God the Mother

God reached into the dirt, and kissed it.  And suddenly, it was alive!

That first human was made in the image of God.  It seems that it came with the breath itself.

I have been thinking about how Eve was made from Adam’s rib.  And wondering how God’s image works through all of this.

It could be that God’s image was just copied into both of them.

But given all the stuff that is said about sex and marriage, and it seems like maybe a separate part of his image ends up in both of them.  God’s image isn’t copied, it is broken in two, and Adam and Eve each get a part.

(This seems to connect with the second creation account, that occurs later in Genesis.)

Here’s the pretty amazing thing about this possibility:

It puts to bed all the talk about God as a ‘he.’  It locates the divine in the feminine and the masculine.

God the father and mother!  So much more robust and liberating then just choosing one or the other.  A pretty cool thing.



Its Fleece Was Snow.

Lamb (Photo credit: freefotouk)

Jesus did not speak in similes. 

You might remember your nerdy English teacher rambling on about similes, how they are a comparison between two unlike things, using the word “like” or “as.”  In the same breath, said nerdy English teacher, probably spoke about metaphor: a comparison between two unlike things not using the word “like” or “as.”

Even though English was a favorite of mine, and even though I’ve always been a poetic guy, it was lost on me: why was it so important that we have a different term for comparisons when they don’t have the word “like” or “as.”  I was unclear on how those little words might make much of a difference.

Maybe I’m slow.  It’s only as an adult I’ve come to see the huge difference between “Mary had a little lamb, and it’s fleece was white as snow.”  (A simile) and “Mary had a little lamb.  It’s fleece was snow.”  (A metaphor.)

The latter sentence invites us into a field to play with the meaning of words.  It flirts with us a little bit.  Perhaps it’s not a metaphor at all, but some sort of snow-lamb-creature.  Even if we decide not to take the words literally, we are left with some mystery, some room for interpretation.  In preceisely what ways was the fleece snow-like?

Jesus spoke in metaphor.

He does not use the words “like” or “as” when he compared himself to light, truth, bread, water, ways (as in a path; see last post for more on this) or ladders (see next post)

Though he sometimes enhances his meanings– usually at the request at his bumbling (like me!) disciples, Jesus’ words begin in mystery, they begin with this space for us to move around in and explore what it is he means.

When Jesus said he is the way, I take him to mean that he is the path toward God the father.   Further, I take him to mean that their is something holy not only in Him as our destination, but also in the process of seeking Him.    We, like Israel, wrestle with God himself and are blessed for this wrestling, even when it leaves us hurt…

Jesus’ metaphors (not similes!) themselves are an invitation to be with him, the path, as we figure out just what they all mean. 

It makes my brain hurt, a little.


The Road Occasionally Traveled

Path (Photo credit: Guerito)

People eager to emphasize the idea that Jesus is unique, people with good hearts, people who ultimately might be right, often point to these words from the bible:  

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

People recite those words all the time.  And usually, they only get one word wrong.

That word is “replied.”   Usually, people recite “Jesus said, “I am the…”

The difference is actually incredibly important.   Because we can say something in a vacuum.  But we don’t reply in a vacuum.  By definition, a reply is in response to something.  And the words that Jesus was responding to are utterly disconnected with the meaning people so often put these words to. 

Jesus had told his followers that he had to leave and that his followers new where he was going.

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Through out the scriptures, Jesus creates many metaphors: he tells us that he is something else.  Metaphors are mysterious things.  They leave us to work out just what they mean because they do not spell out just exactly where the comparison is.

Jesus tells us that he is the way.  That is tricky word.  Because “way” can mean path, as in “Show me the way to get to your house.”  or it can mean “method.”  As in, “show me the way to make chocolate chip cookies.”  Clearly these two meanings are closely related, but there are some important differences.  

Jesus’ followers had just said, “We won’t know where to go.”  It seems clear that Jesus is talking about that second definition.  Jesus is the route.    When Jesus, a moment later, says “No one comes to the father except through me.” he is reinforcing this image.  It’s not like Jesus is standing there, ghost like, and we have to pass through his immaterial body.  Jesus is stating that he is the path itself, and the way to get to God the father is by taking the Jesus-path.

Assuming you’ve made it this far in to my meanderings, and further assuming that you’re enough of a massochist to regularly read Jeff’s Deep Thoughts, you may at this point, be asking, “Didn’t you write pretty much this same blog a couple months ago?”

The answer to this question is, “Yes I did.”  But there is some stuff I wanted to add, some new thoughts I wanted to share.  So I hope you’ll forgive me for posting this recap.

H.P. and the Deathly Hallows 2: A Great Movie, Fair Theologically

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Image by WorthingTheatres via Flickr

On an entertainment/story-telling/aesthetic level the  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  gets an A+.   Spiritually speaking, it gets a C+.  I’m reflecting on some of those spiritual themes of the final book… and how they were changed for the film. 

If you don’t want the ending of either the book or the movie spoiled it’s probably a good idea to stop reading here.

It seems to me that this last book in the series was where J.K. Rowling sort-of came out of the closet.  It was growing increasingly clear that the books were quite spiritual.  But it’s not until the last third of the last book that things become quite specifically and inarguably Christian.

Most generally of course is the surprising idea that Dumbledore, who appears as a God-The-Father figure has been orchestrating the sacrifice of Harry to save everybody else from the incarnation of evil.   Further, Voldermort is identified with a snake.  Harry essentially comes back from the dead after going to “King’s Cross.”  And in the book, Voldemort has no power over Harry when he returns.

The movie was different on this count.  And a bit disapointingly so. 

When Harry comes back from the dead Voldermort continues to have power over Harry.   It was visually exciting but theologically disapointing.   

A profound truth that is difficult to put into words but was well-captured by the book: In yeilding, in weakness, we aquire this great strength.  Evil loses its ability to impact us when we submit in this way.

The movie redeemed itself somewhat on this count when Voldemort more or less disinigrated.  If Harry had used the groovy ultimate-power wand this action would have cared a profound implication.  The movie further redeemed itself when Harry broke the wand… but I still wish they’d kept these features of the book.

 A similiar theologically disapointing change was the scenes right before Harry’s death.

In the book a great spectacle is made out of kicking the crap out of Harry.  He is beaten bloody.  Theologically this was disapointing because I thought that the scene in the book was a really powerful paralell to the Jesus story, a bit like the scene in the Narnia movie where they shave Aslan before killing him. 

I don’t think you can even make the case that this change made for a better movie if you disregard theology.  Watching Harry got trashed would have heightened the drama.  And scenes like that one, where the antagonist trounces the protagnoist in such a public, humiliating, and flamboyant way heightens our hatred of the bad guy: it makes it clear that the villian is a sadist, doing the deed merely for the enjoyment.

Finally, the film seemed in some ways more reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Stand” than the book it was based on.  In “The Stand” the Satan figure has appeared omnipotent through out the whole book.   Yet as the climax nears he begins to fall apart.  Stephen King has spoken some about how he wanted to potray the idea that evil can seem so powerful and yet is something of a paper tiger.

I respect this view.  But I also disagree.  And I don’t think the idea wpowas really in the book at all.  But in the whole second half of the movie we see Voldermort doubting himself and looking like he’s on the verge of falling apart.  While I believe that Good is inherently more powerful than evil, I also believe that Evil is way more powerful than me under my own power.

However, the movie was great fun.  And spiritually challenging.  I can’t ask for too much more than that.

Some thoughts and questions about “The Shack”

I’m reading “The Shack” by William Young.

In what follows, I’m not going to unveil any major components of the plot.  But I will mention a few thematic things that pop up. 

On the level of plot, it’s fairly well done.  It’d be worth reading for this alone.

But the view of the nature and interactions of God the father, Jesus his son, and the Holy Spirit is what I’m finding amazing, about half way through.  This view is provacative, risky, and so incredibly fresh.

One of the things I’ve been mulling around is the potrayal of God the Father.  The personification is decidely un-traditional.  God the Father takes a form quite unlike the bearded old man we might expect.  Briefly, an argument is made that God new that fatherhood would be sorely lacking in the fallen world.  Scriptures focusing of God’s male characteristics isn’t because God is more male than female so much as because fatherhood was going to need a good advertisement more than motherhood, which God new would be less abused in the fallen world.

I’m interested in thoughts specific to this topic, if you have any, but also broader thoughts around the following questions:

To what extent would images and statements in the bible be expected to reflect the reality of the specific time and place it is written in, rather than universal truth?  How can we tell when it is being universal and when it is accomodating for specific prejudices?  How do we correct this?