of our reaction won’t be an over-reaction.  It’ll be a result of what happens to us.  We’re  damaged, broken, neglected, wounded, deprived through our historical circumstances.

There is this tremendous debate about how much we ought to own.  How responsible can we be held for what we do?  I don’t think it matters, at least in terms of what I’m thinking about here.

Sin originally meant “missing the target” or “missing the mark.”  God has set a target for us.  We don’t hit it very often.  There are all kinds of reasons we miss a target.  Some of them are our fault.  Some of them are not.  But when we’re scoring an archery contest, we don’t really care about that.  What we care about is whether or not we missed.

I guess my whole point is that left to our own devices, we will always miss.   Human societies plod along, responding to their collective histories.  Individuals within these societies plod along, too, responding to their individual histories.  It doesn’t seem that either are very self-correcting.

In some ways, I guess the implication truly is that Jesus is our only hope.  He literally rescues us from our collective and our individual histories.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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