Reptiles, Dinosaurs, and Jesus.

I have a student who has an obsession with reptiles and dinosaurs.   If I asked for his perceptions about a movie, if it had much to do with reptiles or dinosaurs, this is most likely what he would tell me about.  If this was not intended to be a major part of the movie; if they did not get much in the way of screen time; if there were other, more important matters…  none of that would really matter.  If I asked him about it, he would tell me that it was about reptiles.

Particularly If I did not know about his predilections, his assessment would likely shape my understanding of the movie.  If I did not know the name of the film, perhaps I would ask for tickets to see “the reptile movie.”  As I sat there, waiting, I would be watching for the reptile-parts.  Probably, I would impart an extra importance to those parts that had it.  After all, reptiles and dinosaurs is what I went looking for.  I had expected them to be the best part.  Perhaps, for me, they even would be… but only because I was expecting that in the first place.

I am trying to ease into a subtle way of explaining that the above is a metaphor.  I hope you will forgive the lack of a smooth segue.  Here it is:  the boy with the thing for dinosaurs?  He is a bit like culture.  And the movie?  it is a world view.

In my case, the culture is European, suburban(ish) American, circa 2016.  The world view is Christianity.

jesus_dinosaur

I receive my Christianity via my culture, just as I might receive a summary of the movie via the student.   Just as I can go from hearing a summary to actually seeing the movie, I can similarly move on to participate directly in a life, relationship, walk (call it whatever you feel like; there are ways that all 3 are apt and other ways that none of those 3 do it justic) with Jesus.  But just as the summary will shape my experience of the movie, so to will my culture shape my experience of Jesus.

The metaphor probably does not do the reality justice, in that it is much easier to recognize and distance myself from the students assessment than it would be to see past my cultural predispositions.  I suspect that Jesus was, in fact, warning us about exactly these kind of things.

This is a part of what He means, I think, when he says that those of us with ears to hear should listen.  This is a part of what he means when he tells us about new wine and new wineskins.  This is a part of what he means when he asks people who they think he is; often the response is ‘well, so-and-so say…’ and inevitably, Jesus reposes the question.  It is as if he is saying, ‘yes, yes.  I know what the culture says.  But I want you to look past that.’

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jeffsdeepthoughts

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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