Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jesus is not the Answer

What's the question?
If the question was: What did you have for cereal this morning? "Grapenuts" would perhaps be the answer. Clearly the answer is not Jesus.

We have been force-fed an Enlightenment philosophy that purports a rational concrete Answer to everything. Christian religion has run with this post-medieval ideology and created the Christianity you know today - exceedingly right/wrong.
The cosmic being of an Answer is not a theoretical bundle tied in a bow, or a name tied in a bow. It is a way.
Yes, I believe Christ taught the most compelling lessons of the ineffable - the impossible, if you will. And so if I believe this, I follow those lessons. We need to be disabused of the idea that you and I are the problem, Jesus is the answer and we wait around to one day get 'saved' -- and we do this by professing that we believe Jesus is the answer.
No. Salvation is about healing (Salus is Latin for healing, rootword of salvation - too bad we eliminated Latin from H.S. language!) and we need that in this moment. It follows that by walking in the the lessons of Christ and experimenting with the truth of them brings healing and we become actors, doctors in providing healing (salus/salvation) to the world. (Gandhi loved to experiment with the truth - to find out what the truth was!)
Christians typically deal in the ironic. Irony (rough translation): two things that don't mix or line up but are somehow bound. There was a man named Gavin who went begging for help so that two young parents and their baby wouldn't get evicted from their apartment in the middle of winter. Only to find out that Gavin, the person asking for help is the Landlord! .....
How are Christians ironic? They tend to purport all of this goodnews/lessons of Christ and then ... wage war in Iraq for oil ... or any number of other things you might think of - there is not shortage! The ironic Christian knows the right answer in their theoretical head (or maybe they don't, but they point to Jesus), but when it comes time to live ... not even close. (I include myself in this irony -- but want to be liberated from it, by first recognizing it).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Glam Glam Glam

We live in a glam world. A glamour driven world. The people we listen to, trust most, believe in, honor, admire, venerate - are people in the public 'glam' eye, glamming it up, and in so doing likely over-feeding their ego like a labrador running the neighborhood on trash day. Justification for the glam-way is that the glammer is about spreading 'good-news'.

The glammer has the opportunity to glam through three primary ways: 1. a personality that has been carefully developed and groomed for glam 2. happy accident of being attractive to the public 3. sheer giftedness and genuine insight - giftedness and insight most often stroked and maximized because of the love and allure of glam.

Glam dominates our culture. Hollywood is built on glam as is every other industry to some degree. It is what marketing is all about - creating glam. Glam garners attention and notoriety, helps put forth an image or idea and makes money. Given these things, it is not a wonder that seeking and possessing glam is highly desirable.

What is troubling is glam-seeking - even inadvertent glam seeking (if this is possible), for those who advocate living a spiritually disciplined life and whose message should be one (I suppose this is dependent on the spiritual tradition) quite contrary to the life-style of glam. Certainly this is so for followers of Christ.

There are countless spiritual advisers these days. Many of the best known write a book about their advice and seek to publish it and sell it in as high a volume as possible. This seems reasonable enough if the author believes the message to be valuable. Typically with a book comes touring - strategy in the publishing world to sell more books. Fair enough. Publishers are in the business of selling books.

These spiritual advisors, now authors, often become speakers as well, globe-trotting to put out the message that seems so valuable to so many from cities to backwater communities. The author, on whatever level, becomes a celebrity - even if for a niche community and the glam life begins.

This glammin' life is dangerous at all times and in all industries - but maybe most acutely so in the realm of 'religion' and the emotional coercion and starry manipulation that can go with it by glam-seekers with a religious message. Not to mention it is contrary to the actual authenticity of what it is to seek a spiritual growth.

Who is your favorite religious glammer? Are they coming to a city near you?

Post-script: Wendell Berry is a sagely author who has largely, if not completely, averted the glam trap. He seems to know that doing so would compromise and undermine his entire ethic, just as it undermines the ethic of those who purport to provide insight to the teaching and way of Christ. Mr. Berry has routinely turned down countless invitations to speak. He is wise to the fact that extensive travel, carbon credit or no, is not environmentally responsible, a topic he is passionate about. Moreover, he does not seek to become a celebrity for what he writes. Rather, he seems to hope that others will embody and learn the wisdom that he has by practicing themselves, and seeking those with wisdom locally. They are there, just slow down long enough to look and listen.

How many 'sages' that you read and look to for wisdom, direction, advice, glam about the globe?

Friday, February 27, 2009

slumdog millionaire

All of us navigate through life via the experience we have had - there is no other way. Despite our experience, there are things that are hard fact even though we have not met and known it as such. On rare exceptions we get a life-line, a moment of deus ex-machina, a moment of tangible grace.
It just so happens that the miraculous run of Jamal was due to the unlikely pairing of his life experience with the questions being asked by Prem, host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But it is more than this. When Jamal is asked the cricket question for 10 million rupees, Jamal does not know the answer. But he does know the character of human beings. Especially the character of the Millionaire host Prem, a slumdog made good.
Jamal uses his life-line, bettering his chances to 50/50, and in a move of savvy resilience refuses the hand of the slumdog, who with seeming mercy offers the answer B. to Jamal in the bathroom at a station break. Jamal knows that powerful slumdogs tend to eat their own, and to the astonishment of Prem, picks D. In so doing elicits the anger of Prem who accuses Jamal of cheating, but is more so suffering from jealousy of being one-uped. Jamal is taken off the set and tortured by thugs before being released to play. For the nation of India is waiting on their slumdog hero, and will certainly not tolerate the hero gone missing.
The 20 million rupee question comes from The Three Musketeers, a chapter in the life of Jamal. Who is the third musketeer? This is an answer Jamal would have known had he not been skipping school as a boy. Jamal's phone-a-friend life-line fails. He knows Porthos and Athos, two of the musketeers, and two of the answers, names that he and his brother Salim gave to themselves as boys. Again it is a 50/50 chance.
One evening as little orphan boys, Jamal and Salim shelter in a train car from the driving rain. Jamal spots a forlorn girl and intends to invite her to the box-car at the protest of Salim. Jamal counters that she is their third musketeer as they seek to survive in the squalor of Mumbai's Garib Nagar (poor district).
Aramis, the third musketeer, is followed by luck and climbs to power, dependent on gold from wealthhy mistresses to survive. And yet, Aramis holds very firmly to the sacred concept of friendship. Latika is Aramis. Does Jamal know this? Perhaps Jamal knew the story better than we know. Perhaps he knew d'Artagnan was not one of the musketeers and therefore could not be the answer. Perhaps he knew Latika's story was not d'Artagnan's story. Perhaps it was a process of elimination. Perhaps it was written.