There are these two sides to me. Most people who know me casually, I think, would describe me as fairly serious, restrained, even inhibited. But beneath there is this part of me that is wild, spontaneous and goofy. There have been numerous times that acquiantances have caught me in a certain mood, and they have said, “Wow, Jeff. I’ve never seen this side of you.”
There was a time in my life when this came more natural to me. It was easier. I was left filled with self-doubt and insecurity about being random and silly. I’m not sure what happened. But often I long for that ease back.
I have very fond memories of this time in my life. It was during high school and college. One of the things we would do some times, was gather together with drums and other percussion. And we would beat out rythms, or we would dance to the rythms, and we would drink wine, and be so free.
Most of this crowd were neopagans. I had no religious home at this point. But I felt so close to that crowd, and I also felt so close to my creator, even though I didn’t know anything about him. This experience is part of what convinces me that the Holy Spirit is alive and working outside of Christianity… even if it is only so that the Holy Spirit can more fully point us to the truth.
Sometimes, taking the Lord’s Supper puts me in a similiar frame of mind. Sometimes, I long for this closeness with God. These were the things I thought of, tonight, when I read this:
Could it be that the conceptualized and formalized worship of the “devoloped world” is actually designed to inhibit and control rather than foment joy? … Empires and dictatorships mantain social control … by converting (or subverting) the energy of jubilant dancing into regimented marching. Pews in churches… are a rather late architectural innovation added in the Middle Ages to inhibit the dancing that apparently spontaneously broke out from time to time… Straight lines, orderly rows, military conformity- these suit the civilized state better than spontaneous outbreaks of collective joy.” (Brian McLaren, referring to the works of Barbara Ehrenreich, in his book Naked Spirituality)
The implications of this are quite profound. We Christians are known for being uptight, anal retentive, rigid, and incapeable of spontaneous joy. These adjectives are accurate, more often than not. And yet they are strangely at odds with our beliefs. Which leads to a question: where did these tendencies come from?
I find it quite compelling, the thought that our socio-political systems have attempted to co-opt Jesus message for their own purposes. It’s crystal clear that this has happened in the past in other areas. (I’m thinking of the Religious gloss put on imperialism in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries) It seems quite plausible that this is occuring here.
The idea that a Jesus-centered faith might embody those practices which I (frankly) miss from youth is really a fascinating possibility. I’m not blind to the idea that I’m treading dangerous ground here. It’d be easy to take all sorts of things that I used to enjoy and try and force them into a Christian context to rationalize still doing them.
Clearly this is an area where much prayer, reflection and study is needed. I’d love to hear the counsel of those around me. What do you think: Did our dominant systems try to stifle Christianity and use it to pacify and force conformity in it’s systems?